This is hard. Honestly, I don’t know how to begin. I know I should begin by saying that we are here not only to remember, but to honor the life of Kenneth Michael LeBlanc. But where do I begin to tell you all about the man Kenny was. There was so much to Kenny’s life, and so much that I want everyone to know about him. Kenny’s life was so full. He had the son that made his life complete and friends and family who love him. He got to sit in the front row of the Saints Texans game. And even though they lost it was still a dream come true for Kenny. Kenny was my best friend, someone who was always there for me, he was my brother. I want to share every story about mine and Kenny’s childhood and what it meant to me to share that memory with him.
Kenny was a man who lived for life and lived for others. He was never afraid and he was brave enough to be the man he felt he should be. I loved the man that Kenny was, and I believe the things that made Kenny the man he was are what we all loved about him. Chivalry, justice, honor, compassion, integrity, determination, love, stubbornness, respect, and heart are words that describe the man Kenny was. Kenny was loyal to a fault and the words that he spoke rang with the sound of truth. He was all about goodness and doing what he thought was right.
Kenny was the type of man that even when faced with things that would scare most of us; he always found time to give. When he found out that he and Sandy were pregnant, he did what he always did, and he gave. He used some of his Pell grant money to set up a college fund not for his future child but for my daughter, Katarina. He was always giving, even if he didn’t have it to give. This is why I am proud of Kenny in life and in death. Kenny took the values he taught me as a kid and lived his life by them. He was working and going to college not for himself but for his son. Lately all he lived for was Ethan.
Nothing was more important to Kenny than his family. His mother, Ena, was the center of his world, and his love for her was absolute. He knew that he could always go to you when he needed anything. He knew that you loved him unconditionally and he carried that love with him, sharing it with others who needed to be loved. That’s why he had to live near you. For the short time that he lived in Austin he couldn’t be happy because you were so far away.
He loved his dad as well. Jody taught Kenny how to be a man. He learned from you how to take care of his family. He learned that a man was responsible for his woman, his children, and his family. And with that responsibility came a lot of heartache but he had to overcome that and do what needed to be done. It’s because of you two that Kenny was a truly great man, and I am grateful to you both because Kenny taught me how to be a man. And in honor of him, I want you to know, that while I could never come close to taking his place I will always be here for you.
That goes for you as well, Velvet. Kenny loved you so much. He would do anything to keep you from harm. Your family, Lucky and the kids, Romeo, Anthony, And Cally were always in his heart. He would brag about your kids like they were his own. Showing pictures of them to anyone who would look. He wanted to be as great of an uncle to them as his Uncle Bubba was to him, and he wanted them to love him as much as he had loved his Uncle Richard whose name lives on through Kenny’s own son.
And when he spoke of Jolee it was always about how beautiful and smart you were. He spoke of being proud of his parents because they had finally gotten it right, and that only made him love you more. Kenny is watching over you and he knows that you will do big and wonderful things.
I have known Kenny for what seemed like a long time, until today. I first met Kenny when he and is family moved here from Louisiana. That was so long ago, we still listened to country music.
Now in junior high I wasn’t a really outgoing person and Kenny helped me come out of my shell. He introduced things to me I would never have tried to experience. Silly things like: Saints football, crawfish tails, Irish History, and even rock and roll. The first nirvana song I heard was played by Kenny. I remember Ms. Bege made us stay after Spanish class in 8th grade because we couldn’t stop talking to each other, and we were on opposite sides of the room. I’m not sure why or how but at the end of our 5 minute chat; Ms Bege had decided to sit us next to each other. And over the years as life took us in different directions, Kenny did everything he could to bring us back together, just like in Ms. Bege’s class. Nothing could keep me and Kenny apart, and they still can’t, because you will always be in our hearts.
Even then Kenny began to teach me about life. Like the first time we played basketball, it was also the first time I learned about heart. What should have been an easy win for me, being a foot taller and all, turned into the game of my life. Kenny was full of heart and never afraid to go after what he wanted, no matter how hard he had to work for it. We used to cut yards together just to make five dollars so we could buy some bases burgers.
Another life lesson Kenny taught me was simply to enjoy life. And did he ever enjoy life, up until his final hours. Just imagine three 27 year old men running around the yard shooting each other with fireworks. All because Kenny, after helping the kids with the fireworks saved some roman candles so we could have some adult fun. Then you can probably guess what came next. A good old fashioned brawl. Kenny loved to wrestle it was just one of his ways of showing that he loved you and to share with you a bond that comes from the early days of man.
The most important thing Kenny taught me was how to be a friend. Kenny was a good friend to everyone he loved, even those who at times he found impossible to like. He was friends to some simply because he felt that they needed him to be. Kenny would give you gas money, buy you lunch, give you a place to stay if you had nowhere else to go, or even fight a fight that he couldn’t win. He was one of 3 or 4 that I can always count on. If I needed anything, Kenny would do everything he could to help me. He even drove with me to Austin at a moment’s notice just so I could take care of some family business and just because I asked him to. Whether it was mowing my lawn, working on a car or just listening to me while I vented he would be there no matter what. He did not only do this for me. He did this for his entire family, and if you were his friend you were his family.
He loved his Southside family and his north side family. The list of people Kenny loved is never ending. His cousin Jamie, friends Chris Ricks and Kris Villalobos, Sandy the mother of his son, and of course his one true love, his son. I stand here before you today honored and proud to be a part of this list as we all should be.
As we reflect on our time with Kenny we remember what it was we loved about him and what we will miss the most about him. On a trip to the mall as teenagers, Kenny and I found ourselves in a print shop looking at art. We came across the painting in front of you today. Pictured in it are the heroes of our adolescence; we both had to have a copy. We talked about how the message the art was trying to give affected us and even wagered on which of our friends would be added. I know when I see next you’ll have a thing or two to say about that when I see you again. His heroes were Billy the Kid and Hank Williams Jr., and one of his favorite lines was from the movie Young Guns. Billy the Kid said, “The good die young.” These words have never seemed so true. Kenny, you are one of my heroes, Forever 27. As I sat in my living room staring at this painting hanging on my wall, I realized that what I will miss most is Kenny’s love. In the past few days’ people have told me not to worry because now all of Kenny’s pain and depression is gone. But I have no memory of Kenny ever being depressed, only of a happy loving man. Kenny may have been saddened but that was only because he loved with all he had. And sometimes when you love someone you have to do the right thing for them no matter how much it hurts, or how unhappy it makes you. And when you love someone you have to do more for them than for ourselves. And never regret what you have done because it was out of love.
Even in death Kenny has taught me about life. His final lesson was to show the people you love that you love them now, because life is short.
People often speak of happiness in tragedy. I never understood this until I witnessed the blessing that came from Kenny’s tragic end. Kenny taught me this lesson while I watched Sandy, Ethan, and Kenny’s family reunited again. They can see Kenny’s love in Ethan’s smile, and because his boy is back with the family he loved so much, they can show their love for him anytime. Because of this final lesson I know that all is right with the world.
I owe him so much for what he brought to my life. I owe him a game of basketball. Not between me and Kenny, but between our sons, Ethan and Vasilios. I want to teach them about heart the way I learned. Ethan not only has his smile but his heart, and I think we all owe it to Kenny to make sure his heart lives on in us.
I have to share with you that I wasn’t sure if I could handle this. I was afraid to make the trip to the hospital. The drive seemed to take hours. I wanted to stop so many times, but Kenny would have been there for me, so I drove on with this indescribable feeling in my heart and the fear of what my heart already knew. It just seemed to get harder and harder. As I parked my car I got the call. Now I had to walk into the emergency room and face the family Kenny loved so dearly. How could I look at them and tell them I was sorry. I thought Ena would be angry with me because I should have brought her son home to her. Yet, I found myself comforted in her arms. And she spoke words not of anger but of sorrow for my loss. She did ask how her baby could be gone and I couldn’t give an answer, and it would be a few days before I could come close. The next couple of days I had so many feelings: fear and denial quickly overcome by sadness. I spent this time guilt-ridden deep in thought, pacing around the house just holding my kids, crying.
On what was the hardest birthday of my life, I made it to 28 bro; I sat down to honor my friend and brother. At the end of the day I found that it was Kenny’s heart that gave me the strength to carry on, and ultimately heal my pain. And I believe that Kenny’s heart is big enough to heal us all. And it is Kenny’s heart that has allowed me to do what I have had to do so far this year. People often say the ones left behind are left because they are strong enough to deal with life, but I don’t think this is right. I think Kenny is gone because he lived his life the right way. And those of us left behind are here to learn what Kenny already knew. I want to thank Ena for letting me do this and giving me the honor of celebrating Kenny’s love with you all.
This is where most might stop. But in honor of how Kenny lived his life and for all he taught me, I have made a new year’s resolution to live as Kenny did. In my mind Kenny lived life how it was meant to be lived. Kenny taught us all how to live, laugh, and love. He played the game of life like he played a game of poker. He played to win and he was never afraid too risk it all for the ultimate reward, love. I am glad that he took a risk on me and shared the rewards. That is the way he lived his life and he showed it through his actions. Even if he made a mistake, it was okay because he thought it was best and he did it out of love.
So there are a few things left for me to do today, because it is what Kenny would do, and today I am living for Kenny. This is the part where I need to call on two people to help me. The first is Jayson Forsythe. Come up here. Jayson is up here because I need him to help me with a few gifts I will give out in a moment. Jayson, Kenny loved you, and he wants you to know that he doesn’t want to see you anytime soon, because he knows I need you here with me.
The next man I want to call up is Lucky. If I were not standing in front of you today it would be Lucky. You were a brother and a friend to Kenny, and Jayson and I wish to extend to you our friendship and brotherhood. And let you know that if you need anything you can always call on your brothers. Now that my three brothers are up here with me I can finish this up, by giving as Kenny would. So at this time I’m going to ask Jayson to present Ena a gift. It will never bring Kenny back, but we want to give you back the things you gave Kenny that he in turn shared with us. To live well, laugh often, and love much.
Lucky, you were closer than anyone to Kenny in his final days. So I am asking you to do the toughest part. I brought some items that I had wanted to leave with Kenny for all time. I picked these items not because they symbolize what Kenny was, but they are what Kenny loved. I decided to leave these with Sandy so that you can share them with Ethan. I ask of you to Tell Ethan his daddy loved him every day, and tell him the Saints are the best football team.
Kenny believed God is not in a book but in our hearts. I am not a preacher so I have left the bible quotes to them. But that doesn’t mean I have not talked about God here today. I spoke of God through words like heart and love. After all, love is God’s greatest gift, and for me that love is Kenny. So don’t leave here today empty or sad, but with a heart full of love, forever and always. I also leave you with a challenge to find a way to do what my brothers did for me today. To try and live for Kenny, because Kenny lived for all of us.
Kenneth Michael LeBlanc
Great Father, Great Friend