I met Kerry Rasberry playing golf with my friend Doug at Midget Meadows, that weird little course someone wedged in behind the municipal library. While we went to Midwest City High and Kerry went to Carl Albert, he and Doug had been in the same Sunday School class for years, their devotion, as they made clear, somewhat related to Carla Pesterfield being in the same class.
After a couple of rounds that summer, Kerry wanted to know if I wanted to run out to Southwestern Oklahoma State College in Weatherford with him one day. Something to do with his enrollment or getting into the highly sought Neff Hall. Being used to surprise invitations to do something from knowing Bill Parsons, I thought why not? We talked a lot, shared a preference for cherry limeades at the little drive-in on Main Street, got to know each other, and became friends. That was 1971.
Let me share with you some of the things I got to know about Kerry Rasberry as we traveled to 2022.
Kerry loved dogs, even perverted ones whose toys, especially balls, you never wanted to touch. He named them usual dog names like Obi and Rocky and Quigley and Hogan and Kramer and Yogi. Although he only played golf in high school, he loved sports of most kinds. In particular, he loved following his teams—Carl Albert, Southwestern, OU, the Thunder, even OSU sometimes. Long after Darlene had spent her fury on the latest anti-teacher, anti-public education editorial in the Daily Oklahoman, Kerry was still subscribing to get the sports page. And the obituaries.
Kerry loved buying clothes and cars. The haggling was fun to him, which maybe says too much about him. He loved playing cards, especially Hearts and Spades. He was still kicking butt on computer Hearts games to the end. As his Spades partner in college, I was constantly holding my breath at his bids. The man would go nil with the Queen of Spades. Most of the time it paid off, especially after I learned to always underbid my hand by one or two. And when it was clear we were about to have our heads handed to us, he wasn’t above slipping his one Spade behind another card and calling for a misdeal. The guys we played with didn’t quite understand how much Kerry loved to win. Of course, being Kerry, he told me later what he had done, with that “I’m really a good guy but . . .” grin that those of you who knew him can picture exactly.
I saw that grin one other particular time in college. Kerry had decided that he wanted us to go steal watermelons out of a patch on the east side of Weatherford. Not thinking this was a great idea but I went along. So one night we go out to the field and pull up along the road, which was right across the street from the family’s house. He turned off the lights, and I let out a breath and got out. I was several steps into the field when I turned to see where he was. Still behind the wheel of his car. I got back in and he had that grin. Turned out he was still Inez’s son. I didn’t give him any of my watermelon.
Kerry loved dancing and golf. In the 70s there were cool dancers and the rest of us. Kerry wasn’t one of us. As for golf, he played until he just couldn’t. I believe the last time may have been the round he described one of his shots bouncing off the ice in the creek. When he retired to just watching golf on tv, he would recommend Feherty episodes to us and could tell you the qualities of every golfer on tour, good and bad. He had feelings for Nick Price that really can’t be described. In mixed company, anyway. Kerry was Inez’s son so he really didn’t curse much, but he had a special name for Nick the P___k. Few other people earned that privilege. It was especially cruel of his disease to take two of the things he liked to do so much away from him the earliest.
Kerry did not love vegetables. He did like frozen grapes, though. And anything chocolate, the top of Kerry’s food pyramid. He was the s l o w e s t eater in human history. Watching him dice up his scrambled eggs could have been a YouTube Zen video. You know when a dog or a cat has to get the bean bag pillow or chair just right before settling into it? That was Kerry with scrambled eggs.
He also was not a big fan of alcohol. A margarita might touch his lips from time to time just to be sociable, but beer or hard stuff? Not his cup of tea. The one time I ever saw Rasberry even mildly inebriated was when he had one of those tall cans of Fosters. Betty and I were visiting from Missouri, and I had already gone to bed that night when who appeared to sit on the edge and talk about Fosters? For way too long to a sleepy person. I don’t think he even finished the can. One of our last visits, we split a Fosters, mine in a beer mug, his in a shot glass. The man knew his limits.
Kerry could be surprisingly brave. When Darlene and Betty were living in their duplex at Southwestern, they found they had a Peeping Tom. Granted, the guy had great taste, targeting the two best-looking women on campus, but Kerry rushed over there to introduce him to the business end of his shotgun. He could also be surprisingly clueless (although perhaps not so surprising to Darlene). Like the episode where he found an eyelash curler in their bathroom and thought it might be a feminine hygiene device.
Kerry loved talking to strangers. Customers at his MailBoxes, fans at games. We would leave him at malls sitting at the fountain or courtyard or whatever usually in the center of the place, and, when we got back, he’d be chatting up a storm with all the old guys who had also been ditched. Kerry couldn’t talk and use his walker at the same time so one of the always funny times was Darlene telling him to shut up because we had to get somewhere.
Kerry loved to travel and see new places. He also loved seeing new watches at TJ Maxx. He loved making animals from bread sack ties, and his only answer to any question in 20 Questions was “Dan Blocker.” He loved keeping connections with people from the old days, especially Carl Albert and Southwestern. He loved buffets at pizza places, especially on days with specials, and especially chocolate chip pizza days. And he got to where he loved Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Big Bang Theory, which are all sort of the same show if you think about it. And, of course, he loved his friends, all of you reading this right now.
We count success in some pretty bizarre ways these days. But in the end there are two sure and true ways of knowing that you had a successful life. One is still having your best friend when you were a kid as your best friend when you get old and move on. Rick was the only person Kerry ever did an inverted-outverted-perverted with (unless Darlene has held something back). I could never thank them enough for sharing it with me. Seriously. Never.
The other, of course, is to have met your one true love early in your life and have her love you back, even after you’ve moved on. Darlene and Betty and I made the mistake when we started at Southwestern in August 1971 of moving to Weatherford a few days before classes started. Weatherford wasn’t then the well-known entertainment mecca that it is now. But it did have two movie theaters, and we decided to go see The Andromeda Strain one evening. I don’t know now if I invited Kerry or if he just showed up, but I introduced him to Darlene and hoped she’d still talk to me the next day. She was still talking with him 51 years later. More than once Rasberry would respond with amazement and gratitude that she chose him.
Many novels and movies have been done about the couples who unfortunately find out that one of them is fatally ill and the rest of the movie is about their true love to the end. There have been fewer novels and movies about the couple who know about the eventually fatal illness at the start. Kerry and Darlene lived their love for over five decades knowing how his dad would end, how his brother Mike Rasberry would end, how Kerry would end. It would be a really long novel or movie, but nothing else that’s been made could match it.
Kerry Rasberry may have been the easiest man we will ever know. Even when he was mean, you never really felt like he was really into it. I’m sure there were sides that he showed to Darlene that we never saw, but that’s sort of the point. He was a victim of a horrible, long-term disease, and yet all our thoughts of him are good. I know personally that I would never have had the strength, courage, and stamina that he showed all these years. He made friends with everyone, loved dogs and his mom and his friends and Carl Albert football, and the marks on the world he’s left behind will last with all of us in warmth and smiles.
The memory I’m taking of Kerry is another bedtime farewell. We were watching tv during one of our last visits, and he loaded up on his scooter to head to bed. As I watched the show, he rode across the room, said, “Connelly,” and grinned and waved, like Roy Rogers and Trigger, as he disappeared down the hall. You’ll have your own special memory, of course, but I’m betting it has a smile in it, too.
Exactly what he would want.
~ Mike Connelly