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Ken McTaggart, a true Sonoma son

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Lifelong Sonoman Ken McTaggart passed away recently at the family home in which he grew up.

Decades ago, Ken and I were both kids in what we later called “the old neighborhood,” a two block area on the east side of Sonoma adjacent to Sebastiani Winery including parts of East Spain Street and Fourth Street East.

Many of the houses had been constructed by Ken’s grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, and in the post World War II years, were occupied by young families. Quite a few of the dads worked for the Sebastiani winery. There were a lot of baby boomers in those homes as well, and I was one of them.

Ken, who was a few years older, lived in the biggest house. His mom, Sabina McTaggart, was Samuele’s daughter. Her house had been his residence.

Ken’s circle of friends were older and I didn’t really get to know him until we both had become adults, parents, working and participating in the daily activities and social life of Sonoma many years later.

He had been an officer in the Army and pilot in the Vietnam War, flying small reconnaissance planes over hostile territory. He earned his law degree at the University of San Francisco and came back to his hometown to practice law. He was an associate of Newton Dal Pogetto and Paul Jess for a brief time before setting up his own practice with partner Dennis McQuaid.

He and his wife, Pat, had three children, Ian, Alec and Erin. Like a lot of young families, they were fully engaged in everyday life in our small town.

Ken served as a director of the Chamber of Commerce and volunteered on behalf of many community causes including bond elections, citizen study committees and eventually the Sonoma Planning commission.

He was also, for as long as I’ve known him, an avid ham radio operator, a member of the Valley of the Moon Amateur Radio Club, and a leader in organizing emergency communications infrastructure for the City of Sonoma in case of disasters.

In 1980, he was elected to the first of three terms as a member of the Sonoma City Council, and that included two terms as mayor.

It was a role for which he was perfectly suited. A native son and colleague of many former civic leaders, he was already intimately familiar with local history, politics and workings of city government.

Not one to jump on any bandwagon just because it was popular, Ken often served as the voice of reason and caution (with a touch of skepticism) on the council.

To convince Ken to vote your way, you had to make a strong, well-reasoned case.

As a reporter for the I-T and later its editor, I found Ken to always be accessible and open to sharing his views and reasons for his votes. During his 12 years of service on the council and for years after, I came to highly value his insight on city business and local politics.

Ken and Pat were also very active in the Sister Cities organization in connection with Greve, Sonoma’s sister city in Italy. They visited Greve on several occasions and hosted that city’s mayor and other Italian dignitaries at their Sonoma home over the years.

Dottie and I had the great pleasure of spending the better part of two different trips to Italy with Ken and Pat, where they shared their love of all things Italian with us.

We were also regular guests of theirs every year at the Italian Film Festival in Marin County.

Through all of these experiences, I grew to understand and appreciate the great love for Sonoma that was so much a part of Ken. He loved his hometown and spent a good part of his adult life making it a better place for us all.

I will miss him.