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Longtime Western Vigilante Ron Palin left legacy of fun and good works


Ron Palin, a member of the Lake City Western Vigilantes for over 28 years, died on March 7 of congestive heart failure and emphysema.

Palin, 67, is survived by his wife, Velma.

Born in St. Cloud, Minn., Palin and his family lived for a time in Salt Lake City, but most of his youth and early adulthood was spent in the Bay Area of California. He moved to Portland in 1959 and then to Seattle the following year.

He raced rally sport cars in the 1950s, and retained his passion for racing all his life. His wife said Ron was once going to participate in a race in 1955 that got delayed because one of the other drivers was late. It turned out that the missing driver, movie star James Dean, had died in a car accident en route to the race.

As a young man, Palin worked for several years as a purchasing agent for Trailer Equipment Company.

In 1966, he married his wife Velma. From 1972 to 1992, the couple owned a Mexican restaurant called Los Amigos in the Lake City area (now Flo-Anna's Diner). He also helped his brothers open Los Amigos restaurants in Edmonds, Redmond and Everett.

In 1973, Palin joined the Vigilantes, in part because of his desire to become involved in the Lake City community where his restaurant was located. He eventually became an officer for the group and for many years served as chairman of the Vigilantes' annual Sweetheart Dinner in February, as well as chairman of the annual Lake City Pioneer Days Parade.

"The Lake City parade would not have been what it was without Ron," said Tom Dunnihoo, who knew Palin for close to 30 years.

The Vigilantes are an all-volunteer group that is best known as popular parade performers. The members also devote their time throughout the year raising money for various youth activities, such as drill teams.

"He cared about kids," said Lake City resident Betty Bartholomew, who knew Palin for 25 years. "He was like a surrogate dad to some of the drill teams."

Palin could often be seen driving the Vigilantes' "Paddy Wagon" in parades both in Seattle and around the state. The paddy wagon was described as a "wildly bucking" vehicle, but it didn't need hydraulics, thanks to Palin's experience and driving skills.

Dunnihoo said "Ron was an extremely talented person" who was also a "very good cook." Appropriately, Palin's Vigilante nickname was "Taco."

Velma said her husband was given the nickname from members of the North Queens drill team in the late '70s after spotting a taco pin that he wore on the vest he wore as part of his Vigilantes costume. The pin was a gift from a friend.

"He was very highly respected by leaders in other communities," Bartholomew said. "He was always upbeat, cheerful and outgoing."

On March 24, approximately 250 friends and relatives of Ron Palin turned out to pay their respects to the man called Taco at a memorial service held at the Lake City Community Center. The attendees included members of the Vigilantes and Vigilante Sidekicks, who came dressed in their costumes, and the various drill teams that Palin helped support over the years: the Senoritas, North Queens, Highlanders, Lake City Girls, Ballard Eagles and Midnight Stars. Several former employees of the Lake City Los Amigos restaurant, including the restaurant's first employee, were also in attendance. Pastor Edgar Bibbs of Olympic Hills Church of the Nazarene, a friend of Palin's, gave some opening remarks. Velma said the service wasn't a somber event, but a party to celebrate her husband's life, which is the way he would have wanted it.

"I thank everybody so much for everything they've done," said Velma Palin, referring to the number of people who have called her to offer their condolences and support. "It's unbelievable. Everybody just rallied to help." (