Civic icon Glenn Jarstad dead at 80

How do you sum up 80 years of public service?

You don’t. You can’t.

But for Glenn Jarstad, Bremerton’s longest-serving mayor, who died Jan. 27 at age 80 at Harrison Hospital, you have to try.

Jarstad never stopped caring for the city. He was elected in November as City Council member for District 1. He beat three competitors. Voters must have remembered his 18-year tenure as mayor from 1964-1982.

Jarstad was sharp during his recent Council campaign. But a relapse in a six-year battle with cancer a month ago landed him in a convalescent home, and allowed him to get attend only one Council meeting, Jan. 9.

Jarstad was born Dec. 7, 1921 in Gorst — which was called “Pleasant Valley” then — and grew up in South Kitsap and Bremerton, said his widow, June (Etten) Jarstad.

“He graduated from South Kitsap High School,” she said, adding he was very athletic. “He was on the football team, and captain for a while.”

Local historian Fredi Perry recalls in her soon-to-be-published history book, “Bremerton,” that Glenn first spotted his future wife when he was a teen.

“When he was 19-years-old,” Perry said, “his friends were getting married and talking about how wonderful life was for them. Glenn saw a 16-year-old girl (June Etten) walk across the street and told his friends: ‘She’s the most beautiful girl in the world. I’m going to marry her.’”

Before too long, he did, Perry said.

Most who knew Jarstad recall him as a strong man — athletically and in character.

He went to Washington State College in Pullman on a football scholarship, Perry said. He also played baseball and threw the javelin. The results of a civil service exam in his sophomore year prompted him to quit school and go to the Navy Torpedo Station at Keyport as a machinist apprentice.

Mrs. Jarstad said he joined the Army in 1944 and served two years, achieving the rank of tech sergeant. During post-war occupation, he visited Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in the Alps she said. He brought back a German sword as a souvenir.

While in Germany, his superiors discovered he had a propensity for throwing the javelin. He won an award in a European athletic event.

“They wanted him to stay in the service, but he told him he had a baby daughter he had to go home to,” said June Jarstad. That was the Jarstad’s first child, Janice.

Jarstad is survived by not only his wife and Janice Grimm, but three other children: Susan Leavell, Kay Denny and Glenn Jr. He is survived by eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In 1947, Mrs. Jarstad’s father, Oscar Etten, retired and left his grocery store to his son, Roy, and Glenn. It became Roy and Glenn’s Food Center. the partners-in-law ran the store together 18 years, before Jarstad was persuaded by friends to run for mayor.

He was elected and started his first term in 1964 at age 42, the youngest ever Bremerton mayor.

As mayor:

• He was a huge supporter of the fire department and helped start the paramedic program.

• As a former athlete, he worked to pass a bond to create an Olympic-sized pool located adjacent to the YMCA in Manette and now named after Jarstad.

• He reportedly increased park acreage in the city from 100 acres to 400 acres. He was responsible for Lion’s park and Gold Mountain Golf Course.

• He was a strong supporter of preserving salmon runs and watershed.

• In an innovative and controversial move, he hired a sitting state legislator, Gordon Walgren, as city attorney.

Jarstad was defeated for mayor by Gene Nelson in 1981 .

After he left city Hall, Jarstad started his third career — joining his brother John in a charter fishing service on the good ship “Owen’s Cruiser” out of Kingston and Westport.

Many old political friends ended up fishing with the brothers: U.S. Senators Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, has fished with Jarstad. Everyone from local legislators to national legislators to admirals sailed the brothers’ charter service.

He never really stopped the charter service, his widow said.

“He’s had a wonderful life,” said his widow, who sounded upbeat. “He really did.”

When's the service?

Miller-Woodlawn and Memorial park are handling funeral arrangements. There will be a memorial service Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. at Sylvan Way Baptist Church, 900 Sylvan Way. A reception will be held afterwards at the Sons of Norway hall, 1018 18th St.

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