Kenny King, 1949-2014.
My brother died Sunday, doing what he absolutely loved to do. He was 64, recently retired, a walkaholic, and he and his wife, Jane, were walking in a small village in England—where they lived—and he stumbled and fell. He said he didn’t feel well. An ambulance was called. On the way to the hospital his heart stopped, and the medics in the ambulance couldn’t make it start again.
Two King brothers gone, one left. That’s me, the baby of the family. Two King siblings left: Pam, my sister, and me.
It hurts in such a different way from the pain of my brother Bob’s death in 2010, also from a heart attack. Bob was just three years older than I was, and we spent a lot of time together playing sports and sharing a room and, well, beating each other up. (He got the better of those, but it didn’t stop me.) Ken was eight years older, and I didn’t interact with him very much as a kid. That’s a big age gap. But after I got out of college, we started talking more, and visiting more, and even when he and Jane moved to England in 1983, we kept in touch consistently. And what was a distant relationship became in past years a much closer one. He was my buddy. My wife and I visited Ken and Jane three weeks ago, to see them and their new grandson, Thomas. We walked. We watched sports. We went to pubs. One night, we stopped in one of his favorites, The Lamplighter in Northampton, 90 minutes north of London. We talked about retirement; this was his first full year of it. I wondered what he wanted to do with himself now. “Nothing,’’ he said. “There will come a time when I’ll want to do something, but I love just getting up and having nothing to do right now.”
Except watching and monitoring sports. From his little village of Denton in the middle of sheep pastures, he’d listen to Yankee games on the internet (however did we coexist?) and tell me the most arcane things. “Chamberlain can never get the first batter out,” he’d say, “Why does Girardi keep using him?” A string of those things, almost daily. We planned a baseball trip this summer, and last Thursday we confirmed all the details by phone. He and Jane would fly into Boston in June, and we’d see games in Boston and New York and Washington. Baseball trips were his favorites. We went to Game One of the 2012 World Series in San Francisco; there’s a photo of us together before that game, right in his kitchen. We went on three spring training trips too. He just loved baseball, but he also loved cricket and rugby and his fantasy soccer team. And Liverpool. We were going to Anfield when I visited three weeks ago, but Liverpool had to move the game to a later date, so we missed out. No matter. “We’ll go next season,” I said. Instead, we got to sit in his living room and watch Six Nations Rugby. Ken was a pal of Neil Hornsby, the Pro Football Focus guru, and when I called Neil to tell him the news, he said, “We were going to a cricket match soon.”
Ken was the smart guy in the family. He went to William & Mary, the first college grad in the King family, and earned a scholarship to Cambridge University for a year. Everything he encountered he wanted to know more about. I always saw him reading—at a young age, middle age, now. He was a relentless learner. And such a good person. All three mornings in England, he said, “Ready to go for coffee?” He didn’t drink it, but he took me to the Costa Coffee shop in the next town, knowing I wanted a latte in the morning. That was Ken and Jane—always concerned first, second and third with others.
Anyway … I don’t know what else to say about my big brother. Except I love the fact we got closer later in life, and I couldn’t wait to see him when he came over, or when I went over there. He was a very good man, and I’m lucky he was my brother.