To The Editor: Who is Ken Tuff?

UPDATE: This question has been definitively answered! CLICK HERE for the full story.

Original article:

Parker Live received this email recently:

“Every time we come to Parker, we pass the river bridge where it says ‘KEN TUFF – RIVER RATZ on the concrete. How long has it been there and who is Ken Tuff? Do you guys know?”

What Is That


No, we don’t, WIT. In fact, I’ve passed that old graffiti for a long time, and have a whole list of questions of my own! Here goes:

  • Is there really a guy called Ken Tuff?
  • Or is it actually an alt spelling of ‘tough’?
  • Why is there a comma between Ken and Tuff?
  • Perhaps TUFF is an acronym that stands for something?
  • How long has it been on the bridge?
  • Who put it there?
  • Is this person still alive?
  • Did Ken write it or one of his buddies?

It’s a pretty prominent marking, familiar to the whole wider Parker community (which, here at Parker Live, refers not only to people who live here but to everyone who passes through or visits regularly or semi-regularly or who owns a vacation home here). Somebody’s got to know its origin story!

So, if you know what ‘Ken Tuff’ refers to, who ‘Ken’ is or even if there is such a person, let us know by tapping HERE. We’ll keep identities private if you prefer! Feel free to speculate in the comments.




  1. Beverly L Bonney

    I don’t understand why it hasn’t been sandblasted off. Tired of looking at it personally.

  2. Sandi Du Vall

    Been there so long dont even pay attention to it

  3. Marcus Todd

    This is iconic for us that grew up there!! Don’t touch it or we will just put it back!!

  4. April Gallup

    I have spent countless hours pondering, who are Ken and Tuff? Long lost radio personalities? Infamous wild west outlaws? We may never know…

  5. Steve Kidd

    Honestly look at it. The comma is there for a reason. It’s obviously Tuff Ken. Ken doesn’t have to be a first name does it.

  6. James, above, is correct. Ken and Tuff are (were?) two guys who came to the River a lot in the ’70s. They sometimes stayed with my brother, who lived in Lakeside at the time. Basically, just two idiots who tagged the bridge abutment some 40+ years ago.

  7. Really? Two people? And Tuff is a nickname, I assume.

  8. If that’s true, the new question is:

    How do we find Ken and Tuff?
    I wanna catch up with them.

  9. Sam Davis

    Yep it’s awesome! Back when they made real paint. Probably full of lead.

  10. Danny Payne

    I read on another post about it….. one guy named Ken Other guys name was Tuff…. just old River rats…. I believe one of them was in poor health or might have passed away

  11. William F. Diekmann

    Been There a long time. So I guess ol Ken is pretty Tuff.

  12. Kevin Burkhardt

    Melissa Miller
    Jayne McClain Smith
    Cindy Robinson-Ritter
    Ken Smith – one if the nicest most genuine guys I’ve ever met. River Rat from the OC.

  13. Their paint choice was obviously good, to have lasted this long???? I look forward to hearing their story!

  14. Leah Howard

    I’ve always wondered that too and why haven’t they ever painted over it to make it look pretty

  15. Jayne McClain Smith

    Ken smith was my husband if 35 years passed April 19 2012. Tuff was and is his best friend still has a place on the river. They did that when they were 13 mid to late 60’s . The true river rats ????

  16. Kevin Burkhardt

    Jayne what year was Ken at Villa Park HS?

  17. There are other names up there too, but the rust has covered them up. Sig, Mary Lou, Jo, Paula, can’t remember them all. Some guys put them up there in the late 60’s or early 70’s.

  18. Kathleen Martinez

    I used to live in Vidal Junction as a teen, and see it everyday on my way to school . I always thought whom ever he is, is so cool for doing that what a river rat . keep it I think it’s iconic.

  19. Lane Loll

    Really? This is my from so long ago and I knew/ know them personally. Ken has passed, but every single time we pass by we think of him, every time. I love that it is there- if it were to be removed I think you might see it right back up!
    He was a dear man!!!!! His family is AMAZING. And our daughter is married to his son
    This is a great memorial now for all his family and friends.
    Some things are iconic – this is one.

  20. Marcus Todd

    We are true River Rats and yes we would put it right back up!! And even put it on Beverly’s house!!!

  21. Still says Tuba naked 98 on the big river side of the bridge.

  22. Russell Gonzalez

    It’s an icon. Gotta stay up !

  23. Jayne McClain Smith

    Yes I’ll give him your information

  24. Beverly L Bonney

    Obviously I had NO information on its history. My respects to his memory and those that knew and loved him. However, we are talking about public property. Perhaps a plaque on the bridge or other location would look less like graffiti or vandalism and offer a suitable tribute? Marcus Todd, I meant no offense (not knowing the history) and your comment was inappropriate.

  25. Marcus Todd

    Now you know the history so stop being all crabby…it’s the river…put up back in the 60s. It’s not Graffiti it’s art and history!! My family has lived there and been on the river since the 50s this is not a place to be high and mighty, appreciate the history and move on.

  26. Joe Mitchell

    It was done with a grinder not paint ….. Land mark

  27. Parker Live Updates

    Jayne McClain Smith Thank you!

  28. Karin Jackman

    Ken is and will always be a legend that lives on in so many hearts. Always ❤️ seeing his name as we drive through.

  29. Ted Thomas

    It’s been there forever, there’s also a small plaque under it. It’s a river land mark. Keep it

  30. The other names on the bridge are Mitch a friend and Jeff kens younger brother – tuff and Ken wouldn’t let them put there names on same side lol !

  31. Denise Ewing Hottle

    Been going for a long time and I always read it!! It’s fun to read hope it stays!!

  32. Beverly L Bonney

    Marcus Todd I certainly appreciate your knowledge of the history. But not your rudeness. Are you saying that “art” has been there since the 60’s? Just to let you know, I’m not a newcomer and have no intention of moving on…

  33. That name(s) have been there even when at my mothers house for couple years and I could not think about who they were,so most of the time I would pay in no mind. If someone can find out the origins of it, please do.

  34. Men was my dad! Tuff his best friend. I love seeing a little piece of my dad everytime my family goes to the river. I would be heartbroken if t were ever removed. We’ve grown up seeing it. My dad did this when his was a teenager. I loved hearin the story growing up. My dad got sick and passed away from cancer a few years ago in his 50s. We miss him terribly! My dad was the best man! He was kind and giving. He is known by many and I know many enjoy seeing his name as they pass by. Tuff still has a place there. River rats forever they will be!

  35. Julie Maddox

    I think this is just kind cool, finding out the background back in the 70s when so many people never heard of the river, the good old days!!

  36. Cindy Robinson-Ritter

    Yes he was one of the nicest people we have ever met! His family is also one of the nicest families we have ever had the pleasure to meet!

  37. George Miller

    LoL I look at that every time I cross the bridge. I had the coolest 4th grade teacher. ????

  38. Christina Holt

    Tuff still comes to roadrunner. His son is well known.

  39. Jayne McClain Smith

    The small plaque say Ken smith the legend and his dates 11-11-53. 4-19-2012. Tuff put it there after he passed !

  40. Tuff’s real name is Vernon Cornelius. He is a great guy with a wicked sense of humor. He is our neighbor. We have known him for years. Ken was his buddy who has passed away.
    If you knew him, you would realize why we all love him, and why those names painted there have become icons.

  41. Chuck Wilson

    Been there since late 60’s thats why

  42. Chuck Wilson

    Real story is they stole my 2nd uncles purple trim paint.. and did this.. glad it wasnt ruined when bridge burnt or rebuilt!!

  43. Chuck Wilson

    My jet boat came from mitch as well .. lol

  44. Chuck Wilson

    Its actually ken tuff and mitch

  45. Chuck Wilson

    Hes my cousin..and yes i do lol

  46. Chuck Wilson

    Just my fam.. old school river ratz

  47. Chuck Wilson

    Purple trim paint..not a grinder

  48. Too cool! Mitch, another name up there, is my dad 🙂 Tuff is my brother’s God Father!

  49. Some things are here that just are. I have been well over 20 + years have seen it never thought of it as graffiti, not when I came here & not now. Now knowing the story behind it it would be a shame to remove it. Those that come here from somewhere else need to kick back relax a little take it easy a bit. Keep in mind not everything is what it seems.

  50. Tiffany Sanders

    Wow I love this I’ve always wanted to know the story thank you for sharing

  51. Janaire Lee

    Leave it there!!! It’s Parker history… ❤️

  52. Ashley Fritzel

    Parker Live Updates Tuff is my boyfriends dad. Ken and Tuff have been friends for years. Sadly Ken has passed but he is a huge part of the River. Tuff and our family still have a place on the water. It puts a huge smile on all of our faces when we pass by. If you would like the full story please contact me and I will get you in touch with Tuff.

  53. Galyn Fischer

    What this is so cool! Did you tell Tuff?

  54. Thank goodness we now know the truth. I thought it might have been two early pioneer radio personalities…..Mullet Ken and Irish Tuff, hitting the airways with bipolar political talk and great songs from Glenn Miller, Hank Williams and Artie Shaw.
    Glad we missed that.

  55. A lot of the names on the bridge (except Ken, Tuff) were people born in Parker and grew up in the 50s-60s. They’d jump off the car bridge AND the train bridge! They were kids just looking for some excitement. Some still live in Parker. I think if somebody painted over them or blasted the names off, they’d have a fight on their hands. They’re proud of having their names on the bridge because it was a part of their growing up in Parker. Their names have been on the bridge for decades. LEAVE IT ALONE.

  56. I have only been here since 93, but feel it iconic and a tribute to a family. It isn’t hurting anything or anyone. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. Some people are so touchy. Appreciate it for what it is, a special insignia for two special friends. I would feel honored.

  57. My husband and I are newbies to the area, moved here in July. We have wondered what the story was behind the names so thank you for sharing such an awesome piece of community history.
    Personally, if it has survived the decades and a fire, leave it alone!! It is NOT graffiti, clearly pointed out by the admiration for these two gentlemen, it IS a piece of River History.

  58. It may have been vandalism 40 years ago, but it has always been a mystery and a part of history to me! Now it has a story for all to share and it will mean so much more each and every time I arrive for the weekends. Let the past live on, especially that part of the river and don’t dare remove it please!! Thank you for the history lesson, so cool!

  59. This is not grafitti and should never be removed. It is a part of Parker, it reveals the beauty of our small town community and the love we share one for another. It tells a story of life on the river for two young boys. How wonderful is that!

  60. It was old the first time I saw it back in 1973. As I recal it read “Ken, Tuff Mitch Jeff. Sig Hall’s name was on there nearby also. They were all painted with white paint and a paint brush, not spray paint, which explains its longevity. I remember my English teacher, Mr. Laughlin, telling stories about Sig Hall. He was quite a character. If anyone knows something about the origins of this famous grafitti, it is probably Sig. I don’t know if Sig is still around, but I saw him in Parker in 2010.

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