Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg was a rookie officer in 1978 when he got called into the patrol commander’s office the day after a pursuit ended in a crash.
Hohenberg recalled Monday how intimidating it was to go before his then-supervisor Lewis “Lew” Lee Abernathy.
Hohenberg had only recently started driving a patrol car by himself when he tried to chase down an intoxicated motorcyclist who was sniffing a bag of glue while riding. But Abernathy actually wanted to compliment him for safe driving and not speeding during the pursuit, and for catching the suspect after the crash in Layton Park.
“I always felt like I had a good relationship with (Abernathy),” said Hohenberg.
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Abernathy, 75, died early Sunday morning at The Hospice House in Kennewick.
A Tri-City resident since 1956, Abernathy graduated from Kennewick High School and worked in several places across the United States before enlisting in the Army, which included a tour in Vietnam, according to his obituary.
The Arkansas native then settled in Kennewick and joined the Kennewick police force in January 1963. Abernathy worked his way up the ranks from patrolman to sergeant, eventually becoming captain of the detectives division. He retired on disability in 1985, Hohenberg said.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with (retired Kennewick Chief Bob Farnkoff) over the years, and I think the one attribute from (Abernathy’s) police career that Chief Farnkoff always talked about ... was his investigative skills,” Hohenberg said. “(Abernathy) liked investigations. It was a part of the job he liked the most, and he was good.”
Abernathy toured the newer police station on West Sixth Avenue about 2 1/2 years ago. He worked at the station when it originally was based at Kennewick Avenue and Washington Street, then moved with the department into city hall in 1966, the chief said.
“He served the citizens of Kennewick for over two decades, and I know that the time that he was here he was really proud of his service with the Kennewick Police Department,” Hohenberg said. “He shared that with me when I gave him a tour of the police department ... how we had evolved over the years since after he left the police department.”
Abernathy went on to work as a skilled plumber for 10 years, his obituary says. He was passionate about flying, even working as a flight instructor for many years, and boating. He was a longtime active member of the Clover Island Yacht Club, serving as commodore in 2004.
Abernathy is survived by his wife of 25 years, Dixie, three sons, three stepchildren and numerous grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life is planned at 2 p.m. Saturday at Mueller’s Tri-Cities Funeral Home, 1401 S. Union St., Kennewick.