Golden Glove Boxer Enters the Ring of Heaven
The conversations about Kenneth Dwayne Gadison never point in one direction.
And depending on where you met him during his journey, you're likely to hear a different yet fascinating story.
There's one about him being the handsome, high school nerd with a flat top haircut. Another is about him earning a reputation as a stylish and sometimes flashy dresser. A few people fondly think back on his Golden Glove boxing days.
In fact, loved ones say Kenneth, who transitioned last week just days before his 66th birthday, was all of this and more.
"Kenny was a gift to me and I will miss him," said Diana Gadison, his wife of 35 years.
Relatives say the father of five lived a wide-ranging life full of adventures and travels. They also describe him as a Christian man who never hesitated to put family first.
By his mid-20s, Kenneth was perhaps best known for being a prolific Colorado boxer who was once a victory away from qualifying for the Olympics, family said, a rare feat coming from someone inside the state.
But as his career wore on, “Mr. Untouchable," as he called himself, grew disinterested in the sport because he was a lover not a fighter.
Kenneth was born in Lamesa, Texas to David Willis Gadison Sr. and Hester Darden. He ultimately left his mark as a steadfast family man. Nothing exemplifies this more than his nickname "Uncle Kenny,” as he helped raise several nieces, nephews, and others, instilling values and treating them all as his own.
"Uncle Kenny set the bar for how women in the family should be treated by men," according to his niece, Kaibrea Jones. "He was reliable and brought up my self-confidence when I thought I was too skinny."
Dajah Gadison remembers her father taking her to get her hair styled during her first pregnancy, one of several impactful moments where Kenneth displayed endless affection towards her.
"You can't be fat and ugly," he jokingly told her at the time.
But that pales in comparison to the princess-like treatment Dajah received every year when her birthday rolled around.
"He would sit me on a barstool and have people come from another room and bring me out gifts one at a time," the daughter said.
On Fridays, Kenneth would gather at a local pool hall with his nephew, Ray, and son, Dustin, along with others. Dustin took to the sport seriously and eventually became a pool shark.
Meanwhile, almost every day after work Kenneth would visit his son Duran and spend time with each other,” Diana Gadison said. “They were two peas in a pod.”
Tales of Kenneth have continued to pour out since leaving this Earth.
If his fighting prowess was what he was known for early on, then later in life he became just as recognizable for his comic relief, colorful outfits and slick, permed hair.
His flair for standout attire is on display in a framed picture inside one of the family's homes where a smiling Kenneth shows off his sense of fashion by donning a pink shirt, white tie and black suit jacket, matching that of his wife's pink jacket and black shirt.
The depiction is also one of many displaying the couple’s uniformity and love for dressing alike.
Diana and Kenneth were married for 35 years after first meeting during a typing class at Manual High School.
As Diana recalls, she was one of the popular girls in school, and was in the back of the classroom listening to music with her friends when she laid eyes on the one student who was focused on his work.
Despite Kenneth wearing a pocket protector and owning a flat top, a stark contrast to the more popular afros most of the guys wore in that era, she knew she'd stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.
"He was cute," Diana Gadison said.
Still, it would take another decade and a chance encounter at the former Stapleton Airport for her crush to blossom into love.
By then, Kenny, who was working for Frontier Airlines, had transformed.
No longer the studious teen from school, the man standing in front of Diana -- then a flight attendant -- was a new person. He was slim, had a Jheri curl, chiseled physique, was in shape and drove a 1977 Mustang. He also had his own apartment. He was Kenneth 2.0.
And even with her already having one child in her first born, David, Kenneth unconditionally accepted him as his own. There’s more.
"He had those sparkling brown eyes," Diana Gadison said. "He was the only man who could put me in line and always allowed me to be myself."
Family members said through the ups and downs Kenneth's love for his wife never wavered.
"It was special seeing how he treated my mom when she had cancer and suffered hair loss," Dajah Gadison said. "He always told her she was beautiful and kissed her on her head."
Relatives said the loss of their patriarch is immeasurable.
“Dad told me just to keep on living,” said daughter, Denae Gadison, who is fondly referred to as Kenny Mae. “I still gotta live my life and share with the others.”
But his wife takes solace in knowing that her husband, his older brother, and their father -- better known as the three amigos -- are reunited in Heaven.
"I don't know how I will live but I know the lord will take care of us," Diana Gadison said.
Kenneth is survived by his wife, Diana, and five children -- David, Denae, Dustin, Duran and Dajah and many more loved ones.
His sisters are Priscilla “Junious” McConnell and Brenda Younger.
And papa’s grandchildren include: Nissiah Farris, Dustin Gadison Jr., Dalayah Gadison, Donis Gadison, Devin Pendergrass Jr., DaKari Pendergrass, Denzel Pendergrass, Naiya Dennis and Aaurora Gadison.