You are such a strong and wise person to have put this together. Thank you.
I just saw the announcement in the Swarthmore Bulletin, and I quickly read the posts by other Swatties. I was struck by the fact that others mentioned the directness and solidness of Ken that made him seem more mature than most of us. Ken was right down the hall from me during his freshman (my sophomore) year. He put up with Neil and his Marshall amp and all sorts of silliness that the room could barely contain (including a mini basketball hoop). I remember him reprimanding me once after I had (once again) hung around until someone asked me if I wanted the last slice of pizza, when I hadn't put any money in.
I sometimes had trouble sorting out priorities, emotions and the games people played, but he always seemed to cut right through it. He would stop me in the midst of my over-analysis with a direct question that clearly led to only one, common sense conclusion. He was always right on in assessing my state of mind. I was amazed with how quickly a group of great people from wide-ranging backgrounds coalesced around him. There was so much energy bristling everywhere -- academics, parties, sports, the social scene -- and he was crucial to maintaining the center for a lot of us. He didn't push himself into that role, but he kind of filled in the spaces to transform the conversation or the flow of activity. Without intending to hold sway, he regularly had the last word, and many of us really enjoyed watching that happen. It was clear to me that the amount of hot air and B.S. was always dramatically higher without Ken's presence. (I still remember him screwing up his face & saying, "Wa-a-h" when he had heard (or been guilty of) too much whining.
I really enjoyed exploring the campus with Ken -- walking across the railroad trestle, taking a short cut to the field house, or finding an underappreciated nook of the campus to enjoy a cold Yuengling. It really hurts to write this, but my most central feeling about Ken is that he loved life. He loved learning, loved ideas, loved nature, loved music, loved people. We were always listening to music together. I remember how pleased he was to have come up with a copy of Van's original recording of Brown Eyed Girl. Puzzling through the time signatures of King Crimson in his room. The floodgates that Kind of Blue opened. The trends of the Dead on the Hampton Beach bootlegs. His huge friend from high school materializing at midnight to play guitar 'til dawn, taking on the voice and persona of ancient bluesmen. Also, Ken caught my new girlfriend pulling out the speaker wires in his room sophomore year. It seems he had left the bootleg going when he went to class, and she was trying to take a nap. She couldn't find the switch, so she was pulling at wires when he came back. He gave me a hard time about that one. (Laura and I are still together, anyway...)
Ten years ago, Luke and I were looking into planting a weeping willow on the banks of the Crum on campus. It turned out that the Arboretum people wouldn't allow a willow to go in that area. But we do need to get one somewhere on campus. (Perhaps we need to try some guerrilla planting!)
This is a little out there, but I want to tell you about a dream I have once a year or so. I had a friend from high school, Tim, who was a defensive end of similar size, directness, and good-heartedness as Ken. His life ended a half year after Ken's. In my dream, Tim and Ken are across a field hanging out, soaking up the sun, and I am a good distance away, with other friends. In my dream, I always am drawn to run over and greet them, but I hold myself back. The underlying feeling is, if I acknowledge their existence, they will vanish from that beautiful scene. So I just hang back, and bask in a melancholic understanding of what good souls they were, and are.
Again, thank you and bless you.