Tributes have been flowing for a well-known Vernon musician, photographer, inspirational speaker and heart and double lung transplant recipient.
Kevin Kienlein, 53, died Oct. 6 in Edmonton following complications arising from a viral infection after transplant.
“Your passion to inspire people inspired me. I will never forget your permanent smile,” wrote one person on Kienlein’s Facebook page among hundreds of tributes.
Kienlein was born in Vernon and soon after birth was diagnosed with congenital heart disease (CHD). He was not expected to live beyond childhood. However, time and time again he astounded the medical professionals.
“Kevin was well-known as a kind, humble citizen of Vernon for his entire life, renowned for his quick wit and great sense of humour,” said longtime friend Sheila Procter, who Kevin called “his older sister,” despite the fact she’s six years younger.
“His family is grateful to all who were responsible in keeping him well, particularly the late Dr. Art Sovereign, Kevin’s “pediatrician” who continued to monitor his health until Kevin was in his 40s.”
Despite not being able to attend regular school with other kids his age, Kienlein was still able to live vicariously with the entire world through his HAM Radio – call sign VE7EGD (EGD – Every Girl’s Dream). He was also known by his friends as Krash and KK.
He was an accomplished musician and vocalist who could usually be found wherever there was jam session happening or some event in need of a multi-talented entertainer.
As a young adult, Kienlein was very active as a member of the Old Time Fiddlers. He released two CDs, of original songs and fiddle tunes, and his piece was selected as winner of the Vernon Centennial Song Contest in 1992. Kienlein joined Ukuleles for Fun soon after his transplant surgery, as the instrument was light enough to play while he regained his strength.
Over the years, Kienlein was active in many community organizations: Toastmasters for public speaking and leadership, camera clubs to enhance his photographic skills; fly fishing clubs in pursuit of the big fish; the Royal Canadian Legion and ANAF Club to play a mean game of darts, enjoy some music and friendships. Stamp collecting was another hobby. Despite his limited health he managed to enjoy a full, active life.
On Dec. 14, 2010, Kienlein received his best Christmas present ever, thanks to the unselfish extraordinary gift from an organ donor and the skills of the Transplant Team at University Hospital of Alberta. He was airlifted to Edmonton, and the day after receiving a double lung and heart transplant, Kienlein looked better than he did the day before surgery.
“For the first time in his life his lips and skin were pink,” said Procter. “Kevin thrived with his new engine and was able to participate in many activities he had to avoid as a child.”
In July 2012, Kienlein competed in lawn bowling in the Canada Transplant Games in Calgary, even though he had virtually no experience in the sport.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, at the Peace Lutheran Church, 1206-30th Avenue, Vernon.
As green is the colour of organ donation, those planning on attending are asked to wear green.
Kienlein’s family asks that if you have not done so already, please register to become an organ donor at www.transplant.bc.ca/onlinereg/bcts.asp.
VE7EGD Silent Key.