Former State Senator King Lysen has passed away; memorial will be Mar. 23

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Former State Senator King Lysen – a beloved husband, father and grandfather – passed away on March 15th at his Burien home.

Born March 10th, 1942 in Minneapolis, MN, King was the eldest of four children born to Odell and Mildred Lysen. He was 12 yrs. old when the family moved with his father’s job to Seattle Washington. He was in the first graduating class at St Francis School, Burien, graduated from O’Dea High School (‘60) and Seattle University( ‘64, ’65), where he met his wife, Toni Smit Lysen.

Ever the adventurist, King studied at the University of the Americas, Mexico City, during his college years. And while there summited the 17,802 foot peak of Mt Popocatépetl. This was the start of his lifetime love of travel. The Jesuit social and economic justice values he acquired from his studies at SU and the experience of having his father’s local Aero-Mechanics union striking several times while he was growing up, were threaded into his initial teaching career where he became a union rep for the local American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) union at Federal Way HS. During this time he also actively opposed the Vietnam War and marched in support to the United Farm Workers. He was also the Director for the Seattle World Without War Council in 1970 which transitioned him into a political career.

He was first elected as the Democratic State Representative of the old 31st (now 34th) Legislative district in 1970 one of the Seattle Seven and continued to serve in the Legislature for 12 years – 8 years as House member and 4 years as a State Senator. During his time in Olympia King fought special interests and was a true voice for the people. His political career was defined as he exposed large special interest activities and widespread government and contractor mismanagement with Washington State Ferry contracts and the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS).

When the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPS) had 5 nuclear plants under construction in the ‘70’s King was able to produce evidence of fraud, mismanagement, faulty planning projections and outright theft. WPPS had powerful friends in both the state and in Washington, DC. A fierce fighter, King persevered through all the criticism and managed to prevent all but one plant from being built…that one at Hanford.

King also worked to place the “Magnuson Amendment”, a little known amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of a 1970, into the federal law that limits oil tanker traffic in Puget Sound waters east of Port Angeles. The original version was written and husbanded through the legislature by King and his staff. After both Houses passed it, it was vetoed by Gov. Dixy Lee Ray. Unable to garner enough support to override the veto, King sent his trusted staff member Steve Hildebrandt to negotiate with US Senator Magnuson who included the language into the MMPA and it became federal law.

In those days King continued his anti-war efforts by actively protesting, along with his beloved Catholic Archbishop Hunthausen and thousands of others including his older children, the delivery of nuclear weapons by the “White Trains” to the Trident submarines based in Bangor, WA.. Life in politics ended after his Independent Party bid to unseat Senator “Scoop” Jackson for reelection to the US Senate 1982.

After his political career, King, commercial fished in SE Alaska and passed on his love of the sea to his three sons, who also all spent several years commercial fishing in Alaska. Later, he also commercial farmed potatoes and sugar beets near George, WA for several years and was one of the first farmers there to install a circle sprinkling system in what had been a dryland farming area. Toward the end of King’s career, he returned to his love of teaching, as a drafting teacher at Franklin High School.

In his retirement years he enjoyed bike riding, yoga, reading viraciously, and sailing his boat the ‘Tomato Sloop’. He rarely missed taking his grandkids to Bicycle Sunday rides along Lake Washington. He traveled worldwide with Toni and close cousins. Yet, there was always time to enjoy and mentor his grandchildren. In his final years as his health declined the commitment and love King and Toni had for each other kept him going to the end.

His family and friends will miss his wit, humor, empathy for the less fortunate, and his determination to make the world a better place. King is survived by Toni, and their six children; Polly (Neil) Halpern, Zac (Sarah), Josh (Anne), Luke (Jen), Koosje (Jason) Boyd, and Maria (Niilo) Juntunen, as well as 15 Grandchildren: Noah, Elliot, Lily, Gabe, Brooke, Ava, Nathan, Olivia, Peyton, Declan, Ashlynne, Emmie, Tia, Luca and Nico, and his siblings Kathy Gehring-Waters, Ray (Carol), and Bert (Melinda).

Services will be held Thursday, March 23, 10:30am at St Francis of Assisi Church, Burien with Burial at Gethsemane Cemetery, Federal Way.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in King’s honor to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (, the Fellowship of Reconciliation for Western WA (, and the ACLU [].

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3 Responses to “Former State Senator King Lysen has passed away; memorial will be Mar. 23”
  1. Terri Lien says:

    King will live forever in our hearts, and will be missed by many. RIP

  2. Kathy Gehring says:

    I will miss my brother, he was the most caring person always fighting for the less fortunate. I Will miss his bike rides to my house to see what I had for snacks! I love you King.

  3. Bert Lysen says:

    My brother King is on a new adventure and I am sure his adventure will be as eventful as this one. But first I want to thank Toni for all she did to make his final years as comfortable as possible. I can’t thank her enough for taking care of my brother. His daughters and sons stepped up and helped as well.

    One could say he had nine lives. From his heart surgery when he was 12, falling off a fishing boat to exposing the failure of WPPS while he was a State Senator. King was called the conscience of the Senate. The family could not be more proud of what he did and what he tried to do while he served in the legislature. He could not have worked harder to representing his constituents

    I know he was very proud of his children and loved them very much and their successes and in the support their spouses have given over the years to insure their children his grandchildren grow up to be hard working, responsible and loving human beings. One could ask for nothing more. I know our parents couldn’t have been more proud of him as well.

    He certainly will be missed by all that knew him; he will have a special place in our hearts. It’s hard to say goodbye King.

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