Life on Whidbey: He’s the nicest guy you’ll never meet

  • Wednesday, June 6, 2007 8:00am
  • Life

It was unusually hot that day in early May when I saw JOE HENRY KOONS outside Ace Hardware, looking a bit out of place but cool and polished nonetheless in a dark suit and white shirt. He’s a tall man, which I used to my advantage, stepping into the shade he created.

He continued to tape death notices to the store’s front window and didn’t seem to mind the questions of a stranger who wanted to know if he worked for Burley’s and for how long.

“About six months,” he said. I figured he must be new to the profession until JIM HADDON, manager of Burley’s Funeral Chapel, told me Koons had over 10 years of experience as a funeral director/embalmer.

“I had never been to a funeral until I started in the business,” Koons said. To be certified, one must have a two-year associate of applied science degree and serve two years of apprenticeship.

“The first year of the apprenticeship I was an intern embalmer’s assistant; the second year, an intern funeral director’s assistant. I handled a variety of duties, among them responding to first calls from families.”

Koons spent 15 years as a graphic artist before going into the funeral business, working in Peoria, Ariz., and Reedsport, Ore., and now on North Whidbey Island. Haddon said, “Koons is a multi-talented individual and we’re mighty glad to have him,” noting they may use his artistic talent in some of their marketing.

He’d like to date and have a social life, but he’d have to find a woman who understands his unpredictable schedule and how dedicated he is to his work.

Koons, who is 44, has two older brothers who are not in the business. He says TV programs such as “Six Feet Under” are completely fiction.

“We are caring people and folks ought to come in and meet us. Stop in and introduce yourself. Get to know us,” he smiled.

Burley’s is located at 30 SE Ely Street in Oak Harbor. Call 675-3192.

Emails from Africa

We knew he’d go far, we just didn’t know how far.

COL. MICHAEL D. VANCE, Oak Harbor High School Class of 1979, uses daily emails to stay in touch with wife LASHEEN, parents JOYCE and ELMER VANCE, brother MARK and sisters JULEE and ROBIN and assorted friends from his position as Director of Intelligence for U.S. Central Command’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.

CENTCOM was given use of the Camp Lemonier by the Djiboutian government in 2001. Goats and birds once roamed the former French Foreign Legion military barracks that now serve as living quarters and offices. New maintenance facilities and living areas have also been added.

Heck yes it’s hot there, some days as high as 115 degrees. Daily consumption of bottled water is at about 10,000 liters.

There are about 1,700 U.S. military and civilian employees working at Djibouti, alongside Coalition forces and partner nations, members of the U.S. Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard, active duty and Reserve, plus representatives from the UK, Ethiopia, Korea, France, Romania, Uganda and Egypt.

Vance is adjusting to duty in the Horn of Africa, and his loved ones in Washington State anticipate his taking leave early next year.

Loving her life …

RN JEANNIE ALFARO can calm an anxious patient, keep up with two jet-powered kids and make time for the Coupeville Memorial Day parade. Her parents, KATHY and JIM GUILES of Coupeville, came along too.

“My daughter CLAIRE, 4 ½ years old, was part of the spirit team,” said Alfaro. “She’s a cheerleader. I carried her brother NICHOLAS, 2 ½ years old, and walked along with her group.

“It was two miles through town. The girls did a cheer to the Beach Boys tune ‘Surfin’ USA.’ It was adorable.”

Must be clean living

A loving tribute to her grandfather ADOLPH LEGAT of Winlock, Wash., will be announced tomorrow morning by Willard Scott on the Today Show between 8 and 9:30 a.m. ANGI CARLSON arranged for the piece to air. Adolph will be 105 tomorrow; his 100th birthday was announced in 2002.

Adolph’s family came to America from Austria when he was just six weeks old. Adolph’s youngest of four children, LEW LEGAT of Coupeville, is Angi’s dad and has been an island resident for 35 years.

Serving the sea services

BETH MUNNS, national representative to the Navy League and now city council candidate; ED WITT, president of Navy League, Whidbey Island Council, and his wife BETTY; along with JO BALDA and LEE YOUNGBLOOD will attend the Northwest Regional Conference of the Navy League in Portland June 7 to 10.

The Navy League has grown to become the foremost citizens’ organization to serve, support and stand with all the U.S. sea services.

So what’s your news? Folks want to know. It’s as easy as calling me at 675-6611 or send me an email at See you on June 13!

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