The face of the chaplain program in Snohomish County. A mentor, listener and the consummate family man.
Those who knew Ken Gaydos shared those accolades and more about the longtime police and fire chaplain who in 1986 founded Support 7. The Edmonds-based nonprofit, a corps of volunteer nondenominational chaplains working with police and fire agencies in south county, became a model for similar programs around the state, country and world.
“Over the last four decades, Ken has been there for people in their worst moments,” said Sgt. Shane Hawley, an Edmonds police spokesman, at the department’s 2018 awards ceremony in May.
Gaydos, who was honored at that ceremony with a Meritorious Service Citation, died Monday in Edmonds. He was 79, and in recent months had battled esophageal cancer.
“Ken was one of the founding chaplains in the Northwest,” said Michael Ryan, regional director of the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Ryan serves in the Bellevue area, and oversees the conference in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
Chaplains offer physical, emotional and spiritual care to those who’ve experienced sudden loss or other traumatic events.
Gaydos’ background wasn’t in ministry, but in news.
Tim Gaydos said his father, a Chicago native born Jan. 13, 1939, was a Navy veteran and television journalist. He was with an NBC affiliate in South Carolina before working his way to Los Angeles. News photos of Robert F. Kennedy, just before he was assassinated at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel in 1968, show Gaydos standing to the left of the presidential candidate.
The youngest of four children, Tim Gaydos said his dad came to the Northwest in 1970. He ran Christian radio stations for what’s now Crista Ministries, once known as King’s Garden, and had an administrative position at Seattle Pacific University.
By 1971, he had volunteered as a fire department chaplain in Edmonds.
“In 1986, while at a drowning scene, Ken realized the need for some sort of safe, warm place for people in crisis,” Hawley said at the award presentation. Gaydos acquired an old ambulance, and that was the start of Support 7. Through the years, the program has provided shelter, food, comfort and a place for grief-stricken families away from public view.
Active in the International Conference of Police Chaplains, Gaydos traveled to help start programs similar to Support 7 worldwide. It’s been replicated in about 500 cities.
“His level of concern for everyone else around him, I’ve never met anyone like him,” Hawley said Wednesday, adding that there are now programs like Support 7 on “every continent except Antarctica.”
“He had always done things quietly. He was very humble,” said Shannon Sessions, who got to know Gaydos when she was a Lynnwood police spokeswoman and previously while working at a weekly newspaper. “He was a master at knowing how to make somebody feel comfortable and not judged. In a crisis, he had a gift of doing that.”
Sessions said Gaydos always found resources — food, clothing or hotel vouchers — for people in need.
Among his missions of mercy was the time Gaydos spent as a chaplain in Oklahoma City after 168 people were killed in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Six years later, before the execution of bomber Timothy McVeigh, Gaydos still had a piece of the rubble on his desk. “I prefer to focus on those dear families that experienced such indescribable tragedy,” he told The Herald in 2001.
Gaydos is survived by his wife, Lois, and their four children: Kristin Gaydos Camp, Mark Gaydos, Denise Welch and Tim Gaydos.
“He was the consummate family man,” said Tim Gaydos, now a chaplain for the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Sounders. “He was busy, but he was around. He was there. He really gave unconditional love.
“He would say, ‘Tim, you want to go on a ferry boat ride?’ That meant let’s just talk,” Tim Gaydos said.
Because of his health, Ken Gaydos wasn’t able to attend the police awards ceremony. His youngest son and two grandsons were there to accept the citation.
During the event, though, the audience heard from him via a recorded phone conversation he’d had with Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan:
“Just know,” Ken Gaydos said, “that the privilege has been mine.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
A memorial service for Ken Gaydos is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at Alderwood Community Church, 3403 Alderwood Mall Blvd., Lynnwood.