BOB Gogerty sidled over to me at a political event about 10 years ago like an old friend. We’d never met, but that didn’t seem to matter to the kingmaker of Seattle politics.

Gogerty wasn’t there to talk politics. He wanted to talk about child abuse.

I’d written about a string of gruesome child abuse deaths on the state’s watch, and it was clear the stories tugged at something deep beneath Gogerty’s polished charm.

I confessed to him that, as a new father, reporting horrific abuse was exhausting. Gogerty braced me: Keep it up, I know it makes a difference.

    Most Read Stories

I didn’t know how deep the tug was until last week, when obituaries about Gogerty’s death from a heart attack at 74 recalled his own abuse-filled childhood.

Pat Gogerty, Bob’s older brother by 10 years, described their father as an “Irish Catholic drunk” who regularly beat his three sons until they ended up in foster care.

One night, Pat said, their father came home to their North Seattle home, ready to “teach” his boys. Pat intervened, breaking his father’s ribs, sending him to the hospital. Bob, then 6, watched the whole thing.

“I think he learned there was a better way to find common ground,” said Pat, who founded the nonprofit Childhaven. “Solving a problem and not exacerbating the anger was his great talent. That came right out of the conflict.”

Bob Gogerty sneaked into the Marines at age 16 and never graduated from high school or college. But his legacy is expansive: deputy Seattle mayor, helping elect Gov. Mike Lowry and Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, running successful campaigns for Sound Transit and the Seahawks stadium.

Gogerty neither hid nor traded on his hardscrabble upbringing, said Bob Watt, a former Boeing executive and Gogerty’s fellow traveler of Seattle politics. That childhood, Watt believes, led to Gogerty’s best gift as a consultant.

“One of his true geniuses was to really listen, really listen,” said Watt. Gogerty listened until he found a message that appealed to a shared humanity — and then he’d sell the heck out of it to voters.

— Jonathan Martin