By Steven Powell / The Marysville Globe
MARYSVILLE — A Navy veteran of the Korean War era, Ken Cage has seen a lot of history in Marysville in his 53 years here.
He, along with his wife of 65 years Ethel, has made a lot of history here, too, — especially the past 19 years as president of the Marysville Historical Society. His crowning achievement is the Marysville Museum at 6805 Armar Road.
Even as Cage is stepping down as historical society president, he is passionately asking for donations to help pay off a $140,000 museum loan. Part of that effort includes a 5 percent return on investment if people loan the museum money to pay off that debt.
Cage, 85, has done the yeoman’s work on the museum, ever since the historical society tasked him to come up with one in 2004. The society actually had been around for 30 years without one. He joined in 1999, was on the board after two years and became president two years later.
Cage and the society opened a small temporary museum on 3rd Street for five years. The next few years were spent sorting items that had been donated for a museum for 45-plus years.
The museum, now in its second year, cost about $900,000 to build. The Marysville noon Rotary was the major sponsor, donating $250,000. E&E donated many of the materials.
Cage grew up in Colorado. His dad died when Ken was 5, and his mom struggled raising five kids. The county took over care for the family.
“The county kept moving us into cheaper housing,” he said Monday.
As a result, Cage said he went to 29 schools. He was always bullied because he was the new kid. Finally tired of it, he fought back and beat up a kid while playing basketball. He ended up being banned from playing basketball in high school for that.
That was during The Great Depression. While those were hard years, Cage said they helped him build a “strong character.”
The day after he graduated from high school, he went to work in a cattle job with relatives in Colville. He went to a picnic gathering where he met his future wife.
Sometime later, after a truck broke down, Cage was trying to siphon gas when some flushed into his lungs. He was in the hospital for two weeks. Ethel, who was a banker, would come by to see him. When he recovered, he had planned to go to Arizona to work on a farm. “But if I did that I’d never see her again,” he said of Ethel. “I changed my mind. I was hooked.”
He ended up enlisting in the Navy and became a gunner’s mate. But they kept in touch and were married in 1953.
Cage went to college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to became a mechanical engineer. He was recruited by Boeing and moved out to the Seattle area. He worked on the Minuteman missile and a secret Air Force missile called the Dinosaur, a forerunner to the space shuttles. But he became unemployed when then-Secretary of State Robert McNamara suddenly canceled the program. He later became an engineer with a wind tunnel program, but that, too, was canceled.
The Cages then came north, after swapping houses with someone who wanted to live closer to Seattle. That process was rare at that time.
Cage took a job with Black Clawson Co. in Everett for 13 years. He said he had so much fun there, being part of new scanning technology that revamped the plywood industry.
“When you try to do something and succeed, there’s no better high,” he said.
During those years, he and Ethel raised a boy and a girl in Marysville. After working in banking for 10 years, Ethel volunteered at Liberty Elementary and Marysville Middle School before getting hired as a secretary at MMS for 23 years.
Also during that time, Cage got involved with the city. He was a City Council member and was on the planning commission after that. He also has been involved in the Masons, American Legion, Scottish Rite and National Sojourners.
He retired in 1994. He spent a lot of time fishing at first, but since then has been devoted to the museum effort. The past year or so Cage has been treated with an experimental drug at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for leukemia. He decided to go that route after talking with his son, a naturopath. Traditional treatments “did not have a good track record,” Cage said, adding he’s doing well so far.
This city’s history and the museum mean so much to him that Cage said he “will do what I can” to help incoming historical society president Maury Sachsenmaier.
Ken and Ethel also have a long history together. Asked what their secret is, they said almost in unison, “Respect.”
“It’s a two-way street,” Ethel said. Cage added, “She’s been right there with me.”
This story originally appeared in the The Marysville Globe, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.