The Associated Press
LOGANSPORT, La. (AP) -In one play, he went from high-school basketball star and football quarterback to bedridden. But Kenneth Harvey worked his way out of that bed, now drives his own van and ‚ using his arms ‚ can leave his wheelchair to move short distances.
Oct. 30 will be Kenneth Harvey Day in Logansport, where he grew up, went to high school, and returned in 1990, after eight years in Texas. During homecoming celebrations at Logansport High School, Harvey will be memorialized with a five-foot black polished granite stone and a bronze plaque with a bas relief likeness of Kenneth Harvey, quarterback.
"To me, we're not honoring him as a great athlete. But it's his determination to overcome the injury and function as well as he has," said former football coach Johnny Haynes. "With determination he's been able to lead a productive life.
Harvey went down in the last game of his senior year ‚ his only yearas a football player. The district title was in the bag. The nondistrict Many Tigers were nothing more than a game to finish out the season.
As well as quarterback, the 17-year-old played safety on defense. He went in for what seemed like a simple tackle and crumpled onto the field. He was in a coma for weeks.
John Russell recalls that when he was in fifth grade, the principal began each day by asking students to pray for the injured athlete. "We did that for months. We prayed every day for Kenneth," Russell said.
Harvey nearly died. When he returned home on March 19, 1965, he didn't remember the tackle, or even going to school. His speech was slurred. His mother and stepfather were told he might live another 15 years.
At 62, his regimen of parallel bars and weights allows Harvey to get out of his wheelchair on occasion and maneuver within confines. He drives a specially equipped van.
He's held jobs. He even took a stab at college until he realized the memory loss was stressing him to a near nervous breakdown.
Haynes, who is also a DeSoto Parish School Board member, has joined about two dozen other Logansport educators, business leaders, former athletes and public officials ‚ including former basketball coach Bernard Waggoner ‚ in meeting monthly to map out plans for Harvey's special day. It will include a parade, participation on the homecoming game coin toss and a surprise announcement.
"I'm just amazed, really," Haynes said. "In my opinion, the only reason he has been able to live the way he has is because of his determination to work at it every day."
San Antonio resident Ben Freeman was in the stands when Harvey was hurt and saw him during occasional visits to Logansport. A chance encounter with Harvey in a Logansport restaurant more than a year ago sparked the idea, Freeman said.
"It was like it was in my mind and heart, and it wouldn't go away. I heard it clear as I'm talking to you: You've got to do something for Kenneth. I realized it was the Holy Spirit talking to me," said Freeman. He talked to Haynes and former DeSoto Parish Schools Superintendent Doug McLaren.
"When we talked to Kenneth and told him we wanted to do something for him he had tears in his eyes and said he is not worthy. But he's been such an inspiration to me and others."
Harvey has told his story to church and school groups.
"I was not a Christian when I was hurt. When I came to, they told me how low I got, that I almost died. I said then I was going to make it public that I accept Christ as my savior," said Harvey.
McLaren, of Natchitoches, was the offensive coordinator and worked with Haynes and the Tiger football team. He encouraged Harvey, who preferred basketball, to give football a chance his senior year.
"He was just a tremendous athlete. Kenneth was the best athlete that I ever coached," McLaren said. "He was like having a coach on the field. He was a natural leader."
McLaren was watching as Harvey barreled toward a 230-pound Many linebacker in an attempt to thwart a two-point conversion. Harvey's head smacked against the other player.
"Kenneth read the play and came through the hole and hit him two yards behind the line of scrimmage. I saw it happen. I knew he was hurt pretty bad. I started running as did coach Haynes and Dr. Garland."
McLaren, Haynes, Waggoner and members of the Tiger football team set up a day and night vigil at the hospital. Days passed before they were told how seriously he was hurt.
Haynes took over Harvey's stepfather's school bus route so Hank and Frances Williams could stay with their son without losing money.
Harvey's parents already had one disabled child. Harvey's younger brother, Terry, hada muscular disease, which claimed his life in 1967. He was 13.
Battling physical disabilities drew Kenneth and Terry close. Terry was Harvey's greatest cheerleader.
"He was the greatest physical therapy I ever had," Harvey said. "He was always challenging me."
The Williamses never blamed anyone for Harvey's injury and kept supporting the football program, the former coaches said.
These days are relatively quiet for Harvey, who returned to Logansport in 1990 after eight years in Longview, Texas, to work at a garden supply business.
He now lives in Logansport Seniors Apartments.
Harvey gets out for lunch every day but Saturday ‚ a habit developed after he dropped from about 150 pounds to 123 on microwave meals.
"My aunt told me I needed to get out and go eat at a restaurant every day so I started doing that," Harvey said.
His lunches also are a chance to visit with friends and strangers. "I try to smile a good bit and that makes others smile, too," he said.
Church services each Sunday at Bethel United Methodist also keep him busy.
"The community as a whole endured the pain that Kenneth endured," Russell said. "As human beings, we see tragedy such as this and ask why. Kenneth was such a great person and athlete. He had the whole world in awe of his character, faith and personal attributes.
"None of that changed on Nov. 13, 1964. And it never has."
Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com