By Rob CosaertKen was my dearest friend in the world, and I owe much of who I am to him. I met Ken when my parents moved next to Barbara’s house. I was only 7, and he the cool 11-year old next door. Of course I instantly looked up to him, but all the other kids on the block did as well, the kids his age, and even those older than him. He was always a born leader, and would start us all on marvelous adventures and projects. From tree-houses to underground bunkers, from building homemade go-carts to modifying our bicycles in ludicrous ways.
Ken would organize elaborate war games that sometimes involved propelled lit wooden matches ( I think I could still make one of those match guns), and at other times water fights and snowball fights. And, although that sounds like a rather typical childhood (except for the matches), Ken would imbue so much focus, so much attention to detail, such creativity, and such competitive spirit, that it gave these events the intensity of professional sports, and it made them very memorable!
Ken would always choose the weakest ”army” and then use strategy to win the wars. He would sometimes use a feigned attack and then retreat while the opposing army rushed headlong into an ambush. One time he had an idea to dig a hole between our homes and we buried little Michael Valdez in it, giving him a short hose to breathe through. At precisely the right moment little Mikey jumped out of his hole and blew away the opposing troops, thus giving us a victory against all odds. Yeah,… Ken made my childhood a blast!
Ken also taught me to question everything, especially authority, and that’s not always a good thing when you’re still in grade school, but it kept life interesting, and it opened my mind. We would have endless debates on his front porch about religion, politics, science, you name it. These were long discussions between 5 or 6 of us, but Ken & I would always stay up the latest, when most of the other kids got bored. We realized that we loved debate, and would sometimes even switch sides of an issue, just to practice.
I’ve always been convinced that Ken was a genius, but the first time I saw his report card I was shocked that he was failing nearly all of his classes, and that was when he was in 6th grade! So just how and when he learned what he knew has always been a mystery to me.
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