Kenneth J. Rosander, 89, beloved father, grandfather, uncle, and friend, passed away on Jan. 8, 2022, at his home in Hoquiam, with family by his side. An enrolled member of the Quinault Nation, he was born May 10, 1932, in Taholah, Washington to Leonard and Katherine (Hawk) Rosander.
Ken was one year old when his mother died in childbirth. He and his baby brother, Francis, were taken in by their paternal aunt, Lavina in Brush Prairie. At age five, Ken went to live with his father in Taholah. Decades later, he recalled how his father, a fisherman, “hired a babysitter to take care of me … I dove off the fish house dock and sliced my foot on a broken pickle jar. Nearly cut it off. I was taken to Saint Joseph’s Hospital. I had to wear a cast for almost a year.” Following the accident, Ken was placed in foster care. “The family that took care of me, Bob and Jess Dunn, were very nice. They picked ferns and peeled bark for a living. They lived in a cabin with a dirt floor.”
When the U.S. entered the Second World War, Kenny, age 10, moved with his foster family to a ranch in Montana. “Their whole plan was to adopt me,” he said. “I told Dad I wasn’t really comfortable with that. He said, ‘It’s up to you.’” Kenny recalled: “I couldn’t sleep over there. It wasn’t until years later I found out why. If I couldn’t hear the ocean, I couldn’t go to sleep. I found that out when I got back to Taholah.”
At age 11, Kenny underwent mastoid surgery at Cushman Indian Hospital near Tacoma. He convalesced there for many months, missing out on schooling.
After hospitalization, Kenny was sent to Chemawa Indian School in Oregon. Two years later, he moved to his aunt’s farm in Chewela, Washington. In 1951, he attended Moclips High School, where he played football, baseball, basketball, and boxed. He dropped out in his senior year and enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War.
Kenny “always had a lot of irons in the fire” according to his brother Francis. He was a hard worker, sometimes holding two jobs at a time. He worked at the Moclips Mill and Jackson’s Mill in Montesano; he fished his own boat in coastal waters and on the Quinault River. He went to welding school and worked at Todd Shipyard, the Grand Coulee Dam and other federal projects. For a number of years he worked for DSHS. In his 70s, Ken was a security guard for the newly-opened Quinault Beach Casino.
He married five times between 1951 and 1991. His wives were: Barbara (maiden name unknown), Lois (Gallager), Helen (Hause), Joan (Shipman) and Patricia (Allenbaugh). A dedicated provider, he raised his children and stepchildren with equal love and affection.
A life-long motorcycle enthusiast, Ken rode his Harley until well into his 80s. A natural-born storyteller, he was known for his dry humor and descriptive detail. He had countless stories of Harbor history, such as witnessing the wreck of SeaGate on the Sonora Reef in 1956, back when the road leading to Taholah was nothing but “miles of gravel and potholes” and there were only two telephones in the village. In his final year of life Ken made a significant contribution to the preservation of local history, sharing memories and stories for an art exhibit and forthcoming book
Ken was preceded in death by his parents. An infant son died in 1961. His son Randy died in 1981, stepson Trevor Johnson in 1997, and daughter Melody in 2017. His wife, Patricia, died in 2014.
He is survived by his brother, Francis (Hazel “Tekie”) Rosander of Taholah; cousin Loretta Hawk of Casa Grande, Arizona; sons: John Rosander, Tokeland; Leonard Rosander, Hoquiam; Terry Johnson, Tennessee and Troy Johnson, Longview, daughters: Tracey Johnson; Shannon Bryson, Ocean Shores; Kelly O’Neil, Spanaway and Brenda Clemson, Ocean Shores. Ken’s grandchildren reached far and wide, including Lenny, Randy, Cash, Jonah, Deaja and Tasha Rosander, whom he called “a champion” for taking care of him during his final months. He leaves behind numerous great-grandchildren including Ava, aka “Ken’s birthday present” born on May 10, 2021.
A service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday Jan. 15. In compliance with COVID regulations, the burial at the Taholah Cemetery is restricted to immediate family. A celebration of life is planned for Ken’s birthday, May 10, 2022, details to be announced.