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Obituary of Roger Owen Kelsey
Roger Owen Kelsey, husband, father, grandfather and brother, passed away on Saturday, September 2, 2023, surrounded by his family in Olympia, Washington. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Elizabeth Kelsey; sister, Freya Kelsey; children, Sean Kelsey, Gerry Kelsey, Alan Kelsey, and Richelle Rose; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
The Kelsey family will celebrate Roger's life on Sunday, October 15, 2023, 2:00 p.m. at Preston Community Center, 8625 310th Ave. SE, Preston, WA 98024. Please join them to share a story, some laughter, and tacos!
Roger was born July 14, 1946, in Burlington, Washington, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. As a child, Rocky, as his family affectionately called him, spent time at his grandparents’ farm and frequently traveled between Seattle and Portland. Upon graduating from Lake Oswego High School, he moved to Seattle and attended Edison Vocational College, where he honed his woodworking skills. After completing his coursework, he returned to Portland and went to work selling shoes and modeling pajamas at Myer Frank, where he met the love of his life, Elizabeth. The two eloped to Vegas and married on June 22, 1968.
Roger and Beth settled into a one-room cabin in Brightwood, Oregon, where they skied and worked at lifts at Timberline Ski Resort for several years. During this time, they kept busy managing a Girl Scout troupe. Here, Beth helped Roger grow an appreciation for wild places. She introduced him to the joys of camping and exploring nature.
Following Grandpa Killen's footsteps, Roger enlisted in the United States Coast Guard in 1970, moving to Alameda, California, where he welcomed his first son, Sean. The Coast Guard sent the family east to near Niagara Falls, where Roger was stationed at Base Buffalo, New York. He welcomed two more babies into the family, Richelle and Gerry.
When the opportunity arose, Roger took station in Alaska, traveling with his young family. They drove from New York state across the country and then over the Alaska Canada Highway before it was paved. Arriving in the town of Homer, Alaska, Roger reported to duty aboard the Sedge, a Coast Guard search and rescue vessel that patrolled the Baring Sea before GPS. Roger jumped into many projects, teaching his kids to ski and building a community playground for Coast Guard families. After welcoming his youngest, Alan, into the family, Roger retired from the Coast Guard. He settled his family on the spit in Homer, Alaska, where he wrote a book and spent long summer nights towing stuck tourists off the beach.
Roger’s next adventure took the family to Arizona so the family could be near retired grandparents. It was here that Roger enrolled in the engineering program at Arizona State University. He was a stickler for math facts and often riddled his children with calculus problems. He valued critical thinking and problem-solving, which he instilled in all of his kids. He always answered a question with three more questions.
Expanding his love of the outdoors, Roger took the family backpacking and camping. He was involved in all his children's activities, from baseball and soccer to tap dance class, and he never missed an event. He and Beth shared their love of off-road adventures and were active members of the off-road rally club.
Roger returned to the Pacific Northwest, settling in Seattle, where his children completed high school, seeking better opportunities and cooler air temperatures. He started Kelsey and Sons, a general contractor specializing in fine-finish cabinetry. Roger passed on his love of woodworking and problem-solving as each of his sons rotated through his shop. Roger’s friendly demeanor and high-quality work earned him a strong word-of-mouth customer base. He took care to know his customers, especially those four-legged friends he met on job sites. Roger worked every day of his adult life, even texting customers information from the hospital bed to ensure that projects stayed on track.
The best part of Roger was his kindhearted nature, which he shared with everyone he met.
“In all of recorded history,” there has never been a better man! Rest in Peace and Love.
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