Longtime fire, police chaplain Ken Gaydos dies

Memorial Sept. 15 2-5 p.m. at Alderwood Community Church
By Brian Soergel | Sep 06, 2018
Courtesy of: Shannon Sessions Ken Gaydos, who died Labor Day, was a longtime chaplain and supporter of fire and police departments in Edmonds and Snohomish County.

Ken Gaydos, a former Edmonds Fire Department chaplain who more than 30 years ago created the nonprofit aid vehicle Support 7, died Sept. 3 from cancer and other complications.

He was 79.

Gaydos was the director of Edmonds-based International Chaplain’s Ministry and Support 7, which served local first responders and assisted volunteer chaplains caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who experience sudden events of trauma and crisis.

He was a longtime presence in fire and police departments in Snohomish County.

“Ken was the first one to respond when a call came out, and his gentle presence brought peace and compassion to families and first responders all across Snohomish County,” said Shannon Sessions, a Lynnwood City Council member and public safety professional who knew Gaydos for more than 20 years.

“Ken was the longest serving police/fire chaplain in the state of Washington and one of longest in the United States,” Sessions said. “He established chaplaincies on every continent except Antarctica. This has never happened before.”

Earlier this year, the Edmonds Police Department awarded Gaydos with the Meritorious Service Citation for his years of dedication to this community. His son Tim accepted the award on his behalf.

Gaydos began his career in media, as a reporter for NBC. After spending 25 years as a reporter, he moved to Washington state. In 1971, he was recruited to become a volunteer chaplain for the Edmonds Fire Department. Few agencies had chaplains at the time. This led to him getting involved in training other chaplains and growing the local program.

From that volunteer ministry came the nonprofit mission organization of International Chaplains Ministry, founded in 1981. He founded Support 7 after a search-and-recovery effort for an underwater diver who had drowned off Edmonds' Bracketts Landing in 1985.

Gaydos wanted a special, customized vehicle that could privately support grieving families on-scene, as well as provide snacks and beverages for emergency service personnel for future tragic events.

“I can’t begin to find the words to describe Chaplain Ken Gaydos and what he meant to me as mayor and what he meant to the greater South County community,” said former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson.

“Shortly after I took office in 2000, Ken came to visit me. He introduced himself and told me about his ministry and Support 7. He was very clear that if I needed anything, I should call him.

"Little did I know that for the next 11 years he would always be there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed him.

“He would often stop by, and we would go to lunch. When he read about something in the paper that he knew would be problematic for me, he would call and check in.

“Even though I haven’t been mayor for eight years, that didn’t stop him from randomly calling me and texting me or just sending pictures of us that he had come across. His messages always brought a smile to my face.

“Labor Day came to be ‘our day.’ For unknown reasons, there was always something that happened on the Sunday night before Labor Day. He would inevitably call me early Labor Day morning to share whatever the sad news was. And typically, I was on the golf course. I jokingly told him I wasn’t going to take his calls on Labor Day anymore.”

Haakenson said Gaydos eventually opened up to him about the illness that he was facing and would take his life, even though Haakenson was already aware of it.

“We made plans to have lunch,” he said. “We made plans to go to Mariners spring training next year; he thanked me for encouraging him, and we texted about our friendship. Then, in July, the texts stopped. I kept texting, hoping he would at least read them or have them read to him.”

On Labor Day this Monday, Haakenson stopped by Swedish Edmonds hospital to speak with Gaydos one last time. Later that day, he received the news that his friend had died.

“Knowing Ken,” Haakenson said, “he is up there somewhere smiling that he got the last opportunity to send me some bad news on Labor Day.”

Shortly after Gaydos died, police and firefighters from Edmonds, Lynnwood and surrounding communities held a processional as they moved Gaydos’ body from Swedish Edmonds to Beck’s Funeral Home in Edmonds.

You can make donations to the J. Kenneth Gaydos Irrevocable Trust at Bank of America, 306 Main St., Edmonds, WA 98020.



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