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Fatherhood tip: 'Spend time'

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Growing up with 12 brothers and sisters, Federal Way’s Ken Johnson got a good lesson on how to balance your time as a father.

He watched his dad be everything to everybody — a disciplinarian, a taxi driver and a strong shoulder to cry on, among other things.

“I remember my father teaching me a strong work ethic and a commitment to hard work in school,” Johnson said.

Johnson lost his dad when he was 14 years old, cutting short a relationship that was just starting to blossom and making Johnson realize that life is too short.

He vowed to spend as much time as possible with his own children –– a promise he has kept.

Johnson, who has four children of his own and is the foreman of a commercial painting company, has developed into one of the best dads in the south Puget Sound area, according to the Seattle Mariners.

“My job is really kind of easy,” Johnson said. “I just love it.”

Johnson’s passion for being a dad has earned him a spot as one of the five finalists in the Mariners’ Father of the Year contest. The contest will culminate tomorrow — Father’s Day — in a ceremony outside Safeco Field before the Mariners take on the Atlanta Braves. The winner will receive free tickets to the game and have the opportunity of throwing out the first pitch with his son or daughter at the nationally televised game.

“I haven’t really been warming up my arm,” Johnson joked. “If I do win, I am just going to go out there and throw it as hard as I can. I don’t want it to hit the dirt.”

Johnson was nominated by his 13-year-old son, Jesse, a seventh-grader at Sacajawea Junior High. Jesse, who sports a 3.9 grade-point average, was one of more than 3,000 students from Seattle and its surrounding areas to write an essay describing what their fathers mean to them.

“We have a very good relationship,” Jesse said in his essay. “My whole life, my dad has never even been away from me more than one day. In my life we have always done things together. He is at his top game and I don’t think he can get any better at being a dad.

“My dad is very special to me. I don’t know what I would do without him. Three words that best describe my dad are hard-working, athletic and helpful. He is the person I would want to be like.”

Jesse’s essay finished up in third place in the seventh-grade division to winner Jerred Sykes, his classmate at Sacajawea. But the nominating staff was so impressed with Jesse’s description of his dad, they made Johnson one of the five finalists for the award.

It came as a surprise. All Johnson knew was Jesse had written an essay about him during his language arts class.

“They called and said I would be interviewed because I made the top 12,” Johnson said.

It was during the interview that he read his son’s essay for the first time.

“The people who were interviewing me brought out the essay,” he said. “It was pretty touching, actually. Things started flashing back. I thought of things I’ve done over the year because he had a lot of that stuff down. It brought back some memories.”

Jesse is the eldest of the four Johnson kids. Jasmine is 9, Julian is 5 and Jerin is 2.

“People say, ‘Wow, you have four kids.’” Johnson said. “But I grew up with 12 brothers and sisters. So four is not that many. There is never a day that goes by when I wish I didn’t have as many kids.”

Johnson says the key to being a good father is making time for your children.

“You need to try to connect with your kids when they are really, really young,” he said. “And keep that up and be involved in their lives. You need to spend time with them individually.”

Johnson gives most of the credit to his wife of 15 years, Lucrecia.

“She is unbelievable,” he said. “I feel like I wouldn’t be in this position without her support and having great kids.”

Johnson has already earned a spot in the National Center for Fathering’s Hall of Fame by being one of the five finalists. The Mariners’ essay contest goal is to help cultivate community awareness about the importance of father involvement in the lives of children and promote the importance of responsible fathering throughout the state, according to Jamie Bohnett, the director of the Bohnett Memorial Foundation, one of the sponsors of the award.

“Ken (Johnson) eally takes his role seriously,” said Bohnett.

Other finalists include Craig Allen from Burien, Randy Grab and Andy Hammer of Kent and Darrell Hickman from Edmonds.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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