In Memoriam: Ken Virden 

Share a barroom and a handshake

I didn't really know Ken Virden, but you didn't have to know him well to see he was a special person. I had seen him on multiple occasions, almost always when I was drinking at 10th Street Station. He was the old guy sitting at the bar, perpetually smiling and chatting up whoever was nearby. With a crop of high-and-tight gray hair and twinkle in his eye, I could tell he was a local fixture. He had a handshake and a hug for even casual acquaintances. As far as I could tell he wasn't there to drink. He just liked to be around people, and they him.

It wasn't until a year or so ago that I finally met Ken through a mutual friend. (Odds are, if you've spent any amount of time sampling Boise's downtown nightlife, you had a mutual friend with Ken). I shook his hand, he commented on my height and immediately started poking fun at our friend for leaving his beautiful girlfriend alone on a barstool. That was the extent of my personal relationship with Ken.

What I learned about him, though, was remarkable. Born June 21, 1923 in Dalton City, Ill., his family suffered heavily during the Great Depression. He lied about his age and joined the Army, where he trained as a paratrooper. An ankle injury led to his becoming a B-24 tail gunner during World War II—a time when odds of completing a tour of duty were one in four. He met his future wife at a USO dance in Boise and they were married in Kuna in 1946. He returned to Boise in 1955 and served 32 years in the Air National Guard, retiring as a master sergeant and later receiving the rank of chief master sergeant. He worked in warehouses, funeral homes and, ultimately, at Yellowstone National Park. He was a member of the Optimists, Jobs Daughters, Scottish and York rites, Shriners and Masons.

Ken passed away Aug. 20, surrounded by his children, at a Boise hospital. He was 92.

It is a testament to the man that his Facebook page remains filled with reminiscences from people of all stripes and all with a common theme: Ken touched a lot of people's lives, even if it was as trivial as sharing a barroom and a handshake

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