‘He Built a Legacy’: Memorial Celebration Held for Referee Mike Kain


Following his sudden death on Saturday, Sept. 24, a celebration to honor the life of longtime South Sound referee Mike Kain was held at Ingersoll Stadium.

Kain’s family was surrounded by many of his officiating colleagues, as well as both Capital and Central Kitsap football teams on Thursday, Sept. 29.

After Kain’s family was welcomed to the field and joined by WIAA officials, an announcer read Kain’s accomplishments, which included 39 years as an official and 31 years in Thurston County. Kain spent eight years as the president of the South Sound Football Officials Association and officiated countless games.

Kain died a day after he had a heart attack while officiating a matchup between Yelm and River Ridge on Friday, Sept. 23.

Kain’s wife, Jo, received a bouquet of flowers from the Capital football team and the family received a replica football helmet as a token of appreciation.

With the field packed with athletes, officials and family members, those in attendance at Ingersoll Stadium showed their respect to Kain during a moment of silence. Jo was then welcomed to the 50-yard line where she partook in an honorary coin flip for the contest between Capital and Central Kitsap.

“He built a legacy, and we’ve all been missing him this past week,” Jo said in an interview with the Nisqually Valley News following the celebration. “We felt like we (missed him), but we realized how much he’s missed by everyone, by seeing all of these officials here tonight.”

Jo said one of Kain’s former colleagues approached her and said some of the officials wanted to potentially cancel games. When she heard that, she immediately knew that wasn’t what Kain would’ve wanted.

“I told Terry (Simmonds) that Mike wouldn’t have wanted games canceled on his behalf,” Jo said. “Mike would’ve wanted the games to go on.”

Kain was involved in sports since he was 5 years old, his wife said. He was a three sport athlete in high school who played football, baseball and wrestled. As he continued to get older, Kain’s love for sports stayed a consistent factor in his life. He began to participate in intramural sports and refereed in college.

Outside of football, Jo said Kain loved the outdoors. He loved national parks and beaches where he spent time camping and hiking.

One of Kain’s children, Jared, said his dad enjoyed reading science books and loved to share facts with people.

“If you were playing football out here in Thurston County, he’s likely officiated a few of your games,” Jared said. “All he wanted for all of us was to always play by the rules, and stay on the right path.”

Heidi, one of Kain’s daughters, said her father was a great parent who always prioritized his children.

“He used his officiating schools in parenting too. He did it in a fun way. We do it with our own kids now,” Heidi said with a laugh. “We were always his number one priority. He always made sure we were taken care of, making sure we had what we needed, and always constantly teaching us.”

The Kain family is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community.

“I thought it was amazing that they did this for our dad, without us even asking,” Jared said about the ceremony. “They talked about doing a moment of silence, but the officials said that wasn’t enough.”

Alex Kory, one of Kain’s daughters, said the family is proud of all the things their father accomplished in life.

“When I think back, I think about all the things he contributed to his family and his community. I think he would look back on his life and be proud,” Kory said. “He’d be proud of what he created for us, for my mom, for his grandchildren, and for football.”

The family said the last several years have been some of the happiest years of their father’s life. Being able to watch his grandchildren grow and continuously being involved in athletics made life easy for Kain, according to his son Jared.

In almost every tragic situation there is a silver lining. Jo found some light in a dark situation and said that Kain died doing what he loved.

The Yelm football program also took some time to honor Kain prior to Friday night’s game against the North Thurston Rams. Announcer Matt Mounts spoke about several of Kain’s accolades, before the stadium held a moment of silence in his honor.


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