A Live Lived: Ken Calloway had a heart that overflowed with kindness

Published 11:50 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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Someone has said: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Kenneth Calloway fought a battle everyday, but he did it with love and kindness. Calloway died February 15. Moments before he slumped over in a chair at Ivy Hall Nursing Home, he had fed his wife, Nancy, lunch.

Calloway was 85 years old, though he looked and acted much younger. Despite his own health issues, he had visited his wife almost every day since she had been a nursing home resident – many times twice a day. Nancy had been at Ivy Hall Nursing Home for three years. Before that Calloway cared for Nancy at home for almost 10 years, despite his own health struggles, which included numerous heart stent procedures, heart ablations, etc.

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Debbie Woods, a caregiver for Nancy while she was at home, described Ken as the kindest of people, who had compassion for everyone. “He was a wonderful man, who was devoted to his wife. She was his life. Every day he was there for her. He would get up, go to the nursing home, stay and feed Nancy lunch, and often would go back in the evening and sit with her. Come nighttime, they would call each other to say ‘good night.’ He would even file and paint her nails,” said Debbie.

Now that Ken is gone, Debbie goes to the nursing home each day at lunch to feed Nancy, and a group of ladies at West Side Christian Church take turns visiting Nancy in the evening to feed  her supper and spend some time with her.

I met Ken when I visited Ivy Hall Nursing Home. I, too, found Ken to be a very kind and compassionate person, who was also encouraging to other residents as well as the nursing home staff. Last year for Nancy’s birthday, he hired an Elvis impersonator to come and entertain her. Nancy, who, he admitted, was an Elvis fan and loved his music.

Ken had an interesting life of his own. He grew up in Elizabethton and attended Elizabethton High School as well as Elizabethton Business College and Steed College. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and had retired from Piedmont Airlines/US Air and later worked for Delta Airlines and the Veterans Administration – all in customer service.

A brother, Sam Brumit, who lives and works in San Marcos, Calif., visited Ken and Nancy often in Elizabethton. “He was my mentor. He made a difference with everyone and took an interest in people. We talked on the phone every day. He was very attentive to his wife and was very concerned that something might happen to him, and Nancy would have no one since they did not have any children. However, his church and others have really stepped up since his death,” said Sam.

Sam shared that Ken was a big Cyclone fan and he had so many friends. He was a difference-maker and encouraged everyone. Truly, Ken was one of God’s servants. I wish I could be more like him,” shared Sam.

Luther McKeehan, a friend who attended church with Ken at West Side Christian Church, had nothing but praise for Ken. “He was very strong in his faith, and was always willing to help. He was one of those people who worked behind the scenes. He didn’t want any praise for himself.

He was faithful to his church, and was one of those people you enjoyed being around. He could be a jokester,” shared Luther.

Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to make someone’s day. Ken Calloway was all about caring and giving and he was out there every day, not only caring for Nancy, but touching lives with kind words and deeds.

In the words of his brother Sam: “We can be sure that loss is Heaven’s gain.”