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Fond farewell for fallen friend

Normally, wearing jeans and T-shirts to a funeral is frowned upon. But it was considered a sign of sincere respect Thursday as hundreds gathered in South Kitsap to say goodbye to beloved shopkeeper Alan Russell Kono.

Kono’s widow Jennifer requested attendees wear the casual attire because it was her husband’s favorite outfit, and most of the mourners complied, judging from the sea of denim and colorful shirts that filled every available seat and lined the walls and balconies of the expansive Christian Life Center.

The only black seen was worn as T-shirts — some printed with messages to Kono — and the only formal attire were the official uniforms donned by the dozen members of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue who came to show their respect.

“This is a wonderful response to honor a man who was well-loved and respected in this community,” said Pastor Ray Jennings, describing Kono as passionate about his family, his work, his country and politics.

“He was also known for his warped sense of humor,” Jennings said, explaining that if you stopped often enough at P.J.’s Market, the store he ran for 15 years, to earn a nickname from Kono, “you knew you had arrived.”

Kono moved to South Kitsap when he was 16 years old, earning his first job in retail at South Park Grocery and graduating from South Kitsap High School in 1975.

He married Jennifer in 1984, and the couple had two children, Stephanie and Jared.

He purchased P.J.’s Market in 1990 and gradually turned it into a destination for caffeine, conversation and a feeling of community.

Over the years, the market was a favorite gathering spot for law enforcement, firefighters and anyone else often on the go to grab a quick cup of coffee or bite to eat. But for those with more time to sit and chat, the store’s deck became a place to swap stories, jokes or political views, as Kono attracted a collection of “porch potatoes” who sat happily for hours amongst his lovingly attended petunias.

The 48-year-old Kono’s life also tragically ended at his store, where last week he was shot and killed in the parking lot by a man described as a regular customer. Although Wayne B. Hower was arrested shortly after the murder, no motive has surface for the shocking crime.

In the week following his death, businesses up and down Mile Hill Drive filled their marquees with messages to Kono and his family, the tributes stretching for miles from Port Orchard Glass, Olympic Fitness Club and Wave Broadband, to as far west as Buck’s A&W Restaurant and Hi-Joy Bowl.

Kono’s market has remained open since his death, only closing at noon on the day of his memorial and remaining shuttered until 5 a.m. the following day.

Although the customers could not come inside that day, coffee and donuts were thoughtfully placed outside for all who wanted to stop and leave a memento, read the poems and messages posted there, or simply sit on the porch and enjoy the flowers.

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