Ken Roos leaves a lasting legacy of public service, activism
On Sunday morning, as news of Ken Roos’ passing began filtering out, the tributes came pouring in. From his fellow SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members to U.S. senators, the message was the same: what a tremendous loss.
Ken died Sunday at the age of 64 after a brief illness. He leaves behind his wife, Jodi, a daughter, Alexa, and a son, Nathaniel. Our thoughts are with the family in this difficult time.
It’s not possible to overstate the impact that Roos, the longtime First Vice President of the SEA, had on his union and in his community. Ken was a fearless warrior for what was right, unafraid to roll up his sleeves and get involved. He was a volunteer with Red Cross Disaster Relief and regularly donated blood. He was also deeply involved in Democratic politics, even serving as a delegate for Bernie Sanders.
Ken joined the union nearly 20 years ago and gradually got more involved as time went on. In her many years as Business Administrator, Kathy Desjardin worked with Ken as much as any SEA staffer.
“Ken was just always there doing the right thing, whether anybody asked him to or not,” Desjardin said. “Ken was the first one to spot a problem and try to solve it. He was the one who was going to right an injustice and it didn’t matter how hard that was going to be or if it was impossible – he was everybody’s champion.”
SEA President Richard Gulla remembers Ken as a trusted confidant who helped him navigate the political scene with his light-hearted spirit. One of the earliest political memories they shared took place at the Puritan restaurant in Manchester.
“Ken managed to position the both of us like we were part of the receiving line for Sen. Shaheen and Secretary Clinton and we got to shake their hands,” Gulla said. “He was never camera shy and we were certainly in the newspapers and news that night.”
In addition to serving as First Vice President, Ken was active with his chapter and many committees, including Finance, Convention Arrangements and Political Education. Mary Fields, one of Ken’s co-workers at the Department of Health and Human Services, said his passion for service stretched far beyond the union.
“He was a humanitarian before all else,” Fields said. “He was about human rights, period. Not the 1 percent – the people who need it. And he never wavered. He just never stopped.”
Activism was nothing new for Ken Fellow SEA member and high school classmate Beth Campbell recalled protesting alongside Ken against the Vietnam war – an unpopular stance in a small town.
“He just had a fire in him,” Campbell said. “A fire to do the right things. He knew the causes he took up were the right causes and he knew he had to do something.”
Campbell hopes that Ken will continue to inspire people to take the action that’s needed.
“I’ve heard people saying that we need to continue the fight for Ken,” she said. “People loved him so much, they want to do more because of him. He inspired people and I think he can continue to do that. We need to make sure people know what he did, what one person can do.”
Going forward, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and its members will work to honor his legacy.
“Nobody is going to fill his place, because he didn’t have just one place,” Fields said. “He was so many things to so many people. There will never be another Ken.”
In lieu of flowers or thoughts and prayers, please donate to Everytown for Gun Safety, The American Heart Association, or give blood by contacting the American Red Cross. You can find Ken’s full obituary here.