Kevin's life is probably one of the most tragic stories I have ever heard, read or known. While at Rockhurst working with the boys from the group home my girlfriend, Mary suggested I consider volunteering for Big Brothers. I thought I could learn some good parenting skills so I applied for Big Brothers. After they had done their screening and I was approved for the program, they presented me with 3 cases. I chose Kevin. I thought I had the best opportunity with Kevin to make a positive difference for him. I was afraid if I took a kid that was too challenging for me and I had to resign from the kid it would be too detrimental to him emotionally, so I wanted to have a strong opportunity for success to be a positive influence for this boy.
Kevin was smart, hardworking and driven. He was 10 years old when we got started. He was the product of a private adoption arranged by his grandmother Lou, a sweet and devoted grandmother. His mother Dee couldn't have children and was handicapped. She had severe scoliosis or curvature of the spine and was only about 48" tall if even that, with a very uncomfortable posture due to her spine. It was as if she had no torso. Her shoulders and upper body rested on her hips and off to the side. At the time of his adoption she probably wasn't that bad. She was married and living on a military base with her husband in Texas. They divorced shortly after the adoption and she and Kevin moved back to KC. When I met her, she and Kevin lived a few blocks East of 80th and Paseo in a little two room shack. It was small. The one thing that had happened to Kevin was that he had been abducted and molested when he was 5 yrs old. He was found wandering the streets 3 days later. He recieved some counseling afterward. The perp was ever found. Kevin and I never discussed it, nor did I ever discuss it with his family. This was told to me by Big Brothers.
At first we would find things to do. One of our favorite things was to take a bike hike across town from his little house near 80th and Paseo to Raytown where his grandma and grandpa, Ralph and Lou Holscher lived. I would always follow Kevin closely and shield him from traffic and we found less traveled roads to get to grandma and grandpa's house. We'd stop along the way and make an adventure of it, and when we got to his grandparents we were roundly welcomed and well treated. They were a sweet wonderful couple.
After a short time, Kevin asked me to get involved with his boy scout troop. There was a family a couple blocks away that were involved in scouting and friends with Kevin. I became the troop treasurer. We met at the Marlboro Baptist Church at 80th and Paseo on Monday evenings every week. The troop also religiously had camp outs at various campsites every month. So one weekend a month we were on a campout. During the meetings we would work on merit badges or whatever, and during each meeting we would have a play time. Kevin was short, but he was built very strong and athletic, and none of the kids dared mess with him. He was fearless and they all knew it. Kevin also got involved with Judo, and was very good. He had his Judo lessons during the week while I was often out of town. His Judo instructor was named Steve also and became the director of the Northland Community Center off Parvin Rd in KC North. Eventually I would meet him. I would be in town on the weekends and I tried to be there for the Monday night scout meetings but occassionally I had to miss those also. Mostly we would get together on the weekends.
As Kevin and I were hanging out on the weekends we usually ended up at his grandparents. They included me in all family gatherings and I met all his aunts, uncles and cousins during the holidays. His uncle Billy and Aunt Cathy had two kids and would come up from Versailles Missouri near the Lake of the Ozarks. Billy was a great guy, Cathy was sweet and they had two beautiful kids. Aunt Bev seemed nice. She was married to this big tall guy and they had a daughter. They were a little rougher around the edges, but nice. I was treated like family, always in the loop. I never spent any time at Kevin's house. We would find things to do and usually end up at grandma's & grandpa's or my place. My friends, Dan Monahan, Jim Vandenboom, Art Diaz and others all eccepted Kevin. When we would have poker nights Kevin was included. We all took him to Colorado skiing and to Canada on our annual fishing trips. We all looked after him. It was a good three years. Then Kevin's mom checked herself into detox at the Midwest Mental health center. She was always nice to me, but I really didn't know what was going on with her, and Kevin never talked about her. I guess she'd been addicted to drugs, maybe painkillers because of her condition. She had a boy friend I met, but I never got to know him. I didn't question her life. I was there for Kevin and it stopped there.
She met George while they were at Midwest Mental health center and when they got out they decided to move out of town to get away from some of her old acquaintences. I think she may also have been selling drugs although I'm not sure. They moved to Wamego Kansas just a few miles Northeast of Manhattan Kansas. They had family there and thought it would be better than staying in KC. They moved to a big old 2 story home not too far from the school. I would go out and see Kevin at least once a month and I'd call to see how he was doing. We had to build a fence around a substation not far from Wamego, so I went out by myself and hired George to help me and stayed at Kevin's house. It was nice to get to know George and spend more time with Kevin. Everything seemed fine to me. I came out during the Spring and Kevin was running track. He was still 14 years old and we went down to the track and raced a 440, today would be 400 meters or once around the track.
The next time I heard from his grandmother, Kevin's mom had committed suicide. She had gotten in the bathtub and blown her head off with a shotgun. Kevin had come home from school and the house was locked up. He broke in and found his mom in the bathtub. I guess George had begun drinking again and her health had deteriorated.
There really wasn't a traditional funeral, it was more of a reception and they were going to spread Dee's ashes somewhere, I don't remember. The first opportunity I had, Kevin and I took a short walk. The big question was what was going to happen with Kevin. I told Kevin that I didn't know what they had planned for him, but he could sure move over to my place and stay with me. I was still single, but had begun dating my first wife, although we hadn't made any plans to wed. I told Kevin to let the family know if he wanted to move to my place.
They decided he should move to his uncle Billy's. Billy was a great guy, humble, hard working and real nice. He had a laundry business servicing some of the resorts at the lake. His wife Cathy was a legal secretary in Versailles (It may have been Camdenton, I'm not sure, but it was near the Lake of the Ozarks). Nobody asked me to take Kevin. I think they thought it would be an imposition on me since I was young, and unmarried. I think it had been decided before I got there. So after Kevin moved to Billy's I went down to see him and stayed in touch by phone. I also married my first wife, Denine. She had two boys, Scot, 7 and Eric 4. We lived in my house in Westport and I remodeled it while we were living there.
Within the first year Kevin was at Billy's, Kevin began having trouble. Trouble at school, with Billy's kids, Cathy. I'm not sure. By this time I was married and no longer in the loop. Everything blew up down at Billy's. Cathy began having an affair and their marriage failed, Kevin was having problems. We assumed it was due to his mother's suicide but I didn't know details.
After everything went South at Billy's, Kevin was sent to live with his Aunt Bev in Topeka, KS. I went out to see him a couple times in Topeka. After a short time Bev and her husband divorced. That was not a good situation. Then Bev found a boy friend and her daughter also. By this time Kevin was 16 and having anger problem I was told. I never saw it, but I wasn't living with him. Living at Bev's was the worse place for him to be. Bev had him committed to Menninger's, a mental hospital in Topeka.
So for months I would drive to Menninger's and spend a few hours with Kevin every Saturday. We also talked by phone once or twice a week. He was locked up, probably medicated, I'm not sure. I stayed in touch with his grandparents and learned about his adoption. Lou, his grandmother had been a dental receptionist for years. This dentist had a brother in California who was a successful stock broker. The stock broker was married but had an affair and Kevin was the result of that affair. Lou arranged for a private adoption to her daughter who was at the time married and living with her husband on a military base in Texas. As I was making my weekly trips to Menningers I was made aware that Kevin's insurance was no longer going to pay for his care at Menningers and at some point he would be moved to the Topeka state mental hospital. He was concerned about the conditions at the state hospital and didn't want to go.
By this time I had sold my house in Westport. We moved into my parents home temporarily while I built a new house. After we moved into the new house, I eventually left my father's construction business and went into real estate. So things were getting a little tense for Kevin at Menningers due to his pending move to the Topeka mental hospital and then one day he called me. He told me the patients were going to a movie that evening at a local movie theater. It would be an outing from the main facility. I guess they had a buss and would take the patients off campus for activities occassionally, a break from the routine. He had met some other visitors to some of the other patients and had made some acquaintences. He had arranged for one of these guys to pick him up outside the movie theater at a prearranged time.
I couldn't let him go with this person, and I couldn't stop him, so I told him I would pick him up outside the theater, which I did. I didn't tell my wife, but immediately left for Topeka. On the way back with Kevin I stopped at the Lawrence truck stop and called my wife. Immediately she asked if I was with Kevin, and then told me the Kansas Highway Patrol was looking for us. We continued to Kansas City. I couldn't take him to my house, so I dropped him off with Vince and Mary Lamas, our next door neighbors at our old house in Westport. I proceeded to contact Kevin's grandparents to decide what do. During the ride home I told Kevin who his biological parents were and the circumstances that led to his adoption. Immediately he realized that the dentist who had given him his dental care was his uncle. That was comforting to him. I also told him that he was no longer a kid and people were not going to be nearly as sympathetic to his circumstances or as willing to help him. As difficult as his life had been, a troubled adult doesn't draw nearly as much sympathy as a troubled kid and he was no longer a kid. By the time I had married my wife, Kevin and his mom had moved to Wamego, Kansas, and I don't think my wife had met him, but she knew him well enough through my accounts and was willing to open our home to him.
So by the end of the evening and early morning it was decided that Kevin would go back to Menningers, but would apply for emancipation. He was still a minor and as long as his aunt was his legal guardian and unwilling for him to be released he would remain in custody until he turned 18. So we applied for him to be emancipated which he was, and he came to live with my wife and I and my two step sons.
As soon as Kevin got back to Kansas City with us, he got back to judo. I don't recall him being in school, so I think it was during the summer or late in the school year. I went to a few of his practices and participated in a few, but he was too good for me. I had wrestled a short time in high school and I liked to wrestle with the kids occassionally, but when they get big they can hurt you, and I didn't want to hurt them. After about a month he was enrolled in a tournament in Leavenworth, Kansas. I went to the tournament to watch him. He won his first match, and unfortunately was overmatched and broke this poor kids arm. He didn't do it intentionally, it just happened. The second match was a little tougher but he won easily. The third match was the final and he was facing a enlisted army guy who was a former standout wrestler who had switched to judo in order to qualify for the Olympics. This guy was several years older than Kevin and training for the Olympics. This was a war. It was incredible to watch. At one point he picked Kevin up, turned him upside down and bounced him off his head. I thought he had broken Kevin's neck. As if nothing happened, Kevin bounced back up and came right back at him. Didn't even shake it off. Neither was going to concede. I've watched many wrestling matches but I've never seen anything like this. They fought to a draw. It was amazing to watch.