Cover photo for Douglas Kess's Obituary
Douglas Kess Profile Photo
1948 Douglas 2024

Douglas Kess

February 25, 1948 — February 11, 2024

Douglas William Kess (75) died at home in Naselle, Washington, from pulmonary fibrosis, on February 11, 2024. He had just returned to Karen, his beloved wife of over 50 years, after a cross-country odyssey in search of new lungs. He made it home.


Doug was born in Ely, Minnesota, one of Roy and Merna Kess’s six boys. After Ely High, he won an academic scholarship to New College in Florida. He met Karen in math class and knew he had to marry her: she was the smartest person he’d ever met.


Once graduated in mathematics, they moved to St Paul, Minnesota when Doug was drafted for Vietnam. He objected, fought to become the first non-religious conscientious objector in Minnesota, and remained a peace activist all his life, attending the weekly vigil in Astoria to protest the invasion of Iraq.


Doug and Karen married in St Paul in 1972. As Karen’s career in supercomputing took off, Doug started a doctorate in statistics at the University of Minnesota. The arrival of their warmly welcomed child, Elizabeth Senja, interrupted it: he never finished his dissertation but relished the role of stay-at-home dad, cooking wonderful meals influenced by the family’s travels.


Karen’s career took them from St Paul to Lyon, France, then Brussels, Belgium, and finally to Menlo Park, California. Doug continued as an educator, tutoring at Menlo-Atherton High School.


When Karen retired, they bought a forested property on the Naselle river. Doug transformed the house adding space for Karen’s library and making it truly wheelchair accessible. He also tended the forest and worked in conservation and marine management, chairing the Pacific County Marine Resource Committee (PCMRC) for years. He deftly brought people together for the good of land and community, often opening meetings with a watermelon poem. Doug was also an active Pacific County Democrat, curious about the world and committed to making it more just.


He is survived by his wife, Karen Elaine Spackman; his daughter, Elizabeth Senja Spackman; his brothers, David, Donald, Peter, and Paul; and Django, his dog. He is proceeded in death by his brother Randall and his parents.


Those who wish to remember him are welcomed to the family home on February 24 from 2 pm to share memories. He’ll also be celebrated later this year as the founder of the PCMRC Science Conference.


If you wish to make a contribution in his memory, consider supporting Amnesty International or PCMRC fund at the Pacific County Foundation.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Douglas Kess, please visit our flower store.


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