Tribute to my Brother Kyle

I'm writing this page to reflect how much my brother meant to me, as a brother, a friend, and a fellow outdoorsman.  I miss my brother, Kyle C. Wilson.  So, to do this tribute properly, I have to tell his story.  This is extremely difficult to do emotionally, but mechanically he gave me so much material to write about.  So, here it goes.

I'll start with how his life ended.  He died of a congenital heart defect known as bicuspid aortic valve.  The cause of his death was similar to the thing that happened to John Ritter.  He had a heart murmur as a kid, and this should have been investigated as an adult, and had he known to do that he may be alive today.  So, for those of you out there that have been diagnosed with a heart murmur, get checked out by a heart surgeon. If you do, it could save your life.  Kyle was taken from us at the young age of 36 years old.  He loved our family so much, and we all loved him and miss him.

Kyle with my sisters, Karla and Kathy
Here's a couple news stories about it:

Before I go further, I want to point everyone to a scholarship fund that was set up for swimmers in the State of Virginia in Kyle's name.  It's called the Kyle Wilson Excellence in Swimming College Fund.  This is a good cause as it gives swimmers that have very high potential and talent in the sport to succeed that have a hard time coming up with funding to get there.  Moe Lescault, one of Kyle's partners at CVA swimming and good friend, started the fund.  Here's the link:

Nobody really had a clue that this was coming.  Kyle was in great shape too.  He ate a balanced diet, worked out in the pool and gym daily, and was even swimming competitive laps during his swim practices with his swimmers, some of which now swim for major colleges across the country.  I spoke to him on the phone the night before his death, and he was in great spirits.  He complained a little bit about being tired, but said in general that he felt great.  One thing that I learned about him after his death is that he had a stash of Tums everywhere, in his apartment, in his truck, in his travel bag, anywhere he could get to them easily.  So, one of the symptoms of this is probably a heartburn or reflux feeling.  If you have chronic problems with that, please get checked out by a physician. 

Kyle rarely got sick, was strong and in shape, and rarely went to the doctor and I believe to this day that may have been one reason that he was never diagnosed.  He just had no need for a doctor.  He lived several hours away from me so I didn't get to see him much, but I spoke to him often on the phone about everything from coaching sports to hunting and fishing, and life in general.  We had a very close relationship.

As an outdoorsman, Kyle was just as successful at achieving his goals as he was a swimmer and a coach.  He was an avid bowhunter with a passion for the woods.  His favorite thing in life was his time in the treestand.  He was extremely accurate with his compound bow both in the field and non-hunting competitions.  When Kyle was a child, I remember him making his own bow and arrows, whittling them down from sticks that he found in the back yard.  He always had that passion. 

My Dad didn't hunt, and my Mom was terrified at having weapons in the house.  But I learned to bow hunt and took up the sport after my college years and inspired him to do the same.  That was all it took for him to become an expert in the sport.  He didn't want accolades, just to be in the woods.  And let me tell you, that even though I introduced him to the sport, over the years it was he who taught me how to become a successful bow hunter.  Here are just a couple of his bucks that now line my rec room wall:

Kyle was also an outstanding angler.  I took him fishing with me often when he was a kid.  My Dad told me a story once of how he took him to a very public place at Ocean City on a day when not many folks were catching fish.  He tied on a 7" Rapala and the guy next to him laughed and said, "Son, you ain't gonna catch nothin' on that thing.  Put on some squid or minnows and you'll have a good chance."  But, he tossed that lure out there and a couple casts later promptly caught a 6 pound sea trout!  My Dad said that everyone on the pier was diggin' in their box for a big minnow lure to toss out there!

At 12 years old Kyle was puttin' a hurtin' on local fish species.

Kyle coached swimming for high schools and club teams in Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Maryland and Virginia.  He was loved by his swimmers as a coach and as a mentor.  As a coach, he was competitive but fair, always expecting the most out of all of his swimmers.  He was tough on all of them, but for those that he saw with potential that didn't have the natural talent, he pushed them even harder.  Why?  Because when he was a kid and all the way through college, he was that hard worker that won swimming races out of sheer determination and will.  He was tenacious, seeking a competitive edge both physically and psychologically, and his goal was to be the best and win.  

Although he wasn't an olympic caliber swimmer, he knew what it took to get there and that's what made him a great coach.  This competitve drive and hard work ethic in the pool enabled him to swim varsity for one of the best Division I schools in the nation for swimming, Auburn University.  In a nutshell, he believed in the pursuit of excellence and nothing less.  My sister Karla was also a hard worker, but she had that natural ability, the gift that many swimmers wish that they had.  She also swam at Auburn and her accolades included going to Olympic trials and, although she didn't make the U.S. Olympic team she swam very well and was very close.  Kyle was very competitive with her, so much of his swimming success and drive was a direct result of that brother/sister rivalry.  Given that rivalry in and around the pool, Kyle and Karla were very close personally.  They grew up together, played together, fought at times, and Kyle looked after his little sister and protected her throughout her childhood and even into college.

This photo always cracked me up, while at Auburn, Kyle had his hair cut mohawk style with the purpose of intimidating opposing swimmers.  He had a knack for "psyching" out his competition at the starting blocks.

Kyle was very independent of our family, but kept in touch with us at least once a week, and with my Mom daily.  I didn't get to see him much after he moved South to Alabama to attend Auburn University.  My Dad retired around that time and he and my Mom moved down to Auburn as well.  So, I did spend several Christmas vacations down there.  While down there Kyle introduced me to some of his hunting buddies and I was able to bow hunt with him on their leased land, and I fished with him a handful of times down there.  He did come to visit me a couple times and of course, I took him fishing.  Most of the time we spent was in search of smallmouth bass, wading small streams and rivers close to home.  But, I didn't really get to fish with him much as an adult until he moved up here.  

After my Dad passed away, my Mom bought a home and moved back to Maryland.  A couple years after that, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Upon learning of that, Kyle and my sister Karla quit their jobs and moved to Maryland in with her to care for her.  It was a tough time for all of us, but my Mom really appreciated it.  It was a very unselfish act, to give everything up that you've done to come home for your family.  One of the side benefits to me was that I got to see them more often than ever before.  And that included fishing with Kyle.  We had such a great time, and he taught me a lot.
He loved to fish for just about anything, but depending on where he lived he liked to target big fish.  Kyle loved fishing out of his kayak and became very effective at it.  When he lived in Maryland, he targeted walleye and musky.  I remember one day he said to me, "Kevin, I want to catch walleye."  I hadn't fished for them before at the time, but I told him what the local fishing reports were saying.  He started buying tackle that he thought would catch walleyes and began prospecting for fishing spots. 

After a couple weeks he caught his first walleye, followed by two others that afternoon.  He was so proud that he estabished a pattern and I have to say, I was quite impressed with how quickly he accomplished his goal.  He also caught several nice muskies while targeting walleye.  Not only did he reach his goal that year by figuring out the walleye bite, but also set a goal to catch 100 walleye the next year before he left to live in Charlottesville for a new swimming coach job.  He had two months to do it and finished with 104 walleye that spring.

Here are some fish pics that he shared with me:

A couple nice muskies

A few nice Maryland walleyes

Prior to coming to Maryland, Kyle lived and coached in Mississippi.  He wanted to catch flathead catfish so he studied up on that, and started to figure them out.  He managed to catch a few of them down there before he moved North to Maryland.  He focused on fishing for them at night out of his kayak.  He did get his share of bass fishing in down there too.  Even after moving to Charlottesville to coach Kyle caught some flatheads out of the James river.  Here are a couple of his flathead pics:

Also, when Kyle lived in Maryland, I had the opportunity to drag him out ice fishing.  I got him hooked on that and was able to teach him a thing or two about that hobby.  He did very well and soon was catching panfish and trout through the ice like a seasoned veteran ice angler.  I also got him into fossil collecting and had him finding shark teeth in no time.  We had a lot of quality time together.

 Kyle on the ice punishing crappie (above) and on the beach finding sharks teeth (below).

Kyle and I had our differences over the years, like any two brothers might have, but I was always so proud of him and all he accompished in his life.  I really enjoyed all of the time we shared at home and in the outdoors.  He had an awesome sense of humor and often had his swimmers, swimmers parents, friends and family cracking up at his jokes.  During our hunting and fishing trips we both probably thought that the best part of the trips was catching fish or hunting deer, but after looking back I realized that it wasn't the fish limits or deer bagged, it was the time spent with him that counted most.  That's what I cherished and miss the most.

He was my little buddy...

Thank you for visiting Kyle's tribute page and reading his story.

For more information about Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease, please visit the Bicuspid Aortic Foundation.  The link takes you to the remembrance page to my brother Kyle, but there are many pages of information available to you.

6 comments: said...

Love your page.
Gene Mueller

Moe said...

Awesome tribute! We all still miss Kyle in Central Virginia. A coach that worked with Kyle down here still refers to him as "The Great One!" Kyle remains the finest swim coach, and one of the finest people, I've every known.

Moe Lescault

Anonymous said...

Kevin, what a wonderful tribute to Kyle. Although you cannot replace Kyle, you have many friends that admire you for your knowledge, humor, friendship and great story telling .
Mark P. in North Potomac. 08/14/13

Fat Boy said...

Thank you Mark!

John Herwill (RSA) said...

Awesome tribute man!!!! Sounds like you guys were tight!!!

Jerrod Myles said...

Man Kevin this broke my heart. Came here to give some of your Ichthyological adventures a glance... and found this post. Love that you put this tribute up for Kyle. I'm very close with my bros so this was very relatable. This tribute post was a great introduction to all of us to Kyle.

Thank you for this heartwarming post Kevin.

My heart goes out to you and all who had the pleasure of interacting with this good soul.

-Jerrod Myles