Kevin Kennedy named Sequim’s Citizen of the Year

Kevin Kennedy is a longtime resident and has helped run the Irrigation Festival. "Sequim is a great place to live

Kevin Kennedy is a longtime resident and has helped run the Irrigation Festival. "Sequim is a great place to live

SEQUIM –– Irrigation Festival volunteer Kevin Kennedy was named Sequim’s Citizen of the Year at the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards luncheon Tuesday.

“Sequim is a great place to live, a great place to grow up and a great place to be a part of the community,” Kennedy said after receiving the city’s 2012 honor.

A crowd of 88 from all over the valley packed the dining hall at SunLand Golf & Country Club for the ceremony.

Larry Klinefelter and Al Freiss, the two other finalists for the award, were honored with Community Service Awards.

A near-lifelong resident, Kennedy, 57, has been an active member in planning the city’s annual Irrigation Festival.

He served on its board for 25 years and organized the first logging show, which has ballooned since he and friend Dave Bekkevar set up “a Sani-Kan and a flatbed trailer” in 1988.

Prior to the logging festival, Kennedy helped run the festival’s Demolition Derby in the 1970s.

“We have a saying in the Lions: ‘We Serve,’” George Dooley of the Lions Club said in nominating Kennedy Tuesday.

“And Kevin Kennedy lives up to that motto every day.”

A fan of logging, Kennedy, aka “The Crab Captain,” according to Dooley, takes 25 students every year on a mission trip to the Door of Faith Orphanage on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, is active in the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in Port Angeles and regularly chops wood to donate for charity auctions around the valley –– a sometimes hazardous undertaking.

“So I’m a little stiff today,” Kennedy said, having slipped, fallen and hurt his back while chopping a cord of wood for auction at the upcoming kickoff dinner for the 118th Irrigation Festival, which will be at 7 Cedars Casino on March 23.

Klinefelter, 70, was nominated by his wife, Linda, for his work in helping disabled veterans, volunteering as Santa Claus during the holidays and helping others in need.

“He is, and will always be, my hero,” she said.

Klinefelter said he was honored to get the Community Service Award. “I love helping other people. And I plan to do a lot more.”

As a retired Marine Corps member, Klinefelter devotes a lot of his time to veterans.

He takes wounded vets fishing through the Healing Waters program, hands out Toys for Tots and tends to the tiles at Sequim’s Veterans Memorial, which he noted can be acquired for families of veterans, with forms available at the Museum & Arts Center.

Most people, though, may not recognize Klinefelter without his Santa Claus costume, which he dons every Christmas.

“He never turns down the opportunity to bring that joy to children,” Linda said of her husband.

Freiss, 79, was visiting his grandchildren in Arizona on Tuesday.

He was nominated by Patsene Dashiell, volunteer coordinator for the Sequim School District. Dashiell said Freiss is devoted to the city’s schools.

“He’s an energetic person with a lot of great ideas,” Dashiell said, noting that Freiss has a “big heart for children.”

Freiss asked Mitzi Sanders, Sequim High School counselor, to read a speech on his behalf.

“The truth is, it’s the children who inspire so many of us,” he wrote.

Freiss volunteers with Sequim’s schools and Olympic Theatre Arts, serves as the scholarship chairman for the Sequim Education Foundation and is a member of the Sunshine Rotary Club.

Dick Hughes, president of the Sequim Education Foundation and 2011 Citizen of the Year, served as master of ceremonies.

“Boy, this has been quite a ride,” Hughes said.

The honor, he advised the three nominees before the awards were presented, shines a spotlight on their charitable interests and efforts.

Hughes was one of seven past Citizens of the Year in attendance.

Also at the luncheon were Bob and Elaine Caldwell, Bud Knapp, Esther Nelson, Emily Westcott, Lee Lawrence and Tom Shaafsma.

Also at the luncheon were past Humanitarian Award winners Bill and Esther Littlejohn and Brown and Sara Maloney.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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