On April 2 I posted a eulogy for my late (and great) pal Kenny King, who died suddenly on a walk near Watership Down the day before. He is now buried in Kingsclere, England, and I was sad to have missed his funeral.
Another eulogy has just appeared, this one by Kenny’s younger brother Peter King. If you’re a sports fan, you might know of Peter because he’s a commenter on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and a prolific writer for Sports Illustrated.
Peter devoted his weekly Sports Illustrated “Monday Morning Quarterback” column to Kenny, describing his trip to England for the funeral. One of the things Peter mentions, which I left out of my post, was that Kenny’s brother Bob, the middle brother of the three, died of a heart attack in 2010 while riding his bike. Bob was young and fit, and his death, like that of Kenny, was way too premature.
Here’s a bit from the column, and while Peter avoids excess sentimentality, the closeness of the brothers is clear:
Jane and Adam [Kenny's wife and son] spoke at the funeral, stupendously and emotionally, never faltering. After the service, we walked eight-tenths of a mile to the cemetery, where six men in black suits lowered Ken’s casket into the ground. The funeral home wanted us to go in hearses; Jane said she wanted to walk, because she and Ken walked everywhere. So we walked. The cemetery, wind-whipped, is on a hill that overlooks a soccer field and much of the village. It’s where Jane and Ken buried their stillborn daughter, Sally, two decades ago. Ken and Jane were walking to this place, to visit Sally’s grave, when he collapsed and died, and so it was right that Ken would be buried here. The vicar said some nice things, and invited us to throw dirt onto the coffin if we wished. A few of us did. Jane threw Ken’s sweat-stained three-decade-old Yankees cap (he was a very serious Yankee fan) on top of the casket. And then we walked back to the church hall.
On the last full day of his life, Ken went to a wine-tasting and bought a case of pink champagne. So of course the 80 or so folks who crammed into the reception toasted Ken with the champagne he and Jane, both retired, would have used for their Champagne Friday tradition. As the last of three King brothers, I did the toast, clumsily. I was grateful for a squeeze on the left arm from Jane when I faltered at one point. I just wanted her, and everyone in the room, to know what a full and happy life Ken lived, and how incredibly grateful the American side of the family was for the goodness of the British side, and how Jane so generously had enriched all of our lives.
Too right! The “champagne Friday” tradition (a good one!) was simply that Kenny and Jane would crack a good bottle of bubbly instead of still wine every Friday evening.
The photo below shows Peter (left), Bob (center) and Kenny (right) in 1978, and comes from the King family. Only one of these three brothers remains: the one we all used to call “Little Peter.” He now has the job Kenny would have loved—a sportswriter, which would have combined two of Kenny’s great loves: prose and sports (especially baseball, but also soccer after he moved to England).
A couple of years ago Kenny, Bob, and Peter visited Chicago on one of their sporadic Great Baseball Odysseys. They’d all rent an SUV and travel across the U.S. going to major-league baseball games (Peter’s press credentials got them in). I remember trying to direct Peter, who was driving, to my house in Hyde Park, at the same time he was on his speakerphone giving a live interview about football to a radio station. He managed to pay attention to all three things at once, and his interview was eloquent. Good times.
I know this post won’t interest most readers, who didn’t know Kenny, but I wanted to put it up as a further memorial to my friend, as well as for those readers who also knew him.