Kenneth Ray Wittenberg

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Kenneth Ray Wittenberg, June 5, 1949, to April 22, 2024.
  • Kenneth Ray Wittenberg, June 5, 1949, to April 22, 2024.
Kenneth Ray Wittenberg passed away suddenly on April 22. He left behind his wife and high school sweetheart of almost 55 years, Ronda Wittenberg, and two daughters, Jenna Wittenberg and Emily Wittenberg (David Shiriwastaw). Ken was a devoted family man, nothing surpassing his love of family. Often described as a man with nine lives, his life’s adventures were not without risk — he capsized in the ocean, was lost in the woods, stalked by a bear, stranded in snowy mountains and experienced numerous construction near misses. He was a man known to never give up — in life, work or play. However, he was ultimately taken by natural causes from a well-worn body.


Ken was born on June 5, 1949, to Arnold and Evelyn Wittenberg in Bakersfield, California, the oldest son of a family of five children. Being raised on a chicken and poultry ranch, he learned to be a hard worker from a very early age. He often shared his ranch stories with anyone who was interested — baby chicks at Easter, being the most popular kid in school at Halloween for his easy access to eggs for mischievous activities, how he accidentally burned down the family’s barn at the tender age of 4, and the consequences he faced. The ranch taught him how to work long hard hours seven days a week.

Once in high school he developed a love of sports. In order to play football, he made an agreement with his dad that he would continue with his daily ranch chores if allowed to play. Begrudgingly, his dad agreed believing it would not be possible, and he couldn’t afford to lose his best ranch hand. Ken held to his promise and his dad became his most ardent supporter, never missing a game to cheer on his son. Ken was awarded for his efforts by being named as football’s MVP his senior year at Shafter High School in 1966-1967. Not satisfied by participating in a single sport, Ken also competed in wrestling and shot put, lettering every year in all his participating sports. Ken was voted most athletic by his senior class. He went on to play football at Bakersfield Junior College (1967-1968) and Humboldt State University, now Cal Poly Humboldt, (1969-1972). As an alumnus, he was frequently in the stands cheering for many of the Cal Poly Humboldt men’s and women’s games over the years. Many seasons were spent in the stands watching his own girls cheer during Pop Warner, junior high and high school sports games, with the bonus of a football or basketball game in the background. He would never leave a game until the final whistle was blown, ever.

Ken enjoyed an equally rich professional life in Humboldt County, where he lived his entire adult life, bringing with him the many life skills he learned during his youth while working on his family’s ranch in Shafter, California. While attending HSU full-time, majoring in kinesiology with a minor in biology, intending to teach and coach, he also worked full-time in the local lumber mills pulling green chain and cleaning the bleachers on Sundays after the Saturday football games. It was a tough, busy life but nothing he wasn’t used to. After graduating from HSU in 1972, during his year of student teaching, he realized this wasn’t the profession for him. So he accepted a job hauling logs out of the woods to the mills. It paid well and kept him outdoors, which he loved, and later he added commercial fishing to his repertoire, another love. As the mills began closing, he switched to what became a short six month real estate career, but one that led him to his final career choice as a general building contractor. He quickly realized he would rather build homes than sell them. He was happy being outdoors, working with his hands and having something to show for his efforts after a long day. He worked in the building trade for more than 35 years before retiring in 2011, having spent a couple of years learning the trade, other years as part of a partnership and eventually building solo. He valued all the relationships he developed along the way. He treated everyone as a friend, not a competitor or a business associate; he was a man of integrity and fierce loyalty to all those he valued.

At 62, he was ready to embrace retirement life. He always enjoyed trips with family and friends, and the hunting and fishing trips with the guys, but retirement afforded him a new level of travel. After seeing much of the U.S., he found he thoroughly enjoyed traveling out of the country to faraway places, highlights being family trips to Prague and Ireland. During his free time, he kept busy tending and harvesting his vegetable garden, tinkering in his shop and visiting with neighbors and friends, always offering to lend a hand with their projects when needed. He even joined a gym for a water aerobics class and became one of the "pool boys" as referenced at home. His only requirement in taking an earlier retirement than his wife was to prepare her dinner each night, which he totally embraced. Ken had very few regrets in life.

Ken was preceded in death by his parents Arnold and Eveyln Wittenberg and his two older sisters Ruth McGraw (Gene) and Dora Bradford; survived by his two younger brothers Charles Wittenberg (Karen) and Arnold Dean Wittenberg (Terri).

Ken’s Celebration of Life is being planned for Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. at Redd Family Shop (4455 Union St, Eureka, California) by family and friends to give him a final, worthy send off. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Ocean Conservancy at oceanconservancy.org or a charity of your choice.

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