Stolen Totem Pole Returned to West Seattle Park

Eight months ago a tow truck showed up at West Seattle's Rotary Viewpoint Park, removed an 18-foot totem pole and, with the help of a police officer directing traffic, drove off into the night, instantly creating a weird whodunit. Yesterday, the now-restored totem pole -- which was originally donated by the Rotary Club 34 years ago -- was returned to its rightful home, ending this strange tale of larceny right where it began.

The re-installation came about as part of a unique punitive agreement between the Club and the man who stole the pole, 70-year-old Charles Edwards Jenks. Instead of facing criminal charges, Jenks agreed to cough up $20,000, most of which was spent on restoration.

The pole was recovered in Oregon shortly after the theft alongside another just like it, one that had been stolen from a Fred Meyer parking lot in Renton.

Interestingly enough, back when this story originally broke -- and before Jenks' name was released -- I poked around to try and find anyone who knew him, eventually talking with someone who lived near him in Lake Sawyer.

This person -- who asked then to remain anonymous -- told me that when they first met Jenks, they though he was incredibly smart. But, over time, they said, that intelligence morphed into a kind of bullying arrogance. For what it's worth, they also said that the idea that Jenks would take a piece of public art solely so he could display it in his home -- which was apparently his motivation -- didn't seem too far out of line with his character, they said.

Anyway, according to the fine folks at West Seattle Blog, the pole is not done being re-dedicated. That ceremony will take place next month.

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