In Memory

Kenneth Gaetjen

Kenneth Gaetjen

Kenneth Robert Gaetjen

1945 - 2019 

Kenneth Robert Gaetjen Kenneth was born November 7th, 1945, at Ross Hospital in Kentfield, and passed on February 15th, 2019 in Greenbrae. He was the 4th and youngest child of Margaret (Badger) and Walter Gaetjen. Raised in Kentfield, he attended A.E. Kent Elementary School and graduated from Redwood High in 1963, his notable accomplishment there being kicked off the basketball team for having sideburns that went to the middle of his ear. He graduated from San Francisco State and became a full-time hippie, carrying anti-establishment elements throughout the rest of his life. His friends and relatives all appreciated his intelligence and compassion as he was able to carry on a conversation in nearly any subject as well as being an attentive listener when there was a need. As you can imagine he read widely and voraciously, and his book collection would start off a public library very nicely. If one must insist that he had a "career," it was exploring and learning and sharing. As such, he was employed in many various jobs. He used his tremendous musical ear as a piano player and tuner, was a devotee of the opera, jazz and classical music, and even co-produced a documentary of Eddie Money on the up-and-coming rocker in the 1970's, "Money Madness." He also was a glass-blower, mailman, digital cartographer for Towill for 20 years, and handyman and caretaker for both the author E.G. Valens and his own father. Ken's interests were wide. He went all over the world exploring, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, going on a six-month tour of Europe and the Middle East in the mid-1980's, and spending lots of time hiking and camping, especially in Yosemite with family and friends. He was a white-water rafter, owned his own sailboat for a time and was always interested in cycling. He especially enjoyed classic films and classic comedy with an interest in the Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. His love of baseball began early, attending Seals games at 16th and Bryant, and continued to his final days, wondering what the Giants would do to contend this year. Whenever a member of the family had an issue or a reason to celebrate, Ken was one of the first people they would tell. Questions about family history, how this person was related to that one or who is in that picture from 1884? Ken knew. He was the loved little brother everyone wanted to take care of and the coolest uncle ever. He was preceded in death by his parents and older brother Richard. He is survived by sisters Elaine Drude of Mill Valley and Gwen Bailey (Chuck) of Eugene, Oregon, Richard's widow Carol of Middletown, Connecticut, and several nephews, nieces, grand-nieces and grand-nephews. Everyone who ever met Ken has a great story about his generosity, his humor, his intelligence and his compassion. The best way to remember and celebrate him would be to take what he did to make you feel good and pass it on to somebody else.

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03/03/19 10:33 PM #1    

Edward (Jeff) Garrison

Ken was a friend of mine in high school and after.  We got out of touch when I joined the Air Force. Ken was the only high school colleague who had a turn table and stereo setup, and played LPs. He had kind of a dry wit, and was a unique guy.  Sometimes, we would join a bunch of other kids and cram into a VW, and drive to "Frisco" to watch midnight movie shows. Rest in peace, old friend.

03/04/19 09:54 AM #2    

Elizabeth "Betsy" Winter/Anderson (Anderson)

Ken and I began school together at A E Kent, continued our friendship through highschool and  UC Berkeley. It was such a treat to have him close by on such a large campus, meeting for lunch or serendipitously running into him while going to class. Living out of the country, I made sure to connect with him whenever I returned to Marin. He was brother and son to all the important men in my life, my brother, father and husband. We were reading the same book when we chatted a few weeks ago, How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. We did some mind bending back in the day. He always encouraged me to continue with my late in life engagement with the piano. His humor was priceless. I am bereft. 

03/04/19 03:00 PM #3    

Jeanne Mitchell (Dana)

Ken and I were in a relationship for 8 years on and off. I loved his brilliance, his sense of humor, his ability to hear any song and play it. He was with me when my brother died and gave such encouraging words. He was even with me when I met my husband, and as only Ken could say, "what's with that Italian guy". In any case we shared many memories. Unfortunately the last time I spoke to him was just before the 50th Redwood High reunion, trying to convince him to attend-to no avail. God's speed Ken.

03/05/19 11:30 AM #4    

Sandy McKean

Ken was my oldest friend, and one of the most dear. He and I first met in the 2nd grade. I still remember going to the small apartment where his family lived behind the Kentfield Firestation directly on the infamous "Kentfield Corners". He and I (along with Terry Chambers) were best friends during grade school; that group expanded to include Jim McClure, Nancy Trumbo (Howe), and many others at Redwood. Ken and I remained close until about the time of the 50th reunion when, for reasons I never fully understood, Ken seemed to withdraw. I tried hard to contact him (even visited his apartment) while down in Marin for the reunion, but he remained elusive. True to his nature I guess: he was basically a recluse at heart. As his nephew notes in the eulogy above, Ken was the most broadly educated person I have ever known. I happen to have a wide and rather eclectic set of interests (from quantum mechanics to ballet to crab fishing); Ken was the ONLY person I ever knew who could converse intelligently about ANY of my interests. What make that remarkable is that he could have done the same with YOUR interests too!  There didn't seem to be anything Ken didn't know something about, something interesting, something illuminating. I never tired of hanging out with Ken. In the early 80's, my wife Kathy and I moved to Seattle. I saw less of Ken, but I almost never went to the Bay Area on pleasure or business without hooking up with Ken. I often had intentions of visiting others (even some of you reading this perhaps), but I usually got lazy and skipped it. But almost never did I skip seeing Ken. He and I developed a wonderful tradition for these visits. I'd get to his home somehow; then we'd spend most of the day hiking on Mt Tam; then back to his house for a simple dinner (he usually kept a big pot of stew on his stove), followed by a game or two of chess while we drank bourbon far into the night. And yes, we talked the whole time.....about this and that, about everything. He was remarkable with his generosity, humor, loyalty, and intellect. Unfortunately, we all saw more in Ken than Ken saw in himself. I believe Ken saw himself as a failure (which is why I think he didn't want to attend the reunion), but he was anything but. He was quite simply one of the most important people in my life.....and always will be.

03/06/19 12:25 PM #5    

Nancy Trumbo (Howe)

Ken was my first love. Sigh. I sure knew how to pick ‘em. He was one of the good guys - a mild-mannered, sincere, funny, intelligent, talented, thoughtful, loving, superior person. I was so lucky.

I came to Redwood in my sophomore year. (Most of you knew each other throughout the years, grade school and on.) It seems like there was a magnet that drew me to my wonderful circle of friends. And Ken became an integral part of that group (with Sandy, Jim McClure, and others, as Sandy mentions above). Ken loved jazz. I remember him all the time now when I hear so many of our favorites being played (Mose Allison, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Dave Brubeck and on and on). We went to the Monterrey Jazz Festival.

We went to films, many foreign films (British, German, French, Russian, etc.). It was an adventure, as the 60s brought in the free-thinking revolution that we in the Bay Area were in the middle of. At least it seemed that way to me. The folk singers were all around us (Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and more and more). Juanita’s and The Smothers Brothers.

We hiked over Mt. Tam to Stinson Beach. We skied. We loved the beach.  We were in “South Pacific” together. So many great memories.

 Ken was always at my house. My family truly cared for him. It was so easy to care for him.

We were still a couple when we graduated. I went to the University of Colorado in Boulder. The distance and new adventures divided us. However, after a time, wounds healed and we reconnected as friends and stayed in touch throughout the years, though less frequently in the last few years.

I will always hold Ken in my heart. That first love is lasting, after all.

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