A memorial for Kenny King from his brother Peter

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.

peter-king-brothers

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.

15 Comments

  1. Prof.Pedant
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. Kenny King is clearly a good person to remember.

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Is that the “Watership Down” that inspired Richard Adams to write the book of the same name? [Wikipedia tells me that it is close to Kinsclere, so it’s very likely to be so.]

  3. Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    My sincere condolences for the loss of your friend whom you obviously loved very much.

  4. Kevin
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Interesting family, the King brothers. Clearly people who made/make things happen rather than sit around wondering what happened.

  5. John Crisp
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    We seek for connections: mine is that, while I now live in Ethiopia, I lived for a long time near Kingsclere (Mortimer), and many a long spring and summer run took me up onto and over Watership Down. Your tribute to your friend does you both honour.

  6. Larry Cook
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I look at that photo and feel chills. I turned 26 in 1978 and have three brothers. My hair was longer than all three Kings combined, but even my short haired brothers had those really long sideburns in 1978. Our sister died a couple of years ago and we are all in one health crisis or another. Your post is a reminder to me to enjoy today and show my love to those around me. Sometimes I forget. Thank you. And condolences to you.

    • gravityfly
      Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I was 16 in 1978. This post is a reminder for me too.

  7. gravityfly
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    What a moving remembrance. My condolences to the King family and friends.

  8. Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I drove through Kingclere the other day and thought of your friend. I am sorry for your loss.

    Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:24:09 +0000 To: t_aid@hotmail.com

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I like these posts. They remind us to give time only to the things that matter. I often think about how lonely I may be one day when I age & how when you are young & have your friends & family how you don’t realize how lucky you are.

  10. lisa parker
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I am sorry for the loss of your friend. It is difficult to find the right words to use at these times when one wishes to comfort someone who is atheist. One thing that is true, even if slightly cliche is that as long as someone remembers Kenny, he is still alive in your heart and mind.

    But there is also the things that science teaches us. All of the matter that made up Kenny does not cease to exist; he might become any of the spring leaves outside your window, part of the squirrels you love, the great Superior you probably see every day. Perhaps he will be part of that one child born to carry on.

    The energy that was his life force will always still be. Perhaps in the warm breeze on your cheek or the sunshine that will finally bring us spring.

    We are all stardust, after all, and will never just ‘go away.’

  11. Dawn Oz
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I guess we carry good friends in our memories, glad to have shared a beer, laugh and cry with them and grateful that they enhanced our life; and we hope that we enhanced theirs. That’s how atheists think about the ending of a life. We will never see them again. With someone like Hitch, we have his voice and words preserved, as well as the interactions.

    Agree with Diana, that these moments are ones of reflection about how bloody fleeting it all is and to be mindful along the way. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there, I do not sleep,
    I am a thousand winds that blow
    I am the diamond glints on snow
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain
    I am the gentle Autumn rain

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight
    I am the soft stars that shine at night
    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there, I do not sleep

    (I know that the video here is filmed in a church, but the lyrics have nothing to do with religion, and these boys have amazingly beautiful voices)

  13. Posted April 18, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    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.

    But how else are we to learn of this most remarkable man than through the words of those who knew him? And would we not be poorer for our ignorance?

    b&

    • Dominic
      Posted April 24, 2014 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      Nicely said.


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