East Lewis County Native and Two-Time Presidential Candidate Dies


    It’s rare to find someone with so much passion and dedication for a single cause. But many say it’s hard to find someone like Prohibition Party presidential candidate Gene Amondson at all.

    The native of Kosmos, a former timber town now submerged by Riffe Lake, was a landscape painter, woodcarver, minister and lecturer. He died on Monday after suffering a stroke at his home on Vashon Island and going into a coma. He was 65.

    Through the many things Gene did during his life, the two that earned him the most notoriety were his national prohibition campaign and his run to become the president of the United States in 2004 and 2008 as a member of the Prohibition Party.

    “He took his mission on in a 21st century kind of way,” said his younger brother, Neil Amondson. “He was almost like the Howard Stern of evangelism. He wasn’t inhibited by anyone.”

    Gene appeared on Oprah twice and was in a sketch on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show during his presidential run in 2004.

    “I’m going to fight booze til hell freezes over, then I’m going to buy a pair of ice skates and fight it somewhere more,” Gene said during his appearance on the The Daily Show. “I’m going to make America so dry, a man will have to be primed before he can spit.”

    His four children loved to share stories about their father with friends and people they knew.

    “It was a dubious honor,” said Nathan Amondson, his eldest son, before laughing, “but we loved to tell people our father was running (for president).”

    And of course, he voted for him.

    “When your father is running for president, you kind of have to vote for him,” Nathan said, even though he voted for him as a write-in candidate because he wasn’t on the ballot in California, where he and his other siblings live.

    Gene was also known to occasionally dress in full Grim Reaper garb — black cloak, mask, with a scythe in one hand and a beer bottle in the other — as he picketed outside of Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis and other alcohol manufacturers.

    He loved to get people to react and to laugh, said Andrew Amondson, another one of Gene’s sons.

    Andrew, with the help of brothers Nathan and Isaac, made a documentary about Gene’s 2008 run at the presidency and his campaign against the ills of alcohol. He said his father knew he wasn’t going to win, but used the platform as a stage to raise awareness about alcoholism.

    “A lot of people are affected by alcohol,” Neil said, “and he didn’t want  to see people abused by that drug.”

    So he used humor and comedy to spread the word about a serious issue.

    The man that loved to make people laugh was the same way with his children, showing them nothing but love.

    “He was such a loving father,” Nathan said. “He believed nothing was impossible, and that rubbed off on us.”

    Neil said Gene “prided himself on coming from a town that doesn’t exist and going all over the world” and running for president.

    People who knew him describe him as not only driven, but caring and a stranger to no one. But most of all, people call him one-of-a-kind.

    His children said he always told them “don’t be normal, don’t be part of the herd,” advice he used to live his life.

    “He was not always easy to understand,” Andrew said. “And I’ve never met anyone like him.”

    Services will be held Saturday at Bethel Evangelical Free Church on Vashon Island. The family has opened his Web site, www.geneamondson.com, for the sharing of memories about his life.

    Marqise Allen: (360) 807-8237