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At the side of the road

by Brenda Dayne on October 10, 2013

At the end August, after a long illness, Tonia’s father died peacefully in his sleep. It was not unexpected. One day later, my father died, quite unexpectedly, while he was gardening. By the time I got the news the following day, my sisters were already making their way to my parents home in Boise.

My father’s funeral took place less than a week after he’d died. I was not able to be present. I couldn’t leave Tonia to face her father’s funeral alone, Tonia couldn’t leave her sister to face their father’s funeral alone, and the thought of facing my father’s funeral, without Tonia beside me, after five planes and twenty three hours of travel, was simply unthinkable. So I stayed in Wales, and grieved with my family remotely, by phone and Skype.

Due to our unusual circumstances of having been served up a double-decker grief sandwich, as it were, Tonia was granted an extended medical leave from work. Amazing, yes? Britain is so wonderfully civilized. We’ve spent the past month or so sharing our joint grief, taking turns propping each other up, gently. It has not been easy. There were weeks of broken sleep, and not much food, because nothing tasted of anything. For a long time it even felt impossible for me to knit. Grief is a funny thing though. Overwhelming at first, it feels as if we are moving through it, one day at a time. Life feels a little different now, as I enter the second month of a life without my father in it. Not happy. Not yet. But a little less unhappy.

For those wondering when is the next podcast, or whether there will be another one ever, I have no answers. In many ways it feels as though I’ve pulled off the main highway of life, onto a lesser road, with little traffic and fewer people. I’ve come to a full stop, on a country lane, and the parking brake is on. It’s nice here. Quite restful, in fact. I’m knitting again, and the view is okay. Sometimes, intermittently, life doesn’t completely suck. I am making progress, by standing still. For a perpetually moving person, such as myself, that you can move while standing still comes as a bit of a revelation. And there will come a time, I imagine, when I’ll feel ready to put the car back in gear and make my way to the main road. But that day isn’t today, nor will it be tomorrow. This is all I can tell you right now.

A few days after he died, my mom emailed me the obituary that my father had written for himself. The fact that he wrote his own obit made me smile, as it speaks volumes about who he was as a man. He took care of business the way he always took care of my mom, me and my sisters. Crossing those T’s and dotting those I’s. His version of his life, however, was little more than a list of names and dates and facts, with nothing to indicate who he really was, or how much he was loved. So, I rewrote it. The fact that I did this would have made him smile, I know, in return.

Dad and Brenda 1961Kenneth E. Ehlers, resident of Boise, was a man who worked in numbers the way an artist works in charcoal or oils. Balance sheets were his canvas, and accounting and finance were the mediums in which he worked, as well as the tools he used to help others make sense of their world. A highly intuitive person, Ken found an outlet for his creativity in a profession many would consider to be dry or dull. He never found it so. He loved the work that he did, and he generously shared his skills, and his deep knowledge of business and finance with a wide variety of charitable and community organizations, as well with his many friends, and his beloved family. His daughters would often call for accounting and business advice, asking, “Is the CPA in?” The answer was always yes.

Born on August 9th, 1937 in Blue Island, IL, Ken grew up in Southern California, graduating from Verdugo Hills High School in 1955. At the age of 18, he joined the Naval Reserve but, after a month of wretched seasickness aboard a naval Destroyer, he resigned from the US Navy and served his country instead in the US Army. Sadly, most of his daughters inherited his wobbly sea legs.

Ken’s work as a draftsman with the Army Corps of Engineers sparked a life-long interest in architecture which, though never pursued as a career, continued to fascinate, engage, and inspire him throughout his life. He was stationed during his enlistment at Fort Ord, California, Fort Belvior, Virginia and Fort Bliss, Texas. Honorably discharged in 1958, he achieved the rank of Specialist 5th Class. After discharge he attended Valley College in Van Nuys, California, courtesy of the US Government, on the GI Bill.

In 1959 he met and married his beloved wife, Cathy, in southern California, and in 1960 the couple moved to Eugene, Oregon, so that Ken could attend the University of Oregon. While studying accounting Ken’s family grew rapidly, with the addition of four daughters in five years. After graduating with a BS degree in Accounting and Business Statistics, Ken worked full time for several local accountancy firms in Eugene, while at the same studying at night for the United Certified Public Accountant exam. He passed the exam and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1968.

In 1970 the family moved to Portland, Oregon, when Ken accepted a position with a large international bank, where he worked in the accounting department and as Assistant Vice President for five years. In 1975 he joined a CPA firm, in Beaverton, Oregon, as a principal, and then established his own CPA practice a year later. Successful self-employment allowed Ken to pursue outdoor passions, and he joined the Mazamas, and climbed most of the glaciated peaks of the Cascades. He also loved to ski, and took frequent mid-week trips to the mountains, finding peace in the solitude of nature, when the slopes of Mt Hood and Mt Bachelor were quiet.

Ken was active in his professional community, the Oregon Society of CPA’s, and was awarded a life membership in the Association when he retired. Campfire of America acknowledged his entire family, as both Ken and Cathy were group leaders, and all their daughters were members. Ken was also a member of the service club SERTOMA of Beaverton, Oregon, and served on the Washington County Planning Commission for 8 years during the 1980’s. While living in Portland he was active in the Duck Club of UO. He was a lifelong supporter of the Ducks, and Ken’s family find comfort in the knowledge that Ken will now be “in the huddle” at every game of the football team he loved.

Ken sold his CPA practice in 1995, retired from business, and moved to Sisters, Oregon with his wife. He continued to enjoy outdoor pursuits, skiing the slopes of familiar mountains, until a series of health concerns forced him to stop. He turned his attention to artistic endeavors, working in wood and stained glass, and was particularly drawn to Craftsman and Mission design. Extensive research on the life and work of Frank Lloyd Wright informed Ken’s carpentry and stained glass designs, and he created many beautiful objects for his home and his family. His daughters were the recipients of many of his works, of which they will treasure, always.

During the time Ken lived in Sisters he was active in community affairs, serving for five years as a charter member and treasurer of the Community Action Team of Sisters. For six years he served as treasurer and board member in the Sage Meadow Home Owner’s Association. He also assisted the treasurer of the Sisters Garden Club in obtaining its not-for-profit IRS status while his wife was president. In addition he served on the Financial Council and served as Secretary of St. Edward the Martyr Catholic Church.

Ken had a heart attack, and died on August 30, 2013 at the age of 76. He will be greatly missed by family that includes Cathy, his beloved wife of 53 years and his loving daughters Brenda Dayne, of Wales, Linda Jensen, of Virginia, Pamela Ehlers Stec, of Minnesota and Sandra Ehlers, of Alaska. Daughter-in-law, Tonia Clarke, and sons-in-law, Jerry Jensen and Adrian Stec, will miss Ken. He was a loving presence in the lives of his grandchildren, Christopher, Zachary, Erik, Edward and Alexander, who will also miss him very much. Ken had two younger brothers, Russell and Robert, who passed away recently. He was also preceded in death by both parents, Edward and Marie Ehlers.

At his request, Ken’s ashes will be scattered on Mount Jefferson, Oregon, where he will rest peacefully forever.

Funeral service will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church 2612 W State St., Boise, ID on Thursday, September 5th at 11:00 a.m. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mary’s Church.

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

51 Joanna October 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Many warm hugs, Brenda. So sorry for your sudden loss.
Whatever you decide to do in future, know that you have brought much enjoyment to so many. We miss you but we understand.

52 Sarah Y October 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Oh, Brenda. I’m so sorry. Daddies are so important to their daughters, and yours sounds like a bosom friend and warm and tender spirit. This must be such a sad time for you both. I hope grief turns to splendid memories and laughing toasts soon, since both sadness and joy are better shared.

53 LoriAngela October 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm

When we lose a parent, we grieve for our past, and for the future we hope to share with them. Your father’s love was enough to stretch out over long distances, and I believe yours was too.
You and Tonia are in our thoughts and our prayers.
You have given us so much with your ground breaking podcast. If your creativity finds itself in another pathway, I only hope to be able to read/see/listen to it.
Thank you for sharing what is so painful, and I hope the healing will find it’s way to both of you.

54 Jennifer October 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I am so very sorry for the losses you and Tonia have had. My thoughts are with you both.

55 Em October 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Brenda, your podcast helped to get me through a really hard time. Your voice kept me company in a way that no physical person could, and I really appreciate that. I’m not sure if this is how the universe works, but I hope you can find some comfort in the knowledge that there are other people all around the world, wishing you good thoughts.

56 KarenK October 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Oh, Brenda, I am so sorry.

Almost 3 years ago my Grandmother passed away (expected) and the next day my Husband’s sister took her life. I understand when you say that life has changed. As someone that has gone through a similar loss… I have no advice, but the thing that I have held on to for the last few years is the belief that Gran greeted Kayt on the other side with a big hug and unconditional love. Gran was 91, Kayt was 40. I cannot think of one without the other now.

You are in my thoughts and prayers through this time. Take all the time you need. Then take some more. With Love, Karen (Spokane, WA)

57 Mary Zammit October 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Dear Brenda and Tonia
So sorry to hear about your double loss – we all send you our love and best wishes. My family have such great memories of sitting with you both, sharing our love of Dr Who! Memories are so precious, thanks for sharing yours with us here and over the years in your podcast. I hope we can be part of your journey again in the future.

58 ansleybleu October 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Best wishes to you and your family.

59 Joan October 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm

How inane the words are, aren’t they? – to express the sadness at your grief(s) shared and yet separate. You both must be so very proud of your fathers and all that they did to help you to become the wonderful womyn you are:)
God bless and keep you both,

60 Robin McCoy October 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm


After reading your version of your fathers obituary, I understand how lucky you were to have him in your life. Oh My the life he lead.

Sorry for your loss


61 Cathy B. October 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm

My heart aches for you and Tonia; what a huge loss. Thank you for sharing “your version” of your Dad’s life, and for all the gifts of words and stories you’ve given us over the years through your podcast.

62 Lisa Lee October 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I was so sorry to hear of the loss of your father and father-in-law. Please give yourself & Tonia a hug, and keep hanging on. I lost my Dad in 2000, somewhat expected. On occasion he visits me in my dreams and we go fishing & rock hunting together. The dreams are a comfort and I wish the same thing for you and Tonia.
Your tribute is lovely.
Take care,

63 Audrey B November 1, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I am sorry for your loss. Not one, but two almost simultaneously. I sounds as if Tonia and you are holding each other up bravely. As they say in my tribe, may their memories be for a blessing.

64 Hanna Jansson November 2, 2013 at 8:41 am

Dear Brenda.
A year ago I was sick from food poisoning and laid in bed, knocked out with nausea. I realized then that what I wanted was your voice. “I want Brenda.” So there I was, on my back, completely still with my head tilted slightly to the left to keep the nausea under control, and Cast on in my head phones. It helped. Your pleasant, soothing voice; your entertaining and interesting show.

I’m so sorry for your and Tonia’s losses, and the pain you’re in. I sincerely hope you both find something similar to what your voice did for me – it’s not a cure but it makes it bearable. (And of course I’m not comparing your situation with two days of stomach pains…!)

Hanna, Stockholm Sweden

65 Christabel November 3, 2013 at 4:04 am

I’m so sorry to hear about both your and Tonia’s losses! I hope you’ll feel better in time.

66 wendy November 6, 2013 at 2:12 am

So so sorry. Warm wishes to you both. As EZ said

Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises.

The end of life honors life. It’s all one big passage


67 Julie November 7, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I am so sorry to hear of your losses. I lost my mom in 1999, and my dad in 2001. I know well that path of grieving. You and Tonia are blessed to have each other, and wise to take all the time you need to process and walk it out. Do what brings comfort, believe that each day will bring just what you need to get through it, and if you want to just sit by the side of the road and watch the sun move across the sky that day, do it. Talk to your fathers. I talk to my parents; sometimes they answer me in dreams. (It’s amazing.) Hugs to you both, and I will be listening for you somewhere down the road.

68 Debra Rogers November 12, 2013 at 1:19 am


I am so sorry for your loss. I will pray for peace for you and your family, as well as Tonia and hers. We cannot ever understand all that life deals us, but we can be there to support each other through it all. Love from Flossmoor, IL.

Debra Rogers

69 sarah November 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

Dear Brenda and Tonia,
I never had a dad and I always wanted one. I can only understand a little bit about what a dad is because my children have a good one, but it’s not the same. I am sitting here crying for you both and your dads and myself a bit. Keep going, treasure your memories, I am sending you good vibes. All will be well.

70 Kathleen November 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I’m so sorry for both you and Tania and your families. What a lovely goodbye you wrote to your father. Hugs to you all. Xoxo

71 Shannon November 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Brenda, I’m so sorry for your and Tonia’s losses. Your father’s obit is beautiful, and I smiled through tears as I read it. You’ve been in my home so frequently I feel his loss, too, though certainly not anywhere near as keenly as you do.

You’ve given me much joy over many years, have kept me company through worried nights as a single parent, through stressed days (and, yes, nights again!) as a grad student, and continue to do so as I sit at my desk at work. And, always, you’ve inspired me to push fear aside and to reach for what I want. That will live with me.

If you decide to end your podcasting days you’ll be missed terribly but will be loved always.


72 Cam November 24, 2013 at 1:08 am

My condolences to you and Tonia both. Take care of yourselves. You’re both amazing women and we all look up to you.
I still listen to your podcasts and I miss you terribly but I’m really happy to just hear from you (albeit through these unfortunate circumstances.)
Radio silence is uncomfortable.
Miss you and love you as a friend (knitterly friend). Take care, sending you lots of alpaca hugs.

73 Erin R. December 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

Lots of xoxoxo to both of you. It’s good to be quiet sometimes, necessary even.

74 Stephanie December 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I am so sorry to learn of your loss. Through your podcast, I feel you are a distant friend, and I feel bad that I just learned about this today.

I’m pleased that you and Tonia have each other, and can heal together.

Sending you many hugs across the miles.
(StephieJo on Ravelry)

75 Erin R. December 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Just thinking about you today. I hope you are well.

76 Chris E December 14, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Brenda, I know losing a parent is very hard, and you and Tonya have my sympathy and best wishes. Your father knew you from your very beginning. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt remembrance of him.

77 moey January 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I miss you. I hope you are doing okay. Please come back. xx

78 Lisa Appleton January 7, 2014 at 1:20 am

Belatedly … so, so sorry for your losses! Time heals … but there’s certainly no way to predict how long it takes. Blessings and light to you and your families.

79 Cindy February 1, 2014 at 2:09 am

Hi Brenda,

It’s been awhile since I checked in. I just read the latest post on your blog regarding your dad and Tonia’s dad passing away. Hugs to both of you. I realize it’s been a few months and hopefully you are adjusting to the newest reality. Just wanted to drop by and say Hi, and I miss hearing your voice.

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