Serenity House shelter night manager found dead on sidewalk in Port Angeles

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Serenity House employee and volunteer died suddenly last week, Kathy Wahto, executive director of the agency, confirmed Monday.

Harlan D. Nez, 54, of Port Angeles was found not breathing and without a pulse at 7:55 p.m. Wednesday on the sidewalk on the 500 block of East First Street, according to the Port Angeles Police Department.

Port Angeles Fire Department paramedics tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead at Olympic Medical Center, police said.

Nez was the Street Outreach Shelter night manager for Serenity House for the past two years, Wahto said.

“He was a beloved volunteer. He was very mild and gentle in his attitude toward things,” she added.

A full-blooded Navajo, Nez found his way to Port Angeles from Arizona and began as a volunteer at the Serenity House Thrift Store three years ago, Wahto said.

After a year, the organization was impressed enough with Nez that it offered him the position to manage the overnight shelter.

“He opened the shelter every night, 365 days a year, for two years. He went above and beyond,” Wahto said.

Not only did Nez help provide shelter for those who needed it, but he also talked to them and understood the problems they faced, she said.

Port Angeles police called Wahto on Sunday, seeking information to locate Nez's next of kin.

“It was a horrible shock,” she said.

Wahto provided investigators with a phone number from his employment files to contact his family in Arizona.

Police used that information, along with help from the Navajo Police Department in Arizona, to locate Nez's family.

Family members are traveling to Port Angeles and will take his remains back to Arizona for burial, she said.

Serenity House is planning a memorial service in Port Angeles for those whose lives Nez touched, Wahto said, but no date has been set.

The Clallam County Coroner's Office has not released a cause of death pending an autopsy.

Port Angeles Police Department investigators found no evidence of foul play or accident, said Detective Cpl. Robert Ensor.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 02. 2013 7:24PM
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