In Memory ~ Our Friend ~ Kenny George Cox 1978 - 2009

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Aug 18, 2009

The Kenny I Knew

By David Watson

On Friday morning August 13th just twelve days after his 31st birthday, my best friend Kenny Cox left this world. Kenny was much much more than a friend to me, he was a brother. Kenny and I shared the same philosophies on life, the same music interests, and the same passions for the outdoors. Kenny and I had our first encounter in the fifth grade at a tournament in Newberg the Oregon Classic Qualifier. When I saw Kenny, I automatically assumed that I was going to make quick work of this short nerdy boy with bottle cap glasses that fit awkwardly on his face. Lets just say, I was very wrong indeed. Kenny was a few short years away from being the wonder boy of wrestling with his five national titles, and state championships. Kenny and I must have wrestled each other every other weekend throughout our child hood. We than went to the same college, the University of Oregon together. We lived in a co-op house together with Jay McGuffin, and James Nakashima and made our friendship unseperatable. It was there that Kenny taught the practice of “getting out of a rut” as he would famously say. With out a moments notice Kenny had convinced me that we should take a little night stroll on our bikes to his families cabin in Gold Hill. We were tired, but we made it there. We also spent many nights up there at the cabin becoming men. We talked about all of our dreams up there. We sometimes would sit in a homemade hot tub that his uncle Robert had made and drink Brandy and shout as loud as we could at the night sky, just because we could. We also got lost up there on a snowy winter day, and nearly died as we walked all through the night, until 2 in the morning the next day, with hypothermal chills, and severely blistered feet. Despite the lack of sleep and blistered feet, we made it through a whole U of O practice. Kenny and I quit our favorite passion wrestling together. We reconciled our loss of identity together. We tried to figure out what replacement identities we would take together.

When Kenny moved up the McKenzie River and I moved to Eastern Oregon, I ducked out of some important responsibilities as a student teacher to drive 10 hours through the evening and night to meet Kenny at his trailer for the weekend; there we took a wooden row boat out on a half frozen lake and started a little fire in the middle of it (how is up to your imaginations). We warmed our hands, starred at the stars and thought about life. Kenny and I shared the same passion for the music artist Neil Young, who was introduced to us by our coach’s Chuck and Scott Kearny. One time Kenny and I needed to get out of a rut and so we headed due north to Seattle to see Neil Young live. Neil’s last song was “Be the Rain”. After the concert was complete Kenny was deeply troubled at the massive number of people ignoring Neil’s message and littering in the parking lot. Kenny ran around the parking lot picking up heaps of litter while singing repeatedly “Be the Rain!” He ran around until about 2 in the morning when all the litter had finally been picked up. Kenny and I climbed mountains in the Wallowas together; we climbed mountains in the Steens together. Kenny climbed the Steens Mountain in Birkenstocks. We decided to Glissade down the mountain naked and stopped when we realized that our numb butts were staining the beautiful snow red.

When I met the love of my life, I needed Kenny’s approval, and after careful analysis he gave it. So when I got married I could think of no better person to be my best man. Kenny happily obliged. He was so nervous not to mess up; he practiced his lines over and over. I looked forward to the possibility of doing the same for Kenny.

I personally don’t believe in the literal story of Eden as presented in Genesis, I believe that the story is a metaphor for the change from a hunter and gather lifestyle (Eden) into a plant and animal domestication lifestyle (Babylon). The story describes that moment when humanity became God like in their ability to control plants and wild beasts, to bend them at their will. Once humanity got a taste of this control, they could no longer go back to Eden.

Kenny was hungry for Eden. While the rest of us can justify our place in the civilized life, Kenny could not. Kenny dreamed of Eden. Kenny saw labor as a factor of division; a roadblock that kept us humans from taking the time to truly connect, to listen to each other, not with our ears, but with our consciousness. Kenny wanted a world in which humanity could shift its focus away from religion, materialism, politics, and class and just focus on each other. Kenny wanted to follow the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and be the change he wanted to see in the world. Kenny wanted to take heed of the advice of Socrates, “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” Kenny spent much time examining life and taking action. Kenny led a life of humble possessions, sincere love, and a keen ability to selflessly focus on others.

In April, Kenny left for his Eden. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to spend the last weekend he had on the mainland, Kenny’s Babylon. Kenny wanted to find an open space amid the tall buildings and crowded edifices of the city, and so we hiked up a small mountain with a view of the city. When we got to the top, a strong and frigid pacific coast wind rushed in on us, nearly blowing us over. I rushed for protection behind some trees, as the dirt was stinging my face. Kenny did not follow me; instead he walked right into the storm and peacefully laid down in a tall grassy meadow. As the wind smashed into his face and made his hair stand out straight, he turned to me clinging to my tree and just smiled. A kind peaceful Kenny Cox smile. No words were exchanged just Kenny with his smile. Kenny was in the midst of a storm and he was totally at peace. I believe that Kenny’s final message to me was, don’t be afraid to face the storm, stop holding onto trees, go out and live life with boldness and passion. To love everyone as if we were all in Eden. That is what Kenny wanted from everyone most of all, to just love each other with true sincerity and passion; simple as that.

To me Kenny took on a life of divine manifestation. Kenny was the shaman, the wise man, the prophet, the message we all need. Kenny was able to peer thru the storm of life with a clarity that most of us only hope to achieve.

I love you Kenny, and I still plan on having many more fire side chats with you good buddy, because you will always be with me, for as long as I live. Kenny Cox, Pochahontas, and Me.


  1. David: You were such an amazing friend to Kenny. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing tht David. He was the most gentle soul,,, so contrary to the fact that he was also a very fierce combatant in the sport of wrestling..... "the brother and sisterhood of wrestling" as he called it. I would have loved to have just one of those fireside chats with him.

    Randy Enders

  3. David, wow, thanks for sharing your experiences with Kenny. He was a very special person, as well are you. We all grow as humans through our relationships and it is very evident you and Kenny had something special. My sincere condolences to Kenny's family and to all who knew Kenny.
    Dan Nugent

  4. wonderfully written. well said!

  5. every time I read I cry... well said David. MP

  6. Kenny, Today (Memorial Day) was my baby shower for my newborn baby boy, Chyler. He was born in April, but was due this day, May 31. Our celebration was held at a local park in Eugene, OR...and it was a beautiful sight to see everyone come together and 'BE THE RAIN'. The playground and slides were soaking wet, but that didn't stop us. I just smiled and thought of you on that mountain looking back at anyone who was fearful to face the storm. I wish my boys could've had you as a teacher, coach, tour guide, or simply as a I was blessed to be. I remember you today, and always! SINCERELY, Elizabeth