Retired Seattle Police Officers Association

Last Ring

Take a moment to remember our friends and associates who have passed.

Gary Kunkel #2900, retired Seattle Police Officer passed away on March 11, 2017. He was 72 years of age upon passing.

Gary was born in Yakima, but moved to Randall when his dad Shirley bought a ranch after his rodeo career as a bronco and bull rider, which he had done since the end of WWII. Before and during the war, he was in a Cavalry assignment, even rode horses before tanks. Gary worked on the ranch, except during football season. Later he got a job as a cook and waiter in one of the local restaurants during his senior year. Right after graduation in 1963, he enlisted in the Navy. His MOS was medical tech. He was assigned to military paramedic school after Basic where he learned to be a field medic. There, he met Tom Blair #2998, a future peer on the SPD. Both were assigned to the Marines as Corpsmen. Both were sent to Vietnam to different units. Both spent over a year there. While there, Gary was wounded but returned to his unit, earning several awards. When their tours were up, they were assigned to the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island. They were discharged on the same day in late 1967.

Gary was hired by the Department in April 1968. He attended Academy Class 56. Later, he was assigned to the Georgetown Precinct, working the flatlands car. One shift in 1970, while working with Bill Kirk #3358, Gary chased a stolen car into Seward Park. So many late-night partiers got in the way of the pursuit and almost got hit, that the Park’s Department decided to gate the entrance. This reportedly is how the park began to be locked up at dusk. Eventually he got the plain clothes Alki car. He was very successful relating to the young people partying on the beach.

After work, the crews would go to Happy’s Tavern where Gary came up with the idea of challenging other groups to full tackle football games without pads. An informal tavern league was formed. In one game, Mark Gilbert #2919 made a great tackle, dislocating his shoulder on the construction worker team’s star runner. Gary, being a medic, put it back in place and Mark back in play – no excuses.

Gary stayed South until he got the opportunity to go to the Tac Squad in 1975. There, he got together with his old Navy buddy Tom Blair, who had come on the Department 8 months after Gary. They joined up as partners for the next two years. They became hunting buddies, going for elk and deer around Gary’s Dad’s (Shirley’s) ranch. Shirley even joined them each season. When Tom married Elizabeth in 1979, the ceremony was at the ranch, and Shirley was Tom’s best man. He was definitely quite a man because he was still logging at 64 years of age.

After the Tac Squad assignment, Gary returned to Georgetown. There, a suspect struck Gary in the face with a metal pipe causing injury to his eye and a laceration that needed 23 stitches. Later, at an accident, he slipped and struck his ribs against the curb. The torn cartilage never correctly healed. These injuries forced Gary’s retirement in late 1980.

After the Department, he became a certified surgical technologist. He worked at Morton Hospital, then later at Centralia Hospital as a supply technician. In 2004, he married Patricia Ann and moved to Shelton. There, he worked at Home Depot in Tumwater because he loved tools (he had two of each.) Later, he switched to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts because he also liked working on cars.

In later life, he worked on his yard and house. He was a regular handyman. While working, he was always (even on the Department) singing old western tunes. He sounded like Ray Price.

Gary is survived by his wife Patricia Ann; daughter Michelle; three sons, Michael, Kaleb, and Vaughn; and eight grandchildren.