Ken Cage — museum founder, Navy vet, pillar of Marysville — dies

Cage has worked with cattle, in the Navy and on rockets. His greatest accomplishment was a museum.

Ken Cage

Ken Cage

MARYSVILLE – Ken Cage, a Korean War Navy veteran and founder of the Marysville Museum, died Wednesday after a battle with leukemia. He was 87.

Cage’s legacy is marked by his relentless commitment to get a new museum built for the city that he and his wife of 65 years, Ethel, call home.

Those who knew Cage described him as a civic leader with a keen knowledge of history, a stand-up volunteer and a team player who eagerly shared credit with others.

“He lived a life of community and public service that contributed to a better life for all those around him,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said. “Ken will be greatly missed by all of us who had the great pleasure to know him.”

When a young Steve Edin stepped down as president of the Marysville Historical Society in 1999, it was Cage who succeeded him.

“His vision for the museum will keep Marysville history alive for generations to come,” Edin said. “Ken was a friend and mentor.”

The group’s youngest active member, Peter Condyles, called Cage a great leader. Cage found ways that Condyles could help, never equating his youth to inexperience and immaturity.

“I ended up being the designated ‘ladder climber,’ and if anything ever had to be picked up off the floor you could usually expect it to be my job, but Ken made me feel like those jobs were just as important as building the museum,” said Condyles, who now attends college.

He credited Cage for making him believe in a project that was bigger than any one person in town.

“I’m so thankful he was able to see it completed; he was so proud of not only the museum, but of everyone who helped and contributed to its completion,” Condyles said.

JoAnn Donohue added, “Ken, with the loving support of Ethel, was a driving force in our community. He was a dedicated veteran that gave to our country and remained active in the American Legion to the very end. … Ken is a remarkable example of how one person can make a difference.”

Cage grew up in Colorado. He was 5 when his father died, and he watched his mother struggle to raise five kids by herself. The county took over care for the family.

As a result, Cage said he went to 29 schools as he was bounced around the system. He was often bullied for being the new kid. When he fought back during a game of basketball in high school, he was banned from playing the sport.

That was during the Great Depression. Cage said it was tough, but it instilled character in him.

The day after he graduated, he went to work a cattle job with relatives in Colville, where he met his future wife. She later visited him at the hospital when he experienced a mishap siphoning gas for his truck.

When he recovered, he enlisted in the Navy and became a gunner’s mate. They kept in touch, and they married in 1953.

Cage went to college in Milwaukee, Wisc., to become a mechanical engineer. He was recruited by Boeing and moved out to the Seattle area. He worked on the Minuteman missile, as well as a secret Air Force missile called the Dinosaur, a forerunner to the space shuttles. He worked on a wind tunnel program as well.

The Cages then moved north, and he took a job with Black Clawson Co. in Everett for 13 years.

The couple raised a boy and a girl in Marysville. After working in banking for 10 years, Ethel volunteered at Liberty Elementary and Marysville Middle School. The school hired her on as a secretary and she stayed there for 23 years.

Cage got involved with the city. He served on the City Council and the planning commission. He also volunteered with the Masons, American Legion, Scottish Rite and National Sojourners.

Cage retired in 1994. At first, he spent most of his time fishing. But then he devoted himself to the museum effort. The society operated a small short-term museum in downtown for five years, until they raised enough money to build the new location near Jennings Park. The Marysville Noon Rotary Club donated $250,000 and now uses the building for weekly meetings. E&E Lumber donated much of the materials.

Cage stepped down as historical society president last November

Over the past year, Cage was being treated with an experimental drug at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for leukemia.

Services are scheduled for Wednesday, March 20.

Steve Powell contributed to this story.

This story originally appeared in The Marysville Globe, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.

Most Read