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Family and friends remember former police chief

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, Contributing Writer

KWardstromFamily and friends remember Ken Wardstrom for his long career as a police officer; for being a loving husband, father, and grandfather; and for myriad small acts of kindness and moments of laughter.

Wardstrom died May 28 after battling pancreatic cancer for three years.

He served in the King County Sheriff’s Office for 37 years and was the Woodinville police chief from 1998 to 2003. His last assignment was as captain in the internal investigations unit before he retired in January 2006.

Wardstrom’s daughter, Kenna Konoske, said that in addition to excelling at his job, her dad was always involved in her and her sister’s lives.

"I felt proud to be his daughter, because not only was he my dad, he was an exceptional police officer," she said.

Robin Fenton, who met Wardstrom on a police patrol in 1981 and stayed friends after he retired, described him as "full of life" and said "people loved working for him."

"Whether it was work or in his personal life, he always had a smile on his face," Fenton said. "Every memory with him is a good one."

Sydney Jackson, now Woodinville’s chief of police, also remembers Wardstrom as funny, witty and involved in the community.

"I have many memories of Ken Wardstrom who I fondly referred to as ‘T-Rex,’" Jackson said. "He was my mentor when I was a rookie sergeant and was always calm, cool and collected. He had a great sense of humor and always provided good advice and direction. He will be missed as a colleague and a friend."

Wardstrom’s daughter Briana Heim said her father made people smile and laugh with "cheesy jokes." Although he was the police chief, he was never an authoritative figure, she said; he was friendly, fair, never raised his voice, and gave good advice. "He was always there for you when you needed it, from when you were five to 35," she said.

He took her and her sister to horse riding lessons and helped them write school papers and, later, resumes.

"I wish he was still here, but I know he’s paving the way for the rest of the family when the time is right," Heim said.

Beyond his job and his family involvement, he was "very well rounded," Konoske said.

Wardstrom loved to bake and cook, and his recipes for macaroni and cheese, fudge and chocolate chip cookies were famous among those who knew him. He also loved boating, hiking and fishing, and retired to Lake Chelan. He loved dogs and worked in the K-9 Unit with police dogs.

Wardstrom was born in Canada in 1948, but grew up in Seattle. During high school, he worked in a bakery, then joined the army after high school. He met his wife, Robin, in 1969.

After they married, they moved to Kirkland and then to Woodinville.

Wardstrom’s family and friends recall a multitude of anecdotes that reveal his sense of humor and caring personality.

He was one of the first high school resource officers, and Konoske remembers that in high school, people would tell her how cool her dad was.

"He loved kids. He loved interacting and thinking he could make a difference in how people viewed police officers," Konoske said. "...He wasn’t about the power and fame of being a police officer."

When people asked Wardstrom how he was doing, he liked to respond, "If I were any better, I’d be twins."

Once, when Woodinville had a wild rabbit roundup, Fenton remembers that Wardstrom dropped a rabbit off at her house as a gift for her son. Another time, she remembers going to a charity bowling event with him, and their team won a costume prize.

"It just seems like we lost him so young," Fenton said. "... He really is going to be missed. He’s one of the good guys."

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