Last night as my grandchildren ran wide open around the back yard, I was enjoying their play when I received very sad news. Fellow author and ‘Porch’ friend Kendall Bell from South Carolina had passed away.
Ken was 66 years old. I wasn’t prepared for him to go so soon—I think most of us who knew him felt the same way. Ken was just so full of life.
I knew he’d been very sick. On January 7, Ken posted a message on his Facebook page:
“Some of you might have already heard, maybe not. Either way I am in the hospital with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. My 103-degree fever finally broke last night so I am up to feeling like crap now. Any and all prayers are glady accepted as are texts. But I must ask that you not try to call as I’m still fighting breathing issues. I’m in Room 543 at Prisma Health Tuomey in Sumter SC but visitors are not allowed. I am constantly amazed by the excellent professionalism of the hospital staff. These folks truly are amazing! Thank you for the kind outpouring of support that I have already received. May God bless you all!”
Despite reading that, I felt Ken would recover. I hoped he would, and many of us continued to pray for him. Now we are praying for all his loved ones in their grief.
Early last year, just before COVID began to dominate every facet of our lives, I wrote an article about Ken’s nonfiction book Triple Tragedy in Alcolu. As I read the book, I realized writing it must have been a mission for Ken. I think he left the physical world knowing he had accomplished a great goal—providing a clear, nonbiased record of what truly was a triple tragedy more than 75 years ago. Thinking of that now, it brought back words poet and novelist Kim Addonizio told me when I interviewed her quite some time ago. She, in so many words, told me she feared she wouldn’t live long enough to write everything she wanted to.
I met Ken through my writing shortly after we moved to Florida. He and I ended up at several book events doing what we authors do—signing books and talking to folks. Ken was also part of a special private writers’ group founded by Georgia native Joyce Dixon. Her “Southern Porch” group served as a networking and shop-talking forum for indie writers around the South. We talked about all sorts of things, and although I was in another private writing group, this was my favorite. There wasn’t the usual backbiting and game-playing at Southern Porch that you find in many private groups.
Last evening as I scrolled down Ken’s Facebook page, I realized how blessed he was. Ken was beloved by so many, and he worked in journalism as an editor and reporter when ethics standards existed and were taken seriously. One of the loveliest tributes I read was written by Joyce Dixon on her Facebook page where among other things she said:
“Ken never met a stranger, which made him an excellent reporter and city editor for years in Myrtle Beach, Beaufort and Sumter. He interviewed Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier. Mickey Spillane became a close friend and mentor. Many authors living in or passing through Beaufort were friends — Pat Conroy, Thomas Steinbeck, and Brewster Robertson to name a few.”
If you live as long as I have, you reconcile yourself to loss. Nothing worldly lasts forever. Although I mourn the loss of a good man, I believe his loved ones will be comforted by the great outpouring of affection and respect for a man who lived his life well and who left behind a legacy of letters.
In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony said:
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”
Ken Bell upended that Shakespearean declaration in a big way. Bell’s good deeds, kindness, and compassion will live after him. He will be admired and mourned by many. We should all be so fortunate.
Ken will be sorely missed.
(Kay B. Day/January 22, 2021)