Saturday, February 16, 2008

Knock, Knock and Welcome to Ken's Blog

Kristin and Ken, 1974

In our house, my bedroom and Ken's bedroom shared a common wall. Sometimes when we were little, we would have to go to bed before we wanted to, and I remember us both taking turns pestering our parents about staying up "just fifteen more minutes." On one occasion when that pestering didn't work, I remember trying to fall asleep and suddenly hearing a "knock, knock" on my bedroom wall. So I knocked back. A few minutes passed, and then I got another knock and I heard a faint giggle. I knocked and giggled back. This continued on until one of us finally fell asleep (or one of our parents yelled at us to knock it off). In fact, it became a sort of ritual between us. I don't remember how long this bedroom routine lasted, but it always made me smile when I got a knock. Many years later, long after those giggly childhood days, we were both teenagers, and there was some sort of tension between us. I was in rolling around in bed, and the next thing I knew, there was a knock on my wall. So I knocked back. The next morning, even though we both knew that was Ken's way of extending the olive branch, I pursued the topic and feigned my annoyance to him, asking, "Why did you knock on my wall last night?" And he replied out of his crooked smile, "I was just making sure you were still there."

I have always been a sleeper. I can fall asleep pretty much anytime, anywhere in seconds flat. And I enjoy sleeping. But there was a time when I hated to sleep. I was a freshman in college when Ken took his life, and I didn't have many confidantes there yet since I had only been a college student for two months. I don't remember whether it was my parents' idea or the college's (or a combination of both), but I was told I had to see our college psychologist once a week after Ken's passing. I completely resented this, and I made it known to the psychologist that I would attend my appointments as I was told, but I would not talk to a stranger about something so tragic and personal. He said that was fine, and for the most part, I would go to his office with books in hand, and we both used the appointments as time to get our work done.

But then I started to hate sleeping. I begged my college rommate to stay awake. I called friends, went into the hall of my dorm, wrote letters, listened to the radio, did anything so that I could put off having to sleep. One day, at my weekly appointment, the psychologist asked me why I looked so tired. I knew better, but I told him the truth. "I am having trouble sleeping." He saw his window of opportunity and pounced. "Why can't you sleep?" he asked. "I can sleep," I corrected him. "I just don't want to sleep." Then I just remember breaking down. I guess I needed to tell someone, especially someone who could add his expert opinion. Through my tears, I told him of our childhood ritual. And then I told him how, every single night when I fell asleep, I would hear a knock in my dreams. When I looked up, it was Ken. We would hug and cry, and he always said he was sorry and promised me he would never take his life again and that he would always be here with me. And then I would wake up, and part of me thought my dream was real. So I would have to relive it all; the recognition that my dream was not reality was just too much to bear day after day. I tried to make it stop. I tried to think of other things before falling asleep. I tried to eat weird things before going to bed. I tried praying to God to stop this torture. Nothing worked. When I finished my admission, after a long pause, I asked the psychologist why he thought my dream continued night after night. When I looked up at him, I saw that his eyes were welling up. "Honestly?" he said, "I think your brother is desperately trying to tell you how sorry he is." I don't know if he only said that because that's what I needed to hear, but I believed him. And once I believed him, going to sleep became a bit less scary. Ken still appeared in my dreams, and often still does, but instead of viewing the dream as cruel, I tried to think of it as a deliberate visit from Ken's spirit.

I had a dream about Ken the night before I had the idea to begin this blog this past December. I welcome those dreams now as any connection to him is one that I cherish. When I realized that 2008 would mark the twentieth anniversary of his death, I wanted to do something to honor my brother's memory. Probably the main concern of anyone who has lost a loved one is that they want his legacy to live on in the memories of others, and I have often wondered if people still think of him. I am humbled by the kind responses I received about this idea, and I am so grateful that Ken had so many caring friends who are interested in this project. Please feel free to share your memories either by emailing me at the link to the right or by commenting on any of the posts on this page. I will try to update this site regularly, so scroll down when you visit to view the new posts.

And to Ken ... Knock, Knock. I'm still here, and I always will be.

Video of Ken and Friends

To my knowledge, there is only one video of Ken that exists. Our family never owned a camcorder or even one of those huge home video movie projectors. The only video we have is from a video project that Ken and some of his high school friends made for Mr. Walters' senior P.O.D. class in 1986. This is a commercial-spoof from that video that includes Ken, Scott Wilson, Alex Heist, Roger Johnson, Damien Evans, and Bobby Zaragoza (as Mr. Walters). While the video pokes fun at Mr. Walters, I know that Ken respected him beyond measure. Ken's fake laughter in this clip is even funnier than his typical booming laugh that we all knew so well.

When October Goes

There are different reasons for the musical selections on this site*; some are probably obvious while others may not be. I heard this song in the car about ten years ago and it caught me off guard so suddenly that I had to pull over. I wondered if how someone else could have written a song that seemed to channel my own private thoughts so perfectly. (I later learned that the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer who also wrote classics like "Moon River" and "Come Rain or Come Shine." His wife gave Barry Manilow a stack of his lyrics after Mercer's death.)

Turning the calendar over to October year after year has never gotten any easier. I often wonder if it would be less ominous if Ken's death had not occured on Halloween. The anniversary of anyone's death is difficult, yet every year, when the leaves begin to turn, I am met with an increasing supply of ghosts, skeletons, and dead creatures seemingly reminding me of the day that is quickly approaching.

Having children forced me to change the way I viewed Halloween. I try to focus on them and their excitement. I still have trouble, but in trying to be a good mommy to my boys, I resolve to keep a stiff upper lip, at least until they are fast asleep.

One of the lines of this song that gets me every time is: "I should be over it now, I know." I have always despised the flippant cliche', "get over it." What a useless piece of "advice." It is an insensitive and ignorant thing to say, which is why I will probably always remember when someone asked a friend of mine, who was consoling me at the time, "Isn't she over it yet?" in reference to Ken's death. No, I'm not "over it." I wasn't then, and I doubt I ever will be. To me, being "over it" would mean forgetting the tragedy of his decision and the massive potential he had in this world. To me, being "over it" would be a disservice to his soul. But sometimes I do chastise myself for getting misty at a memory at an inopportune time with similar words, and I have to remember that it's okay not to be "over it," no matter how old I grow.

When October Goes

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smokey roofs
I watch the planes go by
The children running home
Beneath a twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh, how I hate to see October go

I should be over it now, I know
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go

*The music on this site begins automatically; it can be stopped by clicking the pause button.
You can also choose another selection if you prefer to listen to a different song on the list.

From Tom Franceschini

There aren’t many weeks that go by that I don’t think of Ken. Every time I drive down Kesselring Ave. to visit my mother I can’t help but remember all of the great times we had as kids in that neighborhood. From the age of 11 to 15 there weren’t many days that went by that Ken and I didn’t hang out. There was Little League baseball practice for Carl King or FDA, wiffle ball games in the backyard, and hanging out on summer nights with the rest of the neighborhood kids. Just writing this brings back so many more memories: baseball card shows, Dungeons & Dragons, The Galaxy Arcade, the Rodney Village Pool, camping out in the backyard, Mrs. Motley’s 6th grade class, and the Spengler family cat (I can’t recall the cat’s name [Kristin: our cat was named "Muffy"] but it was huge). I’m not sure why it happened, but as we grew older, Ken and I grew apart. I’ll never forget when I got the news of Ken’s passing. Although we weren’t as close as we had once been, I couldn’t help but feel I had lost my best friend.

From Peter Bok

Your brother Ken was always so imposing to me. Bigger, older, intelligent. An athlete. Personable. Everyone knew him and everyone liked him. He was on the football team and was obviously very strong. One of my most unique memories of him was when I was on the JV baseball team and our bus backed into a car in the parking lot behind the high school. Ken was heading out, sort of laughed, and he an Mr. Rynkowski lifted the car and moved it so the bus could leave. He moved a car. Down deep I knew he was capable of more than that. He was respected by so many of my friends. He was a legend: SAT scores, intensity on the football field ... everything about him. I miss him even though I only knew him as Kristin's brother. It makes me both happy and sad when I read what others wrote about him, but makes me appreciate Ken that much more. I still cannot imagine your loss, yet know that we all are a little different and better because of Ken and you.

From John Chabbott

Ken, John Chabbott, Damien Evans, and Andy Kaplan, 1985

It’s OK to say OLÉ!!

Having had the benefit of reading a number of blogs, my memories of Ken certainly came flooding back – school, sports, extra-curricular activities (the Spot, the Beach), etc. In looking back at my time with Ken, I have so many great memories of my time with Ken. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“the Knights who say Ni”), Nick’s Pizza at Rehoboth (Ken did a great thick Italian accented impersonation of Nick), touch football, which ultimately turned into tackle with the lucky ones ending up on Ken’s team. No one wanted to get in front of Ken’s flying elbows. Late night chats at The Spot with all our friends about anything and everything. However, I can think of one particular event that, in my opinion, sums up Ken. It involves one of those ridiculous high school incidents (someone should write a book there were so many!) and how Ken liked to use his intelligence and sense of humor to continuously push our overzealous high school administrators to the brink (unlike the administrators, most of the teachers I think genuinely enjoyed Ken’s wittiness and sense of humor). As others have already mentioned, there was a group of us, like a lot of teenage boys, who loved Monty Python. Part of the humor is not only the wittiness, but its sheer stupidity -- it doesn’t always make sense, but that’s part of the humor. I’m sure others with better memories can fill in the blanks, but at some point Ken became fascinated with the word “olé.” I’m not sure why, how or who started it, but Ken took the word and made it his rallying cry our Senior Year. Given Ken’s masterful use of the word – as a noun, a verb, an adjective, even an exclamation point it got to be a very popular word among us all, but annoying to some of the Principals. Thinking back, it really didn’t make sense this obsession with a word, but in the vein of Monty Python, and at the time and at our age, we all thought it was hilarious, and the more it annoyed them, the more we wanted to use it. For some reason, the administrators didn’t get the joke and tried to basically squash the “uprising.” I think someone actually told the local papers and who actually ran a story in the local paper entitled “It’s OKAY to say OLÉ” which pointed out the stupidity of the whole thing. Imagine the absurdity of school trying to ban a word? I can still picture Ken doing one of his goofy dances with his Scooby Doo laugh saying “It’s OK to say OLÉ, It’s OKAY to say OLÉ!" My son, like a lot of pre-teen boys, has “discovered” Monty Python. And whenever we sit down to watch the Holy Grail – I always think of Ken. His smile, intelligence, sense of humor and that infectious laugh, not to mention some of his great impersonations, are still fresh in my mind. Although he’s no longer with us on this earth, he still makes me smile all the time. And that’s the way I remember Ken, as a fun-loving, intelligent, and wickedly funny friend.

From Missy (Barlett) Ames

As our moms tell it, I first met Kristin when we were 3 months old (I’m 3 days older than Kristin). Our respective mothers were pushing us in strollers around Mayfair when they first ran into each other. So basically, I have known Kristin and Ken since I was old enough to know anyone!

Growing up in Mayfair was idyllic ~ Big Wheel races, bike ramps, swingsets, football and baseball, playing kick the can, cowboys and Indians and ghost in the graveyard. There were snow forts and sledding and snowball fights across Kesselring Avenue. What a great neighborhood! We grew up together, the backyard neighbors and across-the-street neighbors (Scotts, Bethels, Barletts, Welches, Spenglers and Ladishes). Their parents were our surrogate parents; their siblings, our siblings. We “let” others in of course; the whole Crossgates and Mayfair was our playground, with friends from all over it .When I think back to all the games we played, I picture Ken there, laughing and being a leader amongst us. There’s no way to remember my childhood without remembering the Mayfair crew.

In junior high and high school we ran in different circles, branching out into other friendships, but we always shared that common beginning and, I believe, a special affection for each other. Kristin and I continued to be “best friends” despite hardly ever hanging out! We had our different directions and different groups, but we always kept in touch.

The summer after I graduated from high school I shared a beach house in Rehoboth with some friends. I was walking down Wilmington Avenue from the boardwalk heading back to my house when I hear a booming, friendly voice say “Missy?” Lo and behold it was Ken! He was working at Irish Eyes and had just happened to step outside as I was strolling by. Funny that it was close to the end of the summer and he worked a block from my house, but we had never run into each other! What a small world! We talked for a while and got caught up. Ken and I ended up hanging out a few times. (I’m not sure I ever told you this, Kristin, but )….One night while we were hanging out…Ken and I kissed. It was a really nice kiss, but we both agreed that it was a little weird as well! Since Kristin was practically my sister, that made Ken practically my brother! No hard feelings; we hung out another time or two, but it was time for the summer to end and for Ken to head back to Swarthmore and me to start at U of D.

I remember going home for Caesar Rodney’s Homecoming weekend that year. Did the whole parade and game thing, running into old friends. The biggest thing that happened to me that weekend though, was that I was in a car accident – rear ended by some guy in front of Delaware State.

Or at least I thought that was the biggest thing. Little did I know the pain of sore ribs, a concussion and whiplash would be dwarfed by the mental anguish and heartbreak I felt when I heard the news.

Mom called me that Monday at school to tell me about Ken. How could someone so alive, who lived life to the fullest, not be? My heart ached for him, for what he must have been going through. The hell his parents must be in, dealing with the death of a child. And especially for Kristin. My oldest friend. Ken’s little sister. She’d always looked up to him and now he was gone. What do you say to that? How do you even begin?

Mrs. Bethel drove up to U of D to pick up Steve and me, to bring us home for Ken’s funeral. That was one of the quietest car rides I’d ever experienced, everyone lost in their thoughts and memories. The funeral was surreal. There were literally busloads of people there – all people who loved Ken in their own way – whose lives he had touched. I wish he knew how many people cared so much about him. Maybe it would have made a difference.

I’m saddened by the loss of someone who was such a presence. I’ve also been angry at times, for I feel he robbed people of what their futures should have been and altered them permanently. The anger is fleeting - I think of that winning smile and sense of humor and I know that he wouldn’t have hurt others on purpose. The pain he must have been feeling had to have been overwhelming and then my heart aches for him. I’ve felt his presence on numerous occasions and I know he still shares in this world somehow, watching over, and I know I’ll see him again some day.

When I think about Ken now, I picture the grinning face from birthday party snapshots and childhood pictures – he’s forever young in my mind, like back in the carefree days of Mayfair.

From Sally (Tapert) Forrest

I remember meeting Ken freshman year at CRHS. We shared homeroom, and when teachers sat us alphabetically, we were often next to each other. We had a good time in Mr. Hanzlik’s science class. I was a transplant to the Dover area, and Ken and I started off with some friction as we got to know one another. Ken liked to debate, and he was competitive. I recall the strict CR attendance policy and some car/ driving mishaps that made Ken late to school; there was no sympathy from the administration.

Ken and I became good friends through the years. He was a good listener, funny, sensitive, curious, popular, smart and witty. I also think he was a risk-taker and had a restless side. Some of us recall “The Spot” and many impromptu parties—there and SO many other places. Bob Z. and I visited Ken at Swarthmore one time; he showed us that lower-Delaware hospitality. We saw him play in a football game and went to a dance.

Ken was absolutely one of a kind, and we miss him!!!

Thank you, Kristin, for your very special project to bring our memories together all these years later. Your big brother is very proud of you.

From Frank Donato

Just hearing Ken’s name brings me back. Ken and I grew up on the same street, Kesselring Ave. I had the pleasure of playing tackle football in his backyard, wiffle ball, soccer, you name it. We loved to terrorize the other kids at the other end of street. I remember Ken being an avid baseball card collector AND a KISS afficianado. I loved flipping baseball cards with him and building snow forts.

Ken always impressed me with his ability to work hard and play hard. I remember how Ken had the ability to weave himself seamlessly between the “jocks" and the "TAG” group.

Our friendship continued into college and those summers at the beach were some of the most memorable moments of my life. Over the years, his name has come up fondly in conversations, and "Brokedown Palace" will always hold a special place in my heart every time I hear it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

From Eileen Pallace

I have so many wonderful memories of Ken -- not only as a student, but also as a friend of Christine's and as someone who spent time with our family, often on Christmas afternoon. To be around Ken was always such a joy. Not only was he handsome and extremely intelligent, he had a sense of humor and a laugh that would just embrace everyone in the room.

I still carry two pictures of Ken in my wallet. In one he is wearing his Caesar Rodney football uniform; in the other he is wearing a suit for his senior picture. Both photographs capture an image of Ken that I hold in my heart.

Part of his humor, I think, was the way he was able to see through some of the absurdities of life that confront us every day. I'll never forget when all of the students in Betty Miller's honors class were instructed to write a valedictorian speech (an assignment chosen not by Mrs. Miller but by Dr. Rita Ryan). It was a ridiculous assignment since everyone already knew who the valedictorian was going to be. Many in the class wrote subtle sarcastic essays, and Ken's was certainly one of the most humorous. He was able to read it aloud in a way that was droll and insightful at the same time.

Ken was also such a loving, giving person. He had friends from many different groups of people in school. His teachers loved him, as did his peers. There was so much to love.

I still miss Ken. There is a rare day that goes by that I do not think of him in some way -- always with joy laced with sadness. I like to take his pictures out of my wallet from time to time just to gaze at them with love and nostalgia.

From Bob Zaragoza

I am living in Italy with my wife and three children, and amazingly, just about a week ago, I was telling my little ones a story about Ken. My oldest daughter just started a new school here and was having trouble adjusting and making friends. I told her that I had a tough time when I was starting high school because it was a new school district for me and I didn't know anyone there. When I met Ken, I was intimidated by him -- he was a lot bigger than me, knew everyone, was smart and "cool." Our initial relationship was very adversarial, and I would want to avoid going to classes or places where he might be. This never happened, of course, and we continued to run into each other, despite my best efforts. And then something happened -- he started to reach out to me. This guy who was popular and who already had a ton of friends wanted for some reason to hang out with me -- a nobody. Over a short period time, our friendship grew, and we soon became best friends did everything together. To this day, I credit Ken for helping me navigate the trials of adolescence, expanding my world, and most importantly just sharing in the process of growing up. I will never forget the relationship that we forged, and as I am helping my children with their friendships, I look fondly on all the memories that I shared with Ken.

From Alex Heist

When I first met Ken in 7th grade gym class, I never imagined that he and I would become great friends by our senior year of high school. Ken was an athletic, handsome, popular fellow, while I was a major nerd who, at the time, could not have been less interested in sports or athletic activities of any kind. Given that the "jocks" and the "nerds" seldom hung out together, the fact that we would share an almost identical sense of humor, enjoy the exact same kinds of music, and wind up in many of the same classes throughout high school (including the infamous Latin Class) seemed more than ironic.

Ahh, Latin class...who could forget the relentless torture we put poor Mrs. Scarborough through for three years (although we did apply the same techniques to Mrs. Richards in our senior year, it never had quite the same effect). It was during this time that I really got to know Ken...and his incredibly twisted sense of humor. Our own language began to evolve, where terms and phrases like "cheese", "wheat", "cheese-wheat" and "Ish-tan-BUHL!!!" somehow had special meaning to us (only those who were there will likely understand all this). Not to mention the near-revolutionary "¡Olé!" debacle, which actually materialized right between Ken and myself at the cafeteria lunch table. Somewhere I still have a clipping of the Delaware State News report about the incident.

In the Spring of 2001, I took a brief tour of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania while looking for a particular music store. I was immediately awestruck by the absolute beauty of the college campus...and then thought to myself how happy Ken should have been there as a student. It deeply saddens me to this day that I didn't get to know Ken as well as I would have liked. While I eventually lost touch with most of my high school friends, I'm sure I would have kept up with Ken...there were so many layers to his persona, and such incredible potential in him to do great things; I figured we had an entire lifetime ahead of us to develop a great friendship. After twenty years, my grief has not diminished.

Ken has never once left my fact, I was thinking about him right before I received Kristin's e-mail about this very website. Thank you, Kristin, for bringing us all together to celebrate your Brother's life in this very special way.

We miss you, Ken...more than you ever could have known. God rest you, my Friend.

From Bob Furlong

Right off the bat, the most succinct thing I can share is probably just how Ken and I became friends, because I think it's pretty typical of the way he was. I was brand new at CR in 10th grade (Ken was in 9th) because my family moved across town to a house that was just a couple of blocks from the high school. So, just being from the rival cross-town school, I felt like I had all the friends I needed, and I wasn't exactly in an outgoing mood. I don't think I was there for more than a couple days before Laughing Boy noticed an outsider making his way through the halls and not really talking to anyone. I don't remember exactly what he said the first time he came up to me, but I can imagine it was something like, "Hey, you're not from here," with the mock-serious furrowed brow. I do remember that I didn't say much back to him except the very minimum, answering a couple questions and dashing away as soon as I saw daylight. For whatever reason, though, Ken still approached me every time we were in the same space at the same time, and it wasn't long before I was added to the list of characters from all walks of life that I understand Ken brought into the Spengler house over the years. I don't remember any process of getting to know him after the first couple of times he talked to me, it's just like we were instant friends, and he was one of the best friends I've ever had.

From Kevin Scott

I think of Ken often and wonder where he would be or what he would be doing today had things been different. Thinking back, I always thought that he was one of the most well-rounded people I knew in that he was one of the smartest people I knew, yet he wasn't just smart. He played football, yet he wasn't just a jock. He could party with the best of them, yet he was always on the honor roll. He defied classification .... to steal a name from one of those books we had to read senior year in English, not sure if it was Shakespeare or what ... but he almost seemed like "Everyman." And of course, 'Ole !!!

From Deanna (Hengst) Hostler

I first met Ken in 5th grade at W. Reily Brown Elementary. I had just moved to Delaware the year before and still felt somewhat new. I'm not sure how it is today, but back then, they separated the boys and the girls for the "health talks." Ken approached me to make a deal. He said he would let me see the "boy handouts" if I would show him the "girl handouts," and if I agreed, he would let me cheat off one of his tests. I'm not sure why I remember this, maybe because it was the beginning of many confidences we'd share in the future. Ken was such a great person, and I was fortunate enough to be in many classes with him through the years. I think he enjoyed being my personal "Dear Abby" at times, and he was always a good listener --never judgmental. I still think of him often, and he appears in my dreams a few times a year. I always thought he'd end up being President one day - Lord knows, we could sure use someone like him now.

From Kristin (Stayton) Gibbons

First of all, I don't think anyone could ever forget Ken. I know I can't. His tragic departure has haunted me for years. For years, I would often dream that he was still alive, but we knew that he wanted to take his own life, and a bunch of us were trying to stop him. In fact, I think I still dream that similar dream about once a year. It is so good to see his ornery smile and hear his laugh in the dream, though. He could ALWAYS make me laugh!

I first met Ken on a bus trip in 6th grade with the TAG class (or as Ken liked to call it, "FAG" class). He was hanging out with Todd Cleek at the time, and I remember thinking that no two people could be more annoying, but our friendship blossomed in high school, where we spent four years together in the same homeroom & had many classes together.

Probably my best memory of Ken is 9th grade Personal Typing Class. I sat right by he and John Chabbott. We drove Ms. Brackett nuts with our constant comments & jokes. We had a heck of a time in there trying to learn to type on those old school typewriters! The brand names on them were "Silver Reed" and "Olivetti". Now I don't recall exactly who was who, but John & Ken dubbed themselves Mr. Silver Reed & Mr. Olivetti and made such weird voices that the three of us could barely get through those timed typing tests, which were daily! I would leave that class in tears with makeup smeared from laughing so hard!

I also remember our English Honors Classes in both 11th & 12th grade, when he & many others would make fun of Mr. Grace & "Mzzzz. Miller" -- he & Damian Evans mostly, with their recitation of Monty Python & "spam!" They would go on & on & drive all of us bit nuts, but they were so funny together. I also remember Honors P.O.D. with good 'ole Mr. Walters or "Jack", as he was fondly called by Ken & others.

During our senior year in what they had just dubbed a "mid-winter break" in Feb. 1986, Ken, Stuart Townsend, Sally Tapert, Deanna Hengst and I all went with Chris Ulp(in two separate cars) to his mother's beach trailer in Rehoboth. It was in a little park right after you cross the little bridge entering Rehoboth, & it was closed for the winter, so we thought it would be a brilliant idea to pick up some liquor & drive down there & hang out for the day. Needless to say, we had an adventure. On the way, Stuart got pulled over for speeding & we were trying to hide the liquor in the back seat. Once we got to the trailer & had a few, the 3 boys took off for snacks & the 3 girls (lacking in common sense & then intoxicated) had the police come collect us after a neighbor reported us for urinating in public outside the trailer, which at the time did not have working pipes! Ken managed to escape all of that, but the 3 of us got picked up by our parents at the Rehoboth police station! I actually had a slight crush on Ken at that point in time, which few people knew, and I was looking forward to spending the day with him. Needless to say, things did not work out as planned! Anyway, I realized shortly thereafter that he and I were just always meant to be good friends, and I treasured that friendship.

Ken was an intelligent, creative, extremely funny person, who was also a mystery in many ways. I will always miss him.

From Nancy and Doug Ladish


In 1974, in our new home on Kesselring Avenue (two doors down from the Spengler's), we were awakened on our first Saturday morning by the rumble of many big wheels speeding past our house. We later learned that the cute "big" kid leading the pack was Ken. The big wheels rumble soon became music to our ears as we watched all the neighborhood little boys race by our front door.

Once after an outing with the Spengler Family, one of our girls (Beth or Julie) asked if Ken could babysit. After talking to Ken and his mom, we all agreed. He proved to be one of our best babysitters. We always had a reminder that Ken had been at our house the next day when we turned on the stereo -- it was always turned up to the highest volume, with lots of bass. Ken always had wonderful manners, a kind and gentle heart, and a glint in his eyes. We miss him...

From Beth (Ladish) Andres

My memories of Ken date back to the late 70's/early 80's when I was in grade school. The memories are a bit random and tangential since I was so young. They revolved around our Mayfair neighborhood gang.

It wasn't a summer without the frequent outdoor games. We enjoyed many a balmy summer's eve playing "kick the can", and afternoons playing "kickball". I remember in particular an afternoon "game" of "BIG FOOT" (gonna get ya, complete with the 45” of the song playing on a creaky old record player in the background for effect). Ken was BIG FOOT and scared the you-know-what out of all of us! Ken was always the oldest kid in the bunch -- definitely the Alpha male/ring leader, but always nice. I remember playing Atari (or watching the older guys) play "Asteroid" and "Pac-Man." On a softer note, I recall Ken's utter concern for my little sister, Julie, when he saw her all wrapped up in ACE bandages (her childhood obsession). We told Ken that she had broken bones, and a look of sheer angst took over his kind face!

Later, I remember Ken working at the beach, and for "Mayflower" moving company. I remember his awesome senior year photo, and college football pic. I remember his giggle, and award-winning smile (both of which shine through Kristin). At least once a year, Ken appears randomly in my dreams -- as if he's just dropping by for a visit to say hi.

From Michelle (McNelis) Sell

The first time I saw Ken was in the old CR Junior High. I remember thinking, "Somebody needs to tell that kid in the glasses that TAG (Talented and Gifted) students don't wear AC/DC shirts!" But that was Ken in my eyes...always the exception.

I knew Ken through TAG and through school. Like everyone else, I was always captivated by his personality. He was funny, but not mean. He was smart,but not geeky. He was athletic, but not conceited. What football player writes poetry? What popular student befriends theVietnamese kid who can't speak English? His close friends were from not only the elite of academics and athletics, but from every rung of that delicate social ladder in middle and high school. He seemed to fit in everywhere which is a rare quality not only in school, but in life.

No one who graduated in '86 can think back on his or her high school experience without including Ken's goofy laugh and inescapable charm. Back then, everyone looked forward to the classes you had with him, and now we all look forward to the chance to talk to someone who knew him to smile and reminisce about his antics. He continues to be missed.

From Marlee Buckson

I was intimidated by Ken -- his intelligence and yet the ease with which he carried himself. He was cute, and I always thought he was going to be one of those guys who became more attractive with age. That was confirmed when I saw him last, shortly before his death. I'm grateful for that memory.

I'm no longer mad about his choice. I will always be in mourning for how our lives would have been different had he remained in them.

From Sally (Tapert) Forrest

Bits and Pieces

By Lois Cheney

People important to you,
People unimportant to you,
Cross your life,
Touch it with love and carelessness
And move on.
There are people who leave you
And you breathe a sigh of relief
And wonder why you ever
Came into contact with them.
There are people who leave you
And you breathe a sigh of remorse
And wonder why they had to go away
And leave such a gaping hole.

Children leave parents,
Friends leave friends.
Acquaintances move on,
People change houses.
People grow apart.
Enemies hate and move on.
Friends love and move on.
You think on the many
Who have moved into your hazy memory.
You look on those present and wonder.

I believe in a master plan
In lives moving people
In and out of each other’s lives,
And each leaves a mark on the other.
You find you are made up of bits and pieces
Of all who ever touched your life,
And you are more because of it,
And you would be less
If they had not touched you.
Hope that you accept the bits and pieces
In humility and wonder,
And never question,
And never regret.

From Nelle (Coleman) Cox

Ken and I had known each other since our days at Reily Brown. I always loved his quick smile and infectious laugh. When we were in high school, the cheerleaders got to choose a "big brother" on the football team. We were responsible for decorating their lockers and getting them psyched for upcoming games. I chose Ken immediately --knowing how much fun it would be. He always made such a big display of gratitude over my "GO RIDERS!" signs, blue and gold streamers, and candy. He was so sweet and encouraging. I quickly became the Martha Stewart of locker decoration so I would not let him down. That experience taught me how important it is to show people that when they do something for you, you need to express your gratitude. The positive reinforcement he gave me went a long way. I use it in my classroom as I am teaching...and I think of Ken every time I do it.

From Bob Sylvester

Growing up with Ken on Kesselring Avenue:
Kick the can, football, baseball, riding bikes, raking leaves, playing basketball in the driveway, snow forts, getting chased after throwing snow balls at passing cars and hiding under the pine tree in your backyard, listening to Kiss albums in your bedroom, walking to W. Reily Brown, and trading baseball cards. I miss your smile, your laugh, your brilliance, and your friendship, Ken. I think about you often.