Kevin Neil King
March 14, 1957 - September 19, 2021
Kevin Neil King, a spirited collector of art, moments and stories with a flair for the absurd, died at home in San Francisco surrounded by all that he loved. He was 64. For almost three years he beat back brain cancer with courage and humility.
Kevin held the honors of friend, son, brother, father, grandfather and husband. All benefited from his unusual way of seeing and participating in the world. He disdained conventional paths of all kinds--career, forest, ski slope—in favor of the precipitous bushwhack. It might be scary to follow him, but you were always glad you did.
Born in Boulder, Colorado as the second of five children, Kevin continued in a long line of artists, including his mother Gretchen and his lawyer/watercolorist father Neil. When not skiing or doing yardwork, his parents immersed the children in art, music, and design. Kevin's grandfather Edward King, longtime dean of the University of Colorado Law School, was also an accomplished collage artist.
Kevin loved the world—its cold lakes, steep ravines, quirky people—and it loved him back. A keen observer always looking for the contrast of the day, he wore his work boots and patent leather spats with equal verve. He was a great giver of silent gifts, ones you didn't know you had received until long after he gave them.
His love for art was complemented by his love for athletics—each, he believed, was key to a balanced diet. Children of all ages flocked to him, and his openness and curiosity led him to see every person as filled with potential and deserving of respect.
Kevin's sense of humor was legendary. He excelled at visual pranks and specialized in hiding things in plain sight, often high atop trees or rooftops. His keen eye and talent as a builder found purchase in the early 1990's when friends asked him to help design sets for a men's club known for its woodsy theatrical performances. Over time, he turned his collection of trinkets, found objects, poetry, and visual wordplay into spirited mash ups that became his own species of comedic presentation, often bewildering and always hilarious.
Kevin saw and heard much that others missed or ignored. This gift, plus his curiosity about the world beyond himself, led him to collect works of art from many underappreciated contemporary artists, musicians, and writers. He often augmented these works with found objects and creations of his own. He paid close attention to craft and was particularly taken by pieces with social or political commentary. Many Bay Area artists attribute their first break to attracting his attention; San Francisco gallerists trusted his judgment.
Kevin met his lifelong companion and wife, Meridee Moore, on the University of Colorado hockey rink when both were 19. They became best friends, moved to New Haven and New York, and later married, a complement of skills that lasted almost 35 years. Kevin introduced Meridee to long boarding and cliff jumping, and when they settled in San Francisco in 1991, he supported her and the family while she pursued her career in investing. They believed the key to a good marriage is to remember to play together.
Kevin surrounded their daughters, Eve, Isabel and Amelia, with art, music and sports. He inspired them by example to pursue their passions, and each day encouraged them to "do their regular good stuff". He drove for countless field trips and took charge of decorations at their proms and Halloween fairs. He was a stalwart at every track meet, every soccer and basketball game, and always had a word for the refs.
Kevin earned a BA in Fine Art from the University of Colorado and a MA in interior design from Parsons School of Design in New York. He served on the boards of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and was Chair of the Board of the Grabhorn Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the Arion Press, the only remaining hand letter press in the world.
Kevin will long be remembered and revered by his wife and children; by his mother Gretchen King, his sister Shannon Bracht, his brothers Neil Jr., Ross and Jeff King; and by his three grandchildren, Jonah, Naomi and Desmond Edwards. A memorial celebrating Kevin's life will be held later in the year. Remembrances in lieu of flowers can be sent to the Grabhorn Institute and UCSF Brain Tumor Center.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Sep. 20 to Sep. 26, 2021.