KENNETH PAUL SORENSEN
Kenneth Paul Sorensen, Ph.D., passed away July 6, 2012 at his home in Key Largo, with his loving wife of 43 years, the former Diane Matrella of Michigan, at his side.
Ken was a longtime civic leader, public servant and Republican Party member whose influence spanned the Florida Keys, Tallahassee, and Washington.
He was born in Chicago and graduated from Saint Mels High School in Chicago. He earned a B.A. in International Studies and Business from Quincy University, an M.A. in International Affairs from Florida State University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science and Humanities from the University of Zagreb Croatia. He was a faculty member of the College of Social Science, Politcal Science at FSU in Tallahassee, where he also served as Director of Development of International Studies.
Prior to his academic and public service careers, Ken retired in 1985 as a captain with Eastern Airlines in Miami after a 25-year career, during which he was a Boeing 727 jet instructor for seven years.
In the late 1960s, he moved his family from Coral Gables to Key Largo, where he became involved in local government and civic organizations. In the Florida Keys, he served as a member of the Monroe County Planning Commission for four years. He was elected to the Monroe County Commission from 1980 to 1984, and served as Mayor of Monroe County from 1983-1984.
During his tenure, Ken was noted for his accomplishments in establishing a 35-foot building height limit, created the first countywide planning department funded through building fees. He also helped create Harry Harris Park and Watson Park on Big Pine Key.
Following his years in local government, Ken was elected to represent Monroe County in the Florida House of Representatives (District 120), where he served the maximum of four terms, from 1998 to 2006. Following his retirement from the House, he became senior advisor to State Rep. and House Speaker Marco Rubio in 2006, and he was an advisor on U.S. Senator Rubio's 2010 Senate campaign.
Ken was also a longtime business owner in the Upper Keys, where he formerly operated the Key Largo Shopper and several other stores and a restaurant.
Ken was an accomplished sailor and sailboat racer who won numerous yachting trophies in Florida and the Bahamas. He earned a U.S. Coast Guard Master's license, and on his sloop, "Detente," set a class speed record in capturing first place in the MORC Fort Lauderdale to Key West race in 1984. He logged multiple first-place finishes in the Upper Keys Sailing Club's Glander Cup, the Abacos regatta, and numerous other Corinthian sailing competitions.
He was a founder of the Upper Keys Sailing Club, at which he served as Commodore, and where he endowed the Mark Sorensen Youth Sailing Program, and with his wife Diane, established the Founders Award. Ken also served on numerous boards and committees. He was a founder and the first president, and served on the Board of Trustees of Mariners Hospital in Tavernier. He was a past chairman of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Director of the State Association of County Commissioners from 1980 to 1984, and was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1980 and 1984.
Ken was also an active member of many Keys civic organizations, including Quietbirdmen and the Rotary Club.
Ken is survived by his wife, Diane; sister Lenore DeNamur of Indianapolis; sons John and Matthew of Key Largo; daughters Susan Sallet of Key Largo and Holly Cohen of Deerfield Beach; grandchildren Melissa and Eric Sorensen, Patrick and Kenny Sallet, Callie Sorensen, Jenny Sorensen, and Corey, Logan, Paige Johnston and Chad Cohen, all of Florida; great-grandchildren Jude and Reed; and his first wife, Kay Sorensen of Key Largo. He was preceded in death by his brother, Robert, and his son, Mark Kenneth Sorensen.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 14 at St. Justin the Martyr Catholic Church, Key Largo. The family will receive friends from 11:30 until the time of services A reception will be held following the funeral services at the Upper Keys Sailing Club, 100 Point Pleasant Drive, Key Largo.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to the Mark Sorensen Youth Sailing Program, c/o Upper Keys Sailing Club, P.O. Box 373154, Key Largo, FL 33037.
Dean -Lopez Funeral Home of Key West and Big pine Key entrusted with Funeral arrangements.