Auburn community loses friend, stalwart in Dick Kammeyer

Dick Kammeyer, 88, was a community leader and a friend to many. - Courtesy photo
Dick Kammeyer, 88, was a community leader and a friend to many.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Friends say Dick Kammeyer was one of Auburn's grand old men — community minded to the fingertips, good natured, the embodiment in his personal and professional lives of a vanishing America of simple, durable values of public service, honesty, hard work and family.

In 88 years, Kammeyer left his mark on the city, fighting for police and firemen on the Civil Service Commission, representing his constituents on the City Council. serving on the Auburn School District board during a period of major development that included the construction of the Performing Arts Center and numerous schools.

But Kammeyer's long, productive life came to an unexpected end at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at Auburn Regional Medical Center after he suffered three heart attacks during what he had assured everybody would be his second, routine surgical procedure to relieve pain in his legs and stomach.

Friends and family recalled a life well spent.

"He was the kind of person who was always active and involved, yet he didn't push himself out front," said former Mayor and close friend Chuck Booth, who was deputy superintendent of the Auburn School District during many of the years Kammeyer served on the board.

"I never met a person who gave as much of himself throughout the years as he did," said his son, Richard Kammeyer. "I'm just extremely proud to have had him as my father, and so is my sister."

Kammeyer's memorial service is at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Auburn High School Performing Arts Center, 700 E. Main St.

Born in 1922, Kammeyer grew up in Sumner, attended the old Dieringer grade school and graduated from Sumner High School in 1940. He then lubed cars for Scarff Motors, drove trucks for Heisserman Fuel and served in the Air Force during World War II. He joined the Auburn First Methodist Church in 1948 and was president of the Auburn Noon Lions in 1955.

Kammeyer worked at Heisserman for 24 years, eight of them as vice president. In 1970, he became branch manager of the Auburn Division of M.A. Segale International and served as a consultant for the company that bought it, Icon Materials.

Kammeyer was president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1958, the Auburn Community Chest in 1964 and was a member of the Auburn School District Board from 1967 to 1984. Twice elected to the Auburn City Council between 1959 and 1964, Kammeyer ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Robert Gaines in 1964. As past president of the Auburn Noon Lions, he led the drive to build the old Auburn YMCA building.

Kammeyer served on the Civil Service Commission from 1980 until his death and was for 12 years a lieutenant in the King County Sheriff Volunteer Patrol. He was a past member of the Washington Elementary School PTA and president of the Auburn High School Sideliners Athletic Booster Club in 1961-62, which included his good friend of 55 years, Cyril Van Selus.

“He was the kind of a guy that was a good friend,” Van Selus said. “He was a strong citizen for Auburn and worked for businesses in town all these years. When he was younger, he was very proud of the fact that he was a good softball pitcher. I don’t know if he was, but he always thought he was. The one thing about Dick Kammeyer was that very few men I know could do the job that he did, but if you got after him and teased him about something, he could blush as bright a red as anybody I’ve ever known.”

Eric Robertson, administrator of the Valley Regional Fire Authority and past president of the Auburn Noon Lions, said Kammeyer “did not cower from tough issues, tackling them with fairness and compassion” on the Civil Service Commission.

“He cared deeply about the people in this community, especially the police officers and firefighters,” said Robertson. “Dick would stop by the fire station for a cup of coffee, catch up on our next meeting agenda and make sure I was taking care of his firefighters … Dick was a bit like a Buick – sturdy, dependable, comfortable with a touch of class – nothing pretentious.”

Kammeyer was well known for his sense of humor, sparing nobody, not friends, secretaries, mayors or reporters a good-natured ribbing. “Gawd, you’re looking old!” he was overheard saying one day to former City Councilman Gene Cerino, his long-time friend in the lobby of City Hall. Cerino, following a custom that dated to 1959 when he moved to the city to become Auburn High School’s first wrestling coach, returned the jibe.

Michael Hursh, director of human services for the City of Auburn, offered to accompany Kammeyer to the hospital on the night he died, but the older man refused.

“I’d been with Dick in a couple of situations where he had a medical issue, but he refused on this one. He said, ‘No, I’ll be fine, it’s not an issue.’ He did not want to give me an excuse not to be working at my place of employment. He liked to challenge me about my quality and quantity of work!” Hursh recalled with a laugh.

Kammeyer’s 58-year-long marriage to Marian was happy, ending only with her death in 2008.

“My folks were married 58 years, and my friends in school and beyond always called them the ‘Cleavers.’ That’s the kind of parents they were – Ward and June,” said Richard Kammeyer.

His dad, he said, was the type who always had time for his kids or for anybody else’s.

“If it was on a weekend or I wasn’t in school, he’d take me on a job site and put me on a bulldozer with him,” Richard Kammeyer said. “I’d spend the day with him. I remember all the football games, looking forward to it on Fridays on the bus on the way home. A lot of times we went with his friends, Cyril Van Selus and Ralph Ludvickson. We went to Husky games as well. He always made sure we got to one a year. I really enjoyed that. He was an avid supporter of Auburn athletics back in those days.”

He certainly had a soft side for kids.

“Dick loved my daughter, Emma,” Hursh said. “A lot of folks in different circles said he would talk about her all over the place. That touched my heart. I knew he was continually grieving his loss of Marian. Emma helped to fill a little place in his life.”

Dick and Marian Kammeyer had two children, Richard and Leanne.

“He loved kids, and he would do anything for them,” Booth said. “If a young man or young woman had some problem that seemed almost beyond solving, he’d be right there, trying to work it out for them. I’ll miss his presence and his loving kindness.”

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