COARSEGOLD — Friends, family, countless coworkers and the hundreds of young people whose life he touched, are mourning the loss of Ken Jordan.
Ken passed away on Sunday, Nov. 27, while cutting wood at his daughter’s house in Coarsegold. He reportedly collapsed and could not be revived. He was surrounded by his family at the time of his death.
Ken spent 40 years working in fire. Thirty-one of those years spent in the Hotshots, one on a Helishot crew and the rest on engines, including Cal Fire.
He started his firefighting career in 1976 with El Cariso Hotshots, and retired on Jan. 30, 2014, from what he said was his “dream position” as the Superintendent of the Sierra Hotshots.
But while firefighting was what he did to take care of his family, longtime friend Jacob Tallmon says that’s just what he did so he could afford his true calling — mentoring the young people who were the biggest part of his life.
For over 20 years, Ken was absolutely dedicated to the youth of Oakhurst and Coarsegold, says Jacob, always heavily involved in the youth group at the Sierra Pines Church.
“He will be remembered by many as a father and grandfather figure throughout the world,” says Jacob. “He had a knack for teaching boys what it took to be a man, and for letting girls who had no father figure know that they are special.”
Jacob says Ken was the leader when he himself was part of the youth group, and that the two spent many years together working in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco doing homeless outreach.
Ken had recently returned from an international mission the Philippines, where he worked with Project Life Subic, helping to get young prostitutes off the street, get them healthy and into school, says Jacob.
When he wasn’t traveling to do mission work, Ken was always involved with the local kids.
“He used to do ‘soup night.’ The soup was whatever wild game he killed, and some homemade bread.”
Ken was an avid outdoorsman, a former trapper by trade, who spent many years hunting just to feed his family.
“He was the toughest man I ever met,” says Jacob. “He survived a helicopter wreck, got burned-over once in a fire, and survived a mountain lion attack where he killed the lion.
“I remember running a marathon with him in 1999, and I was really out of shape. Then I find out he had a broken foot.”
Ken raised his three daughters as a single father, says Jacob, and they were his world.
“One of his biggest prides in life was that all of them found a good husband.”
Ken met his wife Charlotte on the fireline several years ago, and they were soon married.
“He just walked into church one day and introduced me to his wife,” says Jacob. “I didn’t even know he’d gotten married. He just didn’t see the need to tell everybody. That’s just the way he was.”
Charlotte is often away as she is a high-ranking official with the U.S. Forest Service, and the only thing that would stop Ken from being at the church youth group is if Charlotte was in town, says Jacob.
“Family is first; he’s setting an example for the young boys — this is what a man does.”
Jacob says it will be a challenge to find a venue large enough to accommodate all those who will want to honor and share stories of Ken and how he has touched their lives.
“There will be kids flying in from all over,” he says. “He was a big teddy bear to the kids, and a tough-as-nails firefighter to the Hotshots. He was a friend and a mentor. He lived so many lifetimes in so little time — he was just larger than life.”
For video interviews with Ken Jordan on “The Smokey Generation” click here.