Kenneth Charles Napiontek was born September 30, 1942, in Port Angeles, Wash., to Charles William (Shorty) and Vera Marie (Billie) Napiontek. His sister, Charlotte (Char) was born four years later. When the children were small, the family moved to a “stump ranch” up the Wynoochee (wy-noo-chee) valley. Times were tough but Ken learned the value of hard work. He helped his parents with farm chores, fished in the river and hunted in the woods. He grew to be a strong young man with a can-do attitude, love of family, and appreciation for the beauty and bounty of his surroundings.
Ken attended school in Montesano. He was smart, popular and athletic; excelling in baseball, basketball and track. He also enjoyed music and singing.
It was while Ken was in high school that his younger brothers, Bill, Rick and Rob were born. With two older kids and three little guys running around, it was a busy household for sure. Still, Ken maintained excellent grades and graduated from Montesano High School in 1960.
Ken received an appointment to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. However, a hunting accident left him unable to attend. Instead, he proudly served his country as a Naval Radar Specialist aboard the D.S.S. Watts. Most of his time was spent in the Pacific and included dangerous assignments in Southeast Asia. He was honorably discharged in 1963.
After the Navy, Ken returned to Grays Harbor and bought a small cabin and acreage near Powers Creek. It was then that he began dating his former classmate, Gayla Jones Wade. The two fell in love and the sweethearts married on November 6, 1964. Ken also adopted Gayla’s precious son, Andy and the trio lived, worked and had many adventures on the little farm outside Elma. They later moved to Montesano to be closer to Ken’s work sites at E.C. Miller Saw Mill and Rayonier Pulp Mill.
Ken and Gayla had their daughter, Theresa in 1966. She was barely 3 months old before Ken took her fishing in his boat. The happy family enjoyed spending time together hiking in the Olympics, hunting and, of course, fishing. They had a large garden, raised chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats.
When Ken’s father passed away in 1970, his role as big brother became more important than ever. He helped his Mom with her three younger sons and the dairy farm she later acquired.
The Napionteks attended the Montesano Presbyterian Church where Ken had many friends. He was often a soloist at Sunday services and served as a Deacon.
While living in Montesano, Ken also worked for the U.S. Postal Service and Hoquiam Plywood. He was a very hard worker and, again, had many friends.
When their children grew up, Ken and Gayla moved to Wenatchee. Ken worked for the Wenatchee Post Office until he retired. He made more buddies at the Post Office with whom he loved to tell jokes and fish stories. Ken and Gayla’s family continued to grow with grandsons, Jordan, Kraigg and Braden; granddaughters, Molly and Bridget; daughter-in-law, Lori; son-in-law Mike, and eight new great grandchildren.
Ken was an adoring husband, loving father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, son and friend. He was always willing to help others and had a big, soft, kind heart. He was a fine man who will be forever missed and remembered warmly.
And now, Ken has gone fishing but we’ll all see him again later.
A graveside service with United States Navy Military Honors for Ken will begin at 1:30 pm at Wynoochee Cemetery, 1500 W. Pioneer Avenue, in Montesano. Arrangements are by Telford’s Chapel of the Valley, East Wenatchee, Wash.