Ken Woolstenhulme, public servant and former mayor of Oakley, dies at 90

Woolstenhulme was beloved for his pranks and kindness.

Ken Woolstenhulme helped bring the Oakley Rodeo to a national stage and brought joy to Oakley residents at his store, Ken's Kash.

Ken Woolstenhulme, a cowboy staple in Summit County who served as mayor of Oakley and owned the fabled Ken’s Kash store, died Tuesday morning. He was 90 years old.

Woolstenhulme wore many hats during decades of service. He worked in local government as a Summit County Commissioner, school board president, city councilor, planning commissioner and postmaster. Woolstenhulme was also a rodeo champion, dairyman, cowboy, rancher, missionary and bishop.

“This is a passing that leaves a void in the community that will never be filled,” said Oakley City Councilmember Tom Smart. “[Woolstenhulme] meant so much on so many levels. He was the toughest guy I knew.”

For 37 years, Woolstenhulme owned and operated Ken’s Kash — a grocery store and gas station that has become the unofficial heart of Oakley.

Woolstenhulme was born in Oakley in 1930 as the first of 11 children to Wallace Elmo and Eva Lorraine Hortin Woolstenhulme. He was known for his ease in making new friends, offering a welcome smile and handshake to those new in town, and for helping those in need.

“I always remember that he stood by people, even though they were different,” said former Oakley Mayor Doug Evans. “I know at Ken’s Kash, he took care of people — probably provided them money or food and he did it secretly.”

He died less than half of a mile from where he was born, according to his obituary.

From 1986 to 1997, Woolstenhulme served as the mayor of Oakley and he is credited with helping develop the Oakley Recreation and Arena Complex and improving the city’s water system, according to a social media post from the city.

Evans worked alongside Woolstenhulme to bring water to the western part of Summit County. The project was initially intended to serve about 200 customers but has grown exponentially. Evans said the project now provides water for most of Park City.

“He really took me under his wing and helped me understand the importance of community service, Evans said. “I think he did that with a lot of people. They built Oakley up around community service. People just volunteered and everything went from there.”

Woolstenhulme also served two separate stints as a member of the Summit County Commission, first from 1966 until 1973 and again from 2003 to 2009.

The Woolstenhulme family legacy of public service runs deep in Oakley. Ken Woolstenhulme’s father, Elmo, had been mayor, he served as mayor, his son Wade is now mayor and his eldest son, Zane, is running to be mayor after Wade finishes his term.

Woolstenhulme was inducted into the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2016 after a decorated career as a bareback bronc rider and bull rider. He was heavily involved in transforming the Oakley Rodeo into a nationally recognized event and was still a member of the rodeo committee at the time of his passing.

Friends in Oakley will remember Woolstenhulme’s vivid sense of humor. He once razzed a new LDS bishop that had forgotten the supplies needed for a youth campout at Ken’s Kash by slipping a couple of beers into the bags.

Woolstenhulme’s passion for public service was infectious. He convinced Smart to run for the city council and Evans to run for mayor when Woolstenhulme left on an LDS mission as an adult. Smart told him that he wasn’t going to vote the same way as Woolstenhulme on some issues, but Woosltenhulme told Smart that he was a good man and it didn’t matter how he voted.

Evans recalls Woolstenhulme showing up to city council meetings covered in manure and animal blood after a day of working on the ranch. The next day, Evans found Woolstenhulme at the Salt Lake Temple dressed in white, ready to marry couples as a sealer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“He was the hardest worker I ever saw,” Evans said.

Evans recalled that Woolstenhulme and his brother Dutch worked as “pick up” men at rodeos. They would rush in and rescue bronc riders who had been bucked off their horses. Evans thought that effort was symbolic of the type of person Woolstenhulme was.

“He would lift people up and carry them on his back,” Evans said.

Woolstenhulme was buried in the Oakley Cemetery after a viewing and funeral service on Saturday morning. He is survived by his children Zane, KaeLyne, Wade, Kena and Jeanina.

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