By KATHY KORENGEL
SNOHOMISH – Willis Tucker, Snohomish County government’s first executive, will be remembered for his kindness, good cheer, community involvement, and perhaps, most of all, quick wit.
About 400 people gathered Saturday here for a funeral to honor the 78-year-old, who died June 30.
"The man’s wit was legendary," said Bernie Sigler who knew Tucker from the Lynnwood Rotary Club. "He had an appropriate quote or quip or joke for any occasion," said Sigler, who attended the gathering at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Tucker died after a four-year battle with cancer. He’d been elected the county’s first executive in 1980 and served in the position for 11 years.
Others remembered Tucker for his cheery disposition.
"He was Mr. Radiant," said Gianni Mottola, owner of Gianni’s Italian Restaurant in south Everett. "When he walked into a place, he always had a smile on his face," Mottola said of Tucker, who was a frequent customer of Gianni’s restaurant.
Tucker, a Democrat, even endeared himself to those on the opposite side of the political fence, according to Cliff Bailey, a Republican who served with Tucker on the first county council. "You could disagree with him, but you couldn’t dislike him," Bailey said, adding that Tucker always worked to bring people together to resolve their differences.
Bailey also credited Tucker for bringing the county into the modern age and doing much to improve county parks, to lift the county out of a budget deficit, and to upgrade its infrastructure, such as the county’s solid waste system.
Gary Nelson, a current county councilman who ran against Tucker during his first election bid for county executive, paid tribute to Tucker’s dedication. "He always wanted to do the best he could in his job and to do what was in the best interest of the people of this county," Nelson said. "I always admired that."
And many will remember him most for this concern for others, said Terri Ruppert of Everett, who has performed in the Snohomish Historical Society’s vaudeville show, which Tucker emceed for many years.
"He just really cared a lot about people. He was always there to help, to say a kind word."
You can call Herald Writer Kathy Korengel at 425-339-3207or send e-mail to
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