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KEVIN'S STORY

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SHIRLEY KOLP KEY

Kevin's mother, Shirley Kolp Key, was stricken with Polio in her teenage years. It left her crippled and she was in a wheelchair most of the time. She graduated from Lausanne High School and had a long career with the Mid-south Fair. She was a great cook, for what became a very large extended family. Kevin said, “She was the toughest person in my life. She was a true southern lady that demanded a lot from herself, which affected everyone around her to do the same.”

BILL KEY

Kevin’s father, William R. Key “Bill”, was born to a 14 year old mother and did not really know his father. His mother was sent out of town to abort him, however, she came back to their farming community with the baby. Bill grew up in the streets of South Memphis. Custody was removed from his mother at an early age and he was placed in an orphanage. He was returned back to his mother around the age of 12 years. During his early teenage years, she moved to Chicago, and left Bill in Memphis to fend for himself. Bill was mentored by his High School football coach, who gave him a key to the locker room to live. Bill would go home to spend the night and eat with classmates. He won two Tennessee State Football Championships as the quarterback. After graduation, he was hired by the Memphis Police Department.

THE FAMILY

While Bill was employed with the MPD, he met the Polio stricken Shirley while she was in an “iron lung”. They married and had three children, with Kevin being the youngest. Shirley became the Livestock Director with the Fair, where she was employed for 35 years. Bill obtained two degrees from Memphis State University in three years and was one of the 1st of two officers to obtain a degree from Memphis State University. He began teaching Junior and Senior High School students and coached many youth sports. He received a Master’s degree from The University of Minnesota , while authoring and operating one of the first racially integrated programs in the South. Shirley kept many of the books from his teams and the delinquency program, as well as the scorebooks for her children’s sports teams. Later, Bill became the Financial Aid Director for Christian Brothers university, then became the Chie Administrative Officer for the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court. In 1994, he was elected as the Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk and served four terms until 2010.  During the years, Bill and Shirley, mentored many children who lovingly called them “Mom and Dad”.  This lead to a very large extended family for the Key’s. Bill and Shirley were married for 53 years and both died within 9 months of each other’s passing in 2011. Bill was overcome by complications from Alzheimer’s and Shirley died from pancreatic cancer. Kevin said, “I never once heard them complain about their circumstances nor illnesses. I believe it is what propelled them to helping so many other youth and those that were less fortunate. The words ‘I can’t’ were not allowed in the home. Dad pushed her around in the wheelchair, but she was the one that was driving.”

KEVIN

In 2010, Kevin was elected as the Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk. It was the only time a son had followed his father to the same office in Shelby County’s history. Read more about Kevin on the ACCOMPLISHMENTS page. While visiting Washington DC with his youngest child, and in his 3rd year in office, Kevin was stricken with pancreatitis brought on by black sand-like stones in his gall bladder. He “flat-lined” and was incubated on two separate occasions. He was hospitalized for 88 days, endured five surgeries, lost 98 lbs., and was legally blind. He could not watch the television clearly, read, nor could he drive.  Kevin said, “During my early days of blindness, all I wanted to do was to talk with others that were blind. I was not aware of all the services for the blind. After a short period, the services came my way.”

Kevin has CONQUERED his illness and adapted to his blindness. He can now drive, watch TV,reads, writes, and see pictures. He can fully navigate the PC , internet, and use advanced software which he heused throughout his career. Visit the DISABILITY TOOLS page to learn about the devices which aid him.

Kevin said, “None of my recovery could have happened without the support of my wife and four children. Aside from the daily care during my weakest moments, they gave me the will to persevere. Thank you to my Lord. His grace gave me the desire to become His unconditional servant. Also to my friends for the many phone calls, cards, and picking me up to get out of the house. I also want to thank the great doctors and hospital staff in Washington DC and Memphis.  Additionally, thanks to the government agencies, the grant funded organizations, and the private businesses that are listed on the DISABILITY SERVICE pageFurthermore, a big thank you to the other individuals with disabilities that I have met along the way for their encouragement, guidance, and the awareness thatthings could be a lot worse. Combining hard work, some help from others, and using the new technology with accessability features, a person can live a life of quality and aid society. And finally, to my parents for instilling in me the will to conquer and to never say ‘I CAN’T’.”

Visit the WE CONQUER page to learn more about other people that have overcome . And also visit the ACCESSIBILITIES TOOLS page for a list of some of the devices that aid the disabled.

 

 

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