In Memory

Ken Lafontaine

Ken Lafontaine

Ken D. Lafontaine, Born 15 Aug 1949, Died 24 Apr 2006 in Edmonds, WA (U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014)The Herald published Ken's obituary on April 27, 2006, but it is no longer available.  Please contact the MHS '67 Website if you have more information. 

Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Professor prodded students to excel

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Ken LaFountaine died April 24 of pancreatic cancer. The college professor was 56.

Twenty years ago, about 40 Shoreline Community College students lined up outside an administrator's office to complain about their professor, Ken LaFountaine.

He had given all their papers back to be redone.

Later, some of those same students, who thought Mr. LaFountaine was too tough a teacher, would thank him for all he had done for them, said the administrator, Andrea Rye, who is now SCC's vice president of student services.

Mr. LaFountaine, 56, died April 24 of pancreatic cancer at his Shoreline home.

Holding his hand was his wife, Beth LaFountaine, and alongside were a sister, Ramona Menish, and a longtime family friend, Carol Seslar.

Mr. LaFountaine, a member of the Turtle Mountain Cree-Chippewa Band in North Dakota, was well-known for his work on Native American history, and for continually prodding tribal students to do their best.

In 1974, he earned a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies, and in 2004, a master's degree in Tribal Governance, both from Evergreen State College.

He taught at Shoreline Community College for 34 years, even teaching a class last fall quarter as he was undergoing cancer treatment.

"He said he was bored being at home," said Rye, who remembers Mr. LaFountaine as simply a nice man.

"He'd walk in the office and say, 'Don't worry, boss, I have your back.' " Rye said. "That's really reassuring working in a college setting. He was there to support you."

Beth LaFountaine remembers her husband's mission to help Native American students connect with their roots.

"They knew they were Indian, but they didn't know a whole lot about how to find out who their ancestors were," his wife said. "He'd find contacts for them, resources in libraries, museums, in some cases taking the students to those places."

A former student, Towana Peltier, 34, remembers some of the things she took away from Mr. LaFountaine's teachings: "To enjoy your roots. Not to allow people to put you in any kind of box. To expand your horizons."

And, of course, how to write a proper term paper, which meant knowing about footnotes and proper grammar.

Besides his wife and sister Ramona of Bellingham, Mr. LaFountaine is survived by another sister, Kathleen Gilbo of Mukilteo; and his father, Peter, and brother, Allan, both of Woodinville.

Today at 1 p.m., there will a memorial service for Mr. LaFountaine at the Shoreline Community College gym, 16101 Greenwood Avenue N., Shoreline.

The school said there would be a chance for his former students to speak at the service, and tell their stories about the professor who was tough academically but also made sure to write letters of recommendation for them.

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company