News

Former Enumclaw police chief Bruce Guenther passes

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

P. Bruce Guenther, a career lawman who served as chief of the Enumclaw Police Department for 18 years, died the evening of Oct. 29. He was 69.

Following a stint in the military, Guenther spent three years with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. In 1965, he moved to Enumclaw to join the local force and, in 1971, he was promoted to chief. Along the way, he graduated from The Evergreen State College and the FBI Academy, and he remained as Enumclaw's chief until his 1989 retirement.

Guenther's influence remains strong within the ranks of Enumclaw's police force, as he was responsible for hiring current Chief Bruce Weigel and the department's two current commanders, Dave Williams and Eric Sortland.

"He was the best police chief I ever worked for," Sortland said, recalling Guenther's strength during stressful times. "During emergencies, he was always incredibly calm and collected."

While admitting Guenther took an "old school" approach to police work, Sortland admired the chief's willingness to tackle new ideas. During Guenther's 18 years as chief, he initiated contracts with other agencies to house prisoners, managed the move into the department's present quarters (from City Hall) and kicked off the DARE program.

Lynn Nordby, Enumclaw's city administrator during much of Guenther's tenure, recalls the chief as "quite a professional and a great leader for the department.

"He was just a good man," Nordby said.

Guenther was born July 22, 1934, in Buffalo and raised in Jamestown, N.Y., then moved to Olympia at the age of 13. He joined the United States Marine Corps, serving with the military police in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. He met Bette Riis, who would become his wife, while stationed at the submarine base in Bangor.

He is survived by his wife, Bette, of Enumclaw; sons Del Guenther and Vern Guenther, both of Enumclaw; daughter Sylvia McDougall of Enumclaw; brothers Vic Guenther and wife Ruth of Tacoma; brother-in-law Ken Riis and wife Audrey of Kent; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A visitation is planned for 4 to 8 p.m. today (Wednesday) at Weeks' Enumclaw Funeral Home. Services will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at The Summit, 920 Roosevelt Ave., in Enumclaw. Officiating will be the Rev. Douglas Peterson of Trinity Lutheran Church. Burial will be at Enumclaw Evergreen Memorial Park.

Memorials are suggested to Trnity Lutheran Church Scholarship Fund or the Enumclaw Police Department Scholarship Fund.

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