From the Edmonds mayor: Reflecting on the passage of John McCain, Ken Gaydos and Dean Echelbarger

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Mayor Dave Earling

In our personal lives we have all experienced the death of friends, relatives and loved ones. Usually such passings manage to spread themselves out. But occasionally they are grouped together and have a larger impact. The names mentioned above have been, for different reasons, prominent internationally, nationally, regionally and locally and their passing will impact our lives.

John McCain’s well-deserved accolades have lingered in conversation, the press and through social media. Additionally, we have our private thoughts on the Senator. And for that reason I did not plan to write on his passing, until one of my friends from WSU and music teaching days posted, “I cannot get him out of my mind.” Which is where I find myself.

Senator John McCain has become and will remain an American icon. His devotion to country, and his forthrightness of words, deeds, courage and bravery will hold Americans captivated well beyond our time. While we may not always have agreed with him, we understood his core values and commitment to his principles. And he can and will be remembered for his devotion to country.

I’d like to share with you this quote from his farewell letter to the country, “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of the ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”  Powerful insight from a life well lived.

Chaplin Ken Gaydos was a friend of all. A man of God, he was a true visionary. He understood that in one’s time of need, whether a devastating family tragedy, a horrific home fire, or a tragic automobile accident, people need a guide, a counselor, or a religious connection to show the path back from the tragedy – that’s what Ken provided. With that knowledge he founded, developed, and championed the nation’s first Support 7 program.

Ken worked tirelessly with fire and police departments across the county and the state. Virtually every public safety department across the state knew Ken, his work, his influence, or his organization.

Most families did not encounter Ken until a personal tragedy impacted their lives. And the point needs to be made: Ken would always, and I do mean always, night or day, make himself available to respond to a family’s needs. This is where Ken shined, to come into an unstable situation and help a family find its way back.

I had the opportunity to meet with Ken a couple of days before his passing. To the end he talked about the love for his work and hope for the good he had done, the love for his family, and his love of Edmonds. Another life well lived.

Dean Echelbarger passed away a couple of weeks ago at age 95. While only seeing Dean a few times a year, I considered him a friend. My first meeting with him was in the mid 1980s when I went to his office to recruit him to co-chair the Edmonds Main Street Project. He was on the telephone with his back to me and engaged in a very intense conversation. When he finally finished up, he turned in his chair, smiled and said, “I love to work under pressure!” Hello, Dean!

After finishing active service at the end of World War II, Dean became a successful businessman, at the helm of Edmonds Auto Freight Company. His acumen led him to become a visionary for the long-term potential of Snohomish County, and in particular, South Snohomish County. In the 1980s Dean was recognized as one of the 10 most influential people in Snohomish County.

Dean was a thoughtful visionary who built lasting long-term relationships, through which he was able to effect ongoing influence. In addition, over the years he gave his time and energy to many boards and commissions, not expecting recognition, only to help. Of note, he founded the Edmonds Community College Foundation and became its first President. The Foundation flourishes today.

With all of his successes Dean put his family first. Any conversation with him would eventually come back to his wife Gladys or their three sons and families. He was truly one of the nicest men I have ever known. Yet another life well lived.

In closing, I know we all have people who influence our lives, and with their passing we reflect on the value they brought and how they influenced the world around us. These three men — John McCain, Ken Gaydos and Dean Echelbarger — have in their own ways, whether at the national, international, or local level, caused enormous influence for the betterment of our community and lives.

Lives well lived.

— By Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling

4 Replies to “From the Edmonds mayor: Reflecting on the passage of John McCain, Ken Gaydos and Dean Echelbarger”

  1. Very well done, Mayor Earling. As each year of my life passes one of the most difficult things for me is remembering all of my family, friends and acquaintances who are now gone. Thank you for writing this.

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  2. Dear Mayor Dave,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories of these three great men. Your words describe how hundreds and thousands of us feel about each of them. Their dedication to our city, county, state and country will always be appreciated and remembered. I wish to thank their families for sharing them with us all these many years. Our lives have been enriched by having known them, for having them in our lives.

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