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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Farewell, Friend

Our condolences to the family and acquaintances of 70-year-old Ken Fife, owner of Dick's Towing and active member of the Towing & Recovery Association of Washington. Fife died on Mar. 26 after a long battle with heart disease. Here's a story about a tribute to him:
WENATCHEE — Ken Fife’s tow-truck-driving friends from Puget Sound were headed for his funeral here Friday when they ran into an unexpected complication. Snow on mountain passes forced them to go to work.

Up to 20 tow trucks from Seattle and surrounding cities were expected to take part in a tow-truck funeral procession honoring Fife, owner of Dicks’s Towing and a leader in the state’s towing industry. But many of drivers and their rigs were needed to rescue skidded vehicles in the wet, heavy snow that blanketed the cross-mountain highways Friday morning.

“Kenny would have loved the irony of this,” said Mike Walcker, director of the Towing & Recovery Association of Washington. “He would have understood completely.”

With emergency lights flashing, about 20 trucks from Chelan County and Eastern Washington participated in leading a long procession of vehicles from Wenatchee over the Odabashian Bridge to East Wenatchee’s Evergreen Memorial Park. Dozens of friends, relatives and business associates attended Fife’s church and graveside services.

Fife, 70, died March 26 after a long battle with heart disease. Following a varied career in furniture sales and interior design, he began working for Dick’s Service in the early 1970s. By 1978, he and wife Jeannie had bought the towing operation. For the next 30 years, Fife worked to support and promote the towing industry, serving as president of the state towing association in the 1980s, all the while running his growing towing businesses in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.

“He was the kind of guy that’d keep you on your toes,” said Teri Hopkins, who’s worked for Fife for 14 years at Dick’s Towing and as manager for the last year. “He had high expectations and wanted everyone to meet them.”

But that didn’t mean he wasn’t thoughtful or caring, she added. “Almost everyone one of us — each employee — has had troubles at one time or another, and Kenny was always there to help. We were a pretty tight group, and he always made sure we were doing OK.”

She thought for a minute, eyes cast downward. “It’s as if he’s always been part of my life. I’m going to miss him, totally.”

Nathan Ogle, a tow-truck driver for two years at Dicks, said Fife remained in charge of the company even through his illness. “Sick or not, he made sure the job got done,” said Ogle. “Even in the end, he’d show up at work using a cane or crutches or a walker. He just had to make sure things were getting done right.”

Out in the parking lot, Ray Caveness, manager of Randy’s Towing, warmed up his big rig’s engine for the upcoming tow-truck procession to honor Fife. “Ken was a friendly but tough competitor,” said Caveness. “No question, though, that the industry is going to miss him — he was very supportive, very involved, a very respected member of the towing industry.”

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

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