Many friends of Ken honored the multifaceted Slusher in December, January, and February. Condolences came from near and far. Friends gathered in Lake City, Ellensburg, Boulevard Park, and on Lake Union with a range of organized and disorganized events featuring stories, laughter and music.

Thank you everybody who attended The Ken Slusher Memory Party in February at PSYC. Friends of Ken took up a collection for the facility rental. Friends of Ken (Irthlingz and The Fuzzy Oldbies) made music. Friends of Ken brought crab, chowder, lasagna, sides, cakes, cookies, brownies, and much, much more. Friends of Ken ate and drank, laughed and cried, hugged and sang and shared memories. Friends of Ken brought pictures of Ken to decorate the space. Many in attendance expressed satisfaction with the music, setting, and program. Pictures from the February 21 event by Cliff Wells,

The Extra Fabulous Exceptionally Wonderful Friends of Ken helped with both the inventive set up and glamorous clean up.


K   L   Slusher           1947 - 2014

     


                                                   
Sketch by Mary K. Hutchinson
Photos credits include: C. Cavalier, Benny Driver, K. E., Dan Fear, John Logan Harter, Wes Sauer, and KLS.




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Mister Slusher died December 3. He was at home, attended by loved ones.

Ken made names for himself as a documentary photographer in silver print and video. He made art his entire adult life using at least six artistic personas (a group show at the Blue Heron in 1990 featured Slusher as K. L. Slusher, Bennie Driver and R. Mutt). He made video, photographs (with a wooden camera, a digital camera and most everything in between), sculpture and assemblage, music with his voice and a variety of wind, stringed, and percussive instruments, with the occasional foray into the written word. He made art all the time. When he wasn't he might be sailing, kayaking, or camping. In his spare time he did things like drive a bus to Vashon and back and curate the OpenMondays gallery. Eventually he turned to planting and landscaping, rewiring, building cabinets, staircases, and other home improvements but he was never not an artist or musician.

      Except maybe a long, long time ago. When Ken was almost eighteen, he was selected and screened, found squeaky clean and became a
      teenage spy. Weeks into spy school, Ken was notified his father was ill. Ken's mother had just divorced Owen. Owen K Slusher died at 39.
      Ken completed spy school while grieving.

      He was told spy school made him a valuable asset. He felt his safety was assured. He would serve on listening posts overseas. In 1967, Ken
      was in Turkey. Before his shift, Ken liked to study the bulletin board. On June 8th, troops crowded around the bulletin board.

      The USS Liberty was under attack. The Liberty was a floating listening post. The troops on the floating listening post sent distress calls.
      Aircraft were half way to the floating listening post when High command ordered them back to their carrier.

      The troops on the floating listening post could not understand why Israel had targeted them. The Israelis, confused by lack of return fire,
      briefly paused the attack to ensure none of their vessels were smoldering. Satisfied by the roll call, Israel resumed the attack on the Liberty.
      The troops on the floating listening post sent more distress calls.

      Another base dispatched aircraft. Again High command refused air support for the floating listening post. The troops around the bulletin
      board shared silent bewilderment. What did it mean to be a valuable asset? How might their listening post be used? There was no debriefing.
      Specialist Slusher was nineteen. He worked his shift.

A trained cook, Ken could earn a living on land or sea. Before he completed high school he spent a summer working on a fish tour boat out of Westport. Stopping on the Pacific Coast after the service, Ken then went on to Kentucky where he held a variety of unsatisfying jobs and also served as a volunteer fire fighter. He went to Petersburg, Alaska for seasonal work fish processing, and lived for a while in Tacoma and Bellingham before finally settling in and around Seattle.

Ken quit driving a bus in 1996. During the 1990s Ken published a web page. He devoted more energy to music making, and he began learning computers and producing video. He has two DVD titles at KCLS and one VHS title sold at the Museum of Flight. He also poured a lot of time and energy into creating his home and garden in Boulevard Park. Ken designed and built his own outdoor barbecue and his own kitchen where he entertained friends for decades.

Increasingly interested in social and economic justice, Ken became more politically aware and outspoken in the late nineties and early aughts. He used his video camera to document lectures, interviews, marches and civil disobedience. He maintained the annual tradition of celebrating his birthday the Saturday after Labor Day. His parties still attracted a lot of artist friends (John Logan Harter until his death) plus musicians, environmentalists, peace activists, and their friends.

Ken continued to use the 5x7 camera and print in the dark room he designed and built. I last remember him developing film in 2004. I carried the camera for him as recently as 2013.

Ken quit alcohol in 2006 and later that year suffered a hernia. As a consequence of treating the hernia, Ken learned he had HCV and cirrhosis. Ken attributed his HCV to his military service but the VA repeatedly denied his claim.

Ken did some cognitive therapy. He asked me for another chance. We named the previous relationship Phase One and grew a new relationship which we called Phase Two. In 2008, we both lost our best friends. We comforted each other. We sought to honor our friends who had left the party so early by living as well as possible for as long as possible. We talked about our experience of being alive, our expectations of death. He loved life, he loved making art, he loved his home. Art would be his legacy, the memories of friends, and whatever carbon he could return.




Liver cancer was diagnosed in April 2010. We learned the VA's end stage liver disease patients die about a year after diagnosis. Many of these patients never give up alcohol.
We wanted to know the best case scenario: how long might Mister Slusher live with end stage liver disease?
There was discussion about our question.
The VA has a ward for terminal liver patients. Liver patients spend all day in bed. They need help with all activities of daily living. They frequently talk nonsense. They can hang on for years.
The question was resubmitted. The answer: Two to five good years.

Ken entered Hospice in July 2013. Hospice has a Pinning Ceremony offered to Veterans. Ken had his Pinning Ceremony at his home in January 2014.
Two friends of Ken took pictures. Here are their galleries: Donna Andrews and Cliff Wells.

June 21, 2014, Ken and I spent the day in Washington D.C. as guests of Honor Flight. Some photos of our trip above.




2014
November 23 a Hospice nurse (not our usual one) came to Ken's home to check on us. She asked Ken if he knew where he was. He answered he was 'in a safe and happy place'. She pointed to me and asked if he knew who I was. Ken said 'that must be Paulette'.




November 30

Ken needs assistance with all activities of daily living.

Poor balance, weakness and Rx side effects have resulted in Ken falling at home three times this week.

Ken and I went to the VA 11/28 to see Ken's primary care MD. There was nothing the hospital could do for Ken that I couldn't do for him better at home. The decline would not necessarily be linear.
Ken would sleep more and more and become less aware. In the meantime I could provide nourishment and fluids whenever Ken is interested.

(Ken still likes cranberry orange cake and is a big fan of crisp cookies. Favorites are white chocolate macadamia, ginger snaps, and walnut chocolate chip.
He still likes granny smith apple slices and orange segments too.)

Dr B cannot say how many months Ken has remaining.




Wednesday December 3
Ken's MDs weigh in:

Primary Care, letter:
I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Slusher's death. He was a remarkable man. He was amazingly lucky to have you as a caregiver. Even when people have been ill for years, there is always something sudden and unexpected about death.
Please take care and know that my thoughts are with you.

Hepatologist, voicemail:
I heard the news about Ken and I just wanted to call and let you know I am sorry that he's gone but it was really an honor taking care of him and it was a pleasure getting to know you as well.
So I hope that he was comfortable as he passed and if there's anything that I can do [...] please give me a call [...] Thanks again for taking such wonderful care of Ken. Okay. Take care bye bye.




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* * *   FROM KEN'S PAPERS  * * *

[Ed: Letter from Owen to Ken 1965/Ed]

Oct 31 65
Dear Ken
I have been waiting to get your address. You know I am not much for writing letters
I have been here since 26 of Sept. For the past two weeks I have been in the hospital here. I was unable to work anymore and that is why I came back here.
Seems like all the time people kept telling me I had ulcers and so forth I had a tumor on the stomach. This tumor was pressing on the liver causing the nervous conditions and all. They finally found it back here. I now have yellow jaundice to go with it. Well tomorrow morning they are going to cut out the tumor.
I must admit I am a little scared. It is major surgery with complications since I have jaundice too. It has to be done though. By the time you get this letter It will be all over.
Ken be a good soldier and try hard at everything. Keep your chin up and always keep your pride
I wish you all the luck in the world.
With all my Love
Dad

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[Ed: Ken's journal 1965/Ed]

I came to Harlan the first time as an adult in November, 1965. It was not under the happiest of circumstances. The first thing I saw was Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital at about five in the morning. I had been traveling all night, a soldier on leave from Ft Devens, Mass., and I saw the hospital where my father lie in a coma dying. It was brightly lit against the dark bulk of the mountains, a very modern looking building. I saw him and was taken aback, for no one had told me what to expect. In place of the man I knew as my father, a man full of life and good easy going humor as any I ever knew, I saw a jaundiced shell of a man who, with all of the plastic tubes and paraphernalia of a hospital, I didn't even recognize.   . . .   I tried to speak to him. I don't believe he ever knew I was there. For the next week or so I didn't know a thing that was going on around me - - I was in some kind of trauma - - and I watched him and waited for him to come to but he never did. I ate Thanksgiving supper in the hospital cafeteria and quietly watched in the new year at the hospital entrance. He died on January 17, 1966. I was back at Ft Devens as I had already used up more than the amount of leave time that was allotted to me. I hired a private plane to fly me to Harlan and was a little late but managed to be there for the last part of the Funeral service.

He was what I shall always consider a great man. He was sensitive, kind, would bend over backwards to be fair or to help somebody in need. We botched together for six months before I joined the Army, and they were a very happy six months, from pillow fights to double dates, we really enjoyed each other. No one could ever ask for a better father than he was to me.

One of his last pieces of advice to me went something like this:

  "A woman is quick to love,
    and even quicker to forget. Take
      my advice and don't get married. "

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[Ed: Ken's journal 1970/Ed]
October 24th, 1970, Harlan County Jail
4:00 P.M.

Wow, what a joint!! The smell alone is enough to drive a man to repentance. ... I'm still in a daze as to how I got to this place, sitting next to a confessed murderer. *

  * [Ed: Fun Fact 1: KLS and Ann Rule and Ted Bundy all answered calls at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. But Ken's volunteering was not concurrent with Rule and Bundy working.]

     [Ed: Fun Fact 2: In 1965 Tacoma's Woodrow Wilson High graduated KLS and Ted Bundy. Ann Rules's book, which Ken read in the 1980s, names members of the class of 65.
     KLS recognized the names. 'Ted? That Ted? That was Ted?!' is how he described his reaction. He was aware of Ted senior year. They both liked to wear black. Ken said they
     didn't hang out but each frequently end up alone save the presence of the other.]

     [Ed: Fun Fact 3: In the 1990s one of Ken's favored watering holes was close enough to the Kenworth Truck factory to attract the after work crowd. After seeing photos of the
     convicted Green River killer, Ken realized he'd been at the bar with Gary Ridgway. 'Nothing behind his eyes' was Ken's recollection./Ed]

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