A week ago, we received the awful news that Kevin Coffey was killed in a bus accident. Shock and sadness covered his hometown of Manhattan, Kan. He was an Honors student at Temple and was on his way to Toronto on an adventure. A long week ensued for friends and family with services planned on Friday morning.
News reached the family that Temple was sponsoring a bus for Kevin’s friends there to make the 22-hour trip to the funeral. The family was touched by this gesture and continued making the arrangements that no parent of a 19-year-old wants to think about.
Your students arrived on Thursday and attended the visitation at the funeral home. Arrangements were made for them to stay with Dr. Steve and Whitney Short. They opened their home to these students and provided food, shelter and support. Kevin would have liked that. After the visitation, a candlelight service was held where Kevin attended Boy Scout meetings and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. They were surrounded by something profoundly important to Kevin followed by a bonfire gathering with Kevin’s Manhattan, Kan., friends. He would have liked that.
The day of the service, the Manhattan and Temple friends sat together in the full church and listened to an eloquent eulogy about Kevin’s life delivered by his best Manhattan friend. The Temple group also spoke about his life at Temple and special memories. I spotted them picking wild sunflowers – Kansas’ state flower – on the edge of the cemetery and wearing or carrying them. After the service and the dinner at the church, the students were taken on a tour of Kansas State University in Manhattan.
While Kevin was devoted to Temple, he grew up with K-State football, women’s basketball and purple everywhere. He would have liked seeing his Owls mingling with Wildcats, especially seeing his Temple friends wearing the purple KSU shirts donated by the university. The students were then whisked over to our house for dinner. A huge buffet of Kansas State beef and church-lady salads were before them. They all gathered on our porch around a table, joined by Kevin’s parents. These wonderful young people presented them with a framed picture of Kevin in his Temple T-shirt.
Kevin would have enjoyed that gathering. Also in attendance were Kevin’s Nebraska relatives, his brother’s friends and others – around 60 people in total. The evening ended with all of us jammed into the living room watching videos of Kevin doing his favorite dance and getting a pie in the face on the big screen. Kevin would have liked that. What comfort for his parents and other family members to see how happy Kevin was at Temple and what a special group of friends he left behind.
They then traveled out to the boathouse at Tuttle Creek Lake where Kevin spent many hours as captain of the rowing team. We hope they take back a sense of where Kevin came from and that Kansas is more than a “Wizard of Oz” cliché. It is a community of people from the KSU president to the kids he went to school with, joining together in grief and celebration of Kevin’s short life. Manhattan, Kan., was probably not on any of their travel plans until the tragedy, but Kevin would have loved the fact that these friends walked through his life and saw where he came from. While Kevin did not get to finish the adventure he started the day he died, he left for his friends an adventure to a place they never expected to go.
We know that these wonderful kids may not come back – although we hope they do – but maybe as they fly over Kansas, they will smile with memories of Kevin and remember their visit here. Kevin would like that.
Marilyn Broadie Fox
Long-time friend of the Coffey Family