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Remembering John Kiley PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - In Memorium
Written by Cathy Bolkcom   
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 08:55

Cathy Bolkcom and John KileyEditor's note: John Kiley, a well-known community leader and lifelong Quad Citian, died of natural causes on February 15 at the age of 58. The eulogies that were read at his funeral are published in their entirety at RCReader.com/news/john-kiley/.

So many things have been said or written over the past two weeks about John Kiley and his huge role in the life of our community. Stories, snapshots in time, memories. "Remember" is from the Latin (so fitting) for "recall to mind." One of the things that weighs heavy on my heart is that John has become part of memory. I share what I remember, the mindfulness of John in my life and the lives of the friends who were so important to him.

John's life was like a Venn diagram of intersecting circles: lifelong friends from his days at Holy Family and Assumption, the Saint Ambrose mafia, the Youth Service Bureau (YSB) crowd, the running world, music and film lovers, the public-service circles, and above all Kathy, Joanne, and Julia.

I joined YSB in 1975. I met Kiley and Randy Richards, and my life would literally never be the same. Within weeks of leaving the insular and quite conservative (in those days) environs of Augustana, I had broken off an engagement and entered a whole new world, populated by the likes of Kiley, Richards, Terri and Jim Mesich, and Lou Ann (Johnson) Goral, amongst others. Kiley and Richards had been classmates at St. Ambrose. Jim Mesich was a Legal Aid lawyer from Chicago they had just met, and his wife Terri came to YSB to mother the staff.

This circle of friends became family. Our circle intersected with the St Ambrose crowd, and so we met Tom Higgins, the O'Connells, Pat Logan, Vikki Navarro, and Ellen Shapley. I would subsequently meet my future husband Mark Smith, who happened to have gone to Holy Family with Kiley and Mike Murphy since kindergarten. The night I met Mark, we ended up at the Kileys' house with Lou Ann, and I heard stories about the grade-school and college years. The night Mark and I got married, the Kileys and Lou Ann would be the last ones on the dance floor with us and would drive us to our hotel in John's beloved orange Datsun.

Music and dancing were a main point of connection for Kiley and friends, and later for his daughters. Kiley and Mesich took the lead in introducing us to new music. John loved to dance, and we spent many a night in the early '80s dancing the night away to a local new-wave band called The Kind. In recent years, John called routinely to promote his latest favorite music, and he was the biggest fan of the local band Tripmaster Monkey, which came back together to play at his funeral luncheon. I am most grateful that so recently, John (in his beloved red-velveteen smoking jacket), Lou Ann, and I again were the last to leave the dance floor at the Quad Cities Inaugural Ball. That night, Nancy Rosetti asked John, "How can you dance like this all night? It must be because of your running." John's reply: "I run so that I can dance."

Running was also an opportunity to maintain relationships. His daughter Joanne wrote: "After going on a run (which was more like a jog when I was accompanying), my dad always thanked me. I thought that silly because I should be thanking him for getting me out to exercise and for running slowly for me, but I always appreciated it, too. I loved running with my dad. It was a chance to catch up, hash out wild and crazy plans and the boring ones, and to just talk about life. I'm going to miss those times a lot."

Kiley's life cannot be fully understood outside of these friendships. John had deep, true relationships with men: Richards, Mesich, Logan, Terry O'Connell, Bob Heimer, and Dan Ebener among them. Not many men I know have the depth of connection with other men that these guys had with one another. The profundity of their loss overwhelms me. They gathered every month for a Thursday-night outing at the Blue Cat pub to shoot pool and tell lies. My husband is not a night person, yet Kiley called him every month for years to issue an invitation. I think John fully expected that Mark would actually show up one Thursday night. John never gave up!

The Group that came together in the late '70s - the Kileys, the Mesiches, the Richardses, Vikki and Bob, Pat and Rita, Mark and me - would remain friends (and married!) for the next 30-plus years. The awful events of the last weeks have reminded us of how lucky we are to be there for each other and for Kathy and for their daughters as we face life without John in it. There will be no new memories, but so many lessons from John in living mindfully. We will carry his passion for life, for running, for dancing, for learning, and for deep connection with us as we go on.

To find out what you can to do to help the Kiley family, e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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