LA CONNER — The clouds parted and the sun shone Wednesday morning upon several hundred people gathered at La Conner High School for the rededication ceremony of the John K. Bob Memorial Totem Pole.

Bob was a senior at La Conner High School who in 1944 was killed while serving as an Army medic in World War II. He died while attempting to render aid to a fellow member of the 104th Infantry Timberwolf Division as it advanced into Germany as part of the Allied forces.

In memory of the fallen veteran, a totem pole was carved by Swinomish master carver Elmer Cline and placed outside the La Conner schools in 1977.

The weather-beaten totem pole was put into storage in 2013 to prepare for construction of the new middle school, and in 2019 Swinomish master carver Kevin Paul and Camas Logue began the work of restoring the totem pole.

On Wednesday, the totem pole was unveiled, blessed and rededicated in a ceremony attended by relatives of Bob, fellow tribal members, La Conner School District administrators, teachers, the entire student body and members of the public.

The rededication came the day before Veterans Day.

Former Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Brian Cladoosby served as master of ceremonies. He paid tribute to Bob’s sacrifice while thanking those who have served, and those in attendance.

“We are here witnessing sacrifice and witnessing very important work,” Cladoosby said. “We are witnessing a solemn occasion.”

As the tarp covering the totem pole was taken down, applause arose from the crowd while Bob’s sister, Helen Lewis, dabbed her eyes before raising her arms skyward.

“It is so important for Helen to be here and to have witnessed this,” Cladoosby said. “We are glad she could be here.”

La Conner School District Superintendent Will Nelson, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, was happy to be part of a ceremony keeping alive the memory of a Native American man killed in action in 1944.

“This is just an incredible experience,” he said. “And that we are honoring him the day before Veterans Day, and his commitment to our country, and to his community and keeping his memory alive is an awesome experience.”

Nelson said any time the school district can celebrate one of its Native American alumni, he welcomes the opportunity.

“This just creates a greater sense of community, belonging and connection,” Nelson said. “That is one of the reasons why this ceremony was so important and why we created an event that really cements that memory.

“It honors him (Bob), his service to the United States military, and to the people.”

Wilbert James was one of the Swinomish tribe’s official witnesses — one of four individuals tasked with documenting the ceremony for future generations.

“It’s my job as a witness to watch and to see,” he said. “To see who is here, to see who is participating.

“(This totem pole) honors everybody, everybody that is here. We are all here together, each and every one of us.”

— Reporter Vince Richardson: 360-416-2181,, Twitter:@goskagit,

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