Those of you who’ve been following my preparations for the NorCal AIDS Cycle, have heard me talk about my friend Ken, who’d been HIV+ for twenty years. Ken finally succumbed to AIDS just a couple of weeks ago.
Ken showed up at Trinity Cathedral around fifteen years ago. He’d been a member of the choir at St Pauls Cathedral in San Diego, and had starting attending Trinity Cathedral. He was interested in joining our Cathedral Choir… he auditioned for me, and was welcomed into the choir.
Ken thought it very important right from the first, that I and the members of the choir know that he was HIV+. I was a little taken aback… he was the first person I’d met who had it, and there was still a lot of misinformation about AIDS out there. But his genuineness and warmth won members of the choir over. He was always unapologetic about who he was, but was never obnoxious about it.
He was a active participant in the Trinity Cathedral Choir for over ten years, and traveled to England with us three times to sing in England’s great Cathedrals including Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
Ken always said “I am the face of AIDS,” and the contributions he made to education and awareness of HIV/AIDS were exceptional. He helped to start the AIDS Interfaith Network, which provided support to faith communities grappling with this issue. In particular, he was active in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California through the HIV/AIDS commission, and travelled all over the North state educating folks about HIV, and the challenges faced by those who suffer from it.
His warm and loving personality put a “face” on the disease, and changed the attitudes and preconceptions of many people.
His own personal health gave him challenges through the years. The meds would stop working… he’d get sick… and then something new would come up, and he would rally and be back with us. Late last year, Ken became sick again. He seemed to have decided not to fight the disease any more, and had stopped taking his meds. After having spent a lot of time at the VA hospital in Martinez, he was moved back to Sacramento, where he could be surrounded by the many friends he had here. The countless people who visited him during his last few weeks, are a testament to how deeply he was cared about and loved by so many people. On April 10, 2011, Ken joined a new choir as he passed into new life.
Ken’s grace and deep Christian faith, shone through every day of his life… in his good days and bad days. His memorial service will be held at Trinity Cathedral on May 18th, and I have no doubt that there will be a packed house to say farewell to him.
Early this year, as I was trying to decide if I could do the NorCal AIDS Cycle, it was my friendship with Ken that finally convinced me to do the ride. I had decided that I would ride in his honor. But now, I ride in his memory. I have been overwhelmed with the countless people who have sponsored my participation in the AIDS Cycle in Ken’s honor and memory. My friend, I’ll be thinking of you every day that I ride.