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East Side Fixture Ken Woolstenhulme Remembered as the 'Real Deal' by Colleagues

Ken Woolstenhulme, a former Summit County Commissioner and an icon in Oakley, the town where he lived his entire life, has died at the age of 90.


According to his obituary, Ken Woolstenhulme died in the early morning of Tuesday, June 22, near his birthplace in Oakley.


He was born in November of 1930, the eldest of 11 children.


Oakley City Recorder Amy Rydalch said that Ken and his family have defined the town.


“He’s left a long legacy that has defined Oakley as far as the vision of our community, as well as the influence he left in terms of public service and maintaining a Western heritage,” Rydalch said. “His loss leaves a large place in all of our hearts. He is the picture of Oakley. Everything that he represented embodies the spirit of our city.”


He served as mayor from 1986 to 1997. Among other activities, Ken served on the Planning Commission and the South Summit School Board, he was for a time the local postmaster, and the longtime grocery store Ken’s Kash still bears his name, though he is no longer the owner.


Ken was elected to the Summit County Commission in 1966 and served until 1973.


He returned to the County Commission in 2002. He and fellow commissioner Bob Richer were re-elected in 2006 and left in 2008.


Richer told KPCW that although their political and cultural viewpoints could be quite different, they formed a bond.


“I remember saying to Ken that although we came from vastly different backgrounds and cultures, and sometimes had different views about politics and the county and so forth, I became very fond of Ken because he was a man of great integrity,” Richer said. “And I remember saying that if I was ever in a foxhole, I would be well-served if I was in that foxhole with Ken, because I know that he would never let me down and have my back.”


He said that Woolstenhulme was a genuine man of the West.


“Growing up in the East, it was fun to get to know somebody who was a real cowboy,” Richer said. “And Ken was the real deal. He wasn’t just somebody who put on a cowboy hat and wanted to be a part of the West. The West and Summit County and even more precisely Oakley City ran through his blood and his veins.”


Sally Elliott, a County Commissioner from 2005 to 2008, said even with their different worldviews, she did share some common ground with Ken.


“I came from rodeo in Oklahoma,” Elliott said. “Ken and I both spoke bronc-busting and rodeo and I was a barrel-racer. And so we certainly had that in common. And I used to go over often to his grocery store in Oakley, Ken’s Kash, because he mixed his own sausage and cut his own meat. And his meat was really good.”


Ken’s obituary said it was “perhaps not unprovidential” that his passing came on the eve of this year’s Fourth of July Rodeo, an event he was involved with since he was old enough to ride.


Rydalch said Ken will be honored during the Fourth of July parade and every night during the rodeo.


In addition, Summit County will lower the state and county flags at its buildings through Sunday.


Ken’s wife Karren, died in May after 67 years of marriage. He is survived by five children, including current Oakley Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme and Planning Commission Chair Zane Woolstenhulme; 19 grandchildren and 23 great-granchildren.


A viewing will be held at the Kamas Stake Center along State Route 32 on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. The funeral service there is at 11 a.m.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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