Ed and Florence Amundsen have always been true to their roots, big on family and supportive of youth.
The Kent couple know no other way.
“That was just a part of our family … giving back,” said Florence, 87, who along her husband has lived and worked in the Kent-Renton area for more than 60 years. “You did things for the community.”
Added Ed, 90: “It’s about community service.”
From work to play, the Amundsens have helped show others the way in a community that has grown substantially since they first became a part of the Kent area in 1953.
For their many contributions, they are this year’s Kent Cornucopia Days Old Timers King and Queen and will be honored as part of royalty in the festival’s concluding-day grand parade on Sunday, July 16.
While they briefly worked for other enterprises, Ed established and built a career that spanned 33 years as a cost account and cost estimator for The Boeing Co. Florence worked as a secretary and legal assistant for attorneys for about 30 years.
Beyond their occupations, their impact goes far deeper as volunteers and leaders in a variety of community roles.
Raised in southern Idaho, Ed and Florence met at Idaho State College in Pocatello and were married in 1949. They celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary in September.
Ed enlisted in the Navy in 1945 and served on active duty for 18 months during the end of World War II and then in the Navy Reserve. After Ed graduated from Idaho State in 1950, the Amundsens welcomed a son, Skip. Two years later, Ed was recalled during the Korean War and served aboard the USS Kearsarge as a supply corp officer. Lieutenant commander was his highest rank. He spent four years in active duty, 16 in the reserves.
The Amundsens eventually came to the Pacific Northwest and made Kent their home, soon welcoming a daughter, Sonja. They live today in the same house that was built on East Hill in 1956.
At Boeing, Ed collaborated with teams of concept-designing engineers, estimating the cost of the out-of-the-box-thinking projects and whether they were economically viable to commercial airplanes. Some were, many were not.
“I enjoyed that. I had a good job,” Ed recalled. “I was the only one supporting this whole group from an estimating standpoint. … It was interesting job.”
Florence, meanwhile, did secretarial work for several Kent attorneys, including Emerson Thatcher and Jim Curran, and Renton’s Roger Lewis. She enjoyed the challenging, engaging legal work.
“I spent time reading the law to find out what the heck I was doing,” she said.
“Roger would let me participate in what was going on,” she said of their 25-year working relationship. “As I became a little more proficient in understanding the law, I often sat in on the conferences. … If I didn’t understand what it was I was working on, I’d ask the questions, and he would spend time explaining it to me.”
Florence and Ed retired in the same year, 1989, but their lifetime work was far from done.
They remained active in many Kent activities, including the PTA, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, Beta Sigma Phi, 4-H, Diversion Committee for Juvenile Court, the volunteer fire department as well as some functions in Renton.
Ed still belongs to the Noon Rotary Club, an association he has had for nearly 20 years, and Florence remains an honorary Rotarian.
Scouting was a passion for Ed and his son. They both earned Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest rank. Ed served as outdoor activities chairman for Troop 406 for 20-plus years, planning and leading trips throughout the Cascades and other places.
“We had a good working program going,” Ed said. “We spent a lot of time on the trails.”
After raising their two children, they took up boating, built a cabin in Shelton and traveled.
They also pursued their interest in genealogy, tracing Ed’s extensive roots in Norway and Florence’s lineage to Ireland. In 1996, they took their first European tour to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia.
When they returned, they joined the Sons of Norway, a benefit organization that promotes the country’s traditions and fraternal fellowship through cultural and social outreach, and became involved with the Norway Committee of Kent Sister Cities Association (KSCA) in a variety of capacities.
Florence served as president and secretary for the Kent Sister Cities program for several years and has been the chair or vice chair of the Norway Committee since 2001. As a committee member, Florence initiated the youth ambassador program, which has had 11 successful student exchanges.
Ed has served as treasurer for several years for three of the six sister cities – El Grullo, Mexico; Kherson, Ukraine; and Sunnfjord, Norway – and has served as treasurer for KSCA for several years.
The Amundsens cherish their close ties to the community and the opportunity to serve, especially in helping under-served youth find their way.
As to the secret to their longevity and a happy, fulfilling life?
“Genes,” Ed replied with a smile.
That, and the willingness to help others.