Five years ago, my phone rang. I was driving down I-40, just getting into Memphis, when Allison gave me the news.
It's hard to believe it's been that long.
My friend Ken was one of the most amazing people I've ever known. He had this gift for living unlike anyone I've ever known. Ken ran with the bulls in Pamplona, went skydiving in Rio, was willing to try anything once. It was Ken's idea to get a group of east coast Yankees together and take them to the infield at the Kentucky Derby - in an R.V. - right before we graduated from Yale. He had no fear.
He was also incredibly considerate. It was Ken who was chosen to represent our class by accepting the symbolic M.A. diploma at the big graduation on the Old Campus. Because he knew the rest of us would want to see what it was like up there, he took his camera, got us close-up pictures of Steven Spielburg and all the other honorary degree recipients, and showed us what it looked like to see a packed Old Campus on a beautiful May morning. At Thanksgiving, Ken and his wife were the ones who made sure that the international students and others who couldn't travel home from New Haven had a place to celebrate over a meal.
Ken served his country where he was asked, even when he had doubts about the policies he was enacting. Even then, it was an adventure. Our inboxes would fill up with crazy pictures of Ken, just out there doing his job.
Ken was the coolest dad ever. The last Thanksgiving he was alive, he took his boys (who were about 9 and 7 at the time) pirhana fishing on the Amazon. They adored him, as well they should have.
Ken has been gone for a long time now, but he's impossible to forget. There's a whole network of people who are friends because the one thing we all had in common was friendship with Ken. Cleaning out my email address book the other day, I realized I'd never worked up the nerve to delete his addresses, or the last emails we exchanged.
As our friend J said after he died, Ken was the closest most of us ever came to knowing a hero.
Rest in peace, Ken. We miss you.