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Kenneth B. Worthen


1921 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Kenneth B. Worthen Obituary
September 6, 1921 - July 22, 2017 Kenneth B. Worthen, an innovative, compassionate and highly regarded San Fernando Valley community leader and 1992 Fernando Award honoree, died Saturday, July 22 of natural causes. He was 95 years old. Ken was born on September 6, 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota. After moving to the San Fernando Valley and graduating from Burbank High School, Ken served his country in the Pacific and China during World War II. He retired from military service as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He was an executive at the Southern California Gas Company, retiring in 1991 after 40 years of service in activities including marketing, public relations, public affairs and community economic development. Ken served on the boards of many local nonprofit organizations, as well as many task forces on issues of concern in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, raising millions of dollars for local charities in the process. He was elected to the El Proyecto del Barrio, Inc. Board of Directors in 1985, where he served with distinction until his death. He was El Proyecto's Board Chair from 1994 to 2008. During his chairmanship, El Proyecto broadened its mission by expanding its self-owned facilities to include active health clinics and/or human services programs in Arleta, Winnetka, Sun Valley, Panorama City and Azusa. "El Proyecto del Barrio and the hundreds of thousands of individuals and families we serve owe a huge debt of gratitude to the leadership, kindness, vision and dedication of Ken Worthen," said El Proyecto President/CEO Corinne Sánchez. "He spent his life helping underserved populations throughout the San Fernando Valley and beyond. He put his whole heart and soul into helping others, and we will be forever grateful for the tremendous impact he and his wife Helen Madrid-Worthen have had in building El Proyecto from a small community clinic to one of the leading nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles County. He was a truly great leader, and an even greater human being." In addition to his more than three decades of service on the El Proyecto Board, Ken was a founder and long-term board member of the Los Angeles Valley College Foundation (formerly the Patrons Association). He served on the New Directions for Youth Board since its inception. He was also a past president of the Van Nuys Area Chamber of Commerce and Mid-Valley Rotary and also headed the Valley Economic Development Center, Mid-Valley YMCA and the Southern California Swimming Association Boards. Ken was a stalwart contributor to Rotary International charitable projects in the U.S. and abroad. As an aside, he also acted in many local theatre productions over the years. These were just some of the many community contributions that led to Ken being honored as the Fernando Award Winner for 1992. The Fernando Award is considered the highest honor a San Fernando Valley resident can receive. It is awarded annually to the citizen judged to have done the most to improve the quality of life of San Fernando Valley residents. Among the many other honors he has received are March of Dimes Volunteer of the Year; Listing in Who's Who of U.S. Economic Development; The Greater Los Angeles 5-County Chamber of Commerce Award for outstanding contributions to Southern California Economic Development, the Amateur Athletic Union Award for advancing the sport of "swimming in the Southland', the El Proyecto del Barrio Spirit Award for his decades of inspirational leadership; and the Greater Van Nuys Rotary "Service Above Self" Award, which was presented to Ken in 2016. Ken also served his country with distinction during World War II and beyond as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. During the war, he was first stationed on Guam, later on Okinawa, where he devised new tank tactics that saved the lives of many Marines who were engaged in one of the fiercest battles of the war. Ken next served in Northern China, where he witnessed the surrender of 30,000 Japanese troops. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 1959. For his valor, he was awarded the Navy Presidential Citation and the Asia-Pacific Campaign Award with two Combat Stars. He lived in Woodland Hills with his wife, Helen. Between them they have three sons, three daughters, six grandsons and five granddaughters. The Worthen family requests donations in memory of Ken be made to one of his three favorite charities: El Proyecto del Barrio Foundation, New Directions for Youth, or Los Angeles Valley College Foundation.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 13, 2017
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