New England PVA sadly informs our readers that NEPVA President Ken Medeiros passed away on July 15th, 2008.
Ken was serving in the U.S. Army, in the 101st Airborne Unit, 502nd infantry, when he suffered a spinal cord injury during training maneuvers prior to the Bay of Pigs engagement. Ken has been a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the New England Chapter (NEPVA) since 1963. He later went to college and received an Associate’s Degree in Business.
Ken has always been active in wheelchair sports, long before athletically enhanced wheelchairs were available. His favorite sport was wheelchair basketball, in which he excelled and played at a highly competitive level. In 2006, Ken had the honor of being inducted into the Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame. Ken was also a proficient bowler, having participated in many local and PVA sanctioned events, often finishing among the top contenders. Ken has been a frequent participant in PVA’s Veterans Games, an event he spoke fondly of for the competition, camaraderie, and seeing old and newer friends again. In 2002, Ken was honored to receive the Spirit of the Games Award during the closing ceremony at the National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games in Cleveland, Ohio.
While Ken exemplified the true meaning of sportsmanship when he was involved in basketball and other activities, his most recent accomplishments speak for themselves. Ken was a volunteer for NEPVA over the years and became more and more involved with the organization. He was elected to the Chapter’s Board of Directors (BOD) in 1996 and was soon elected as Vice President in 1998 under then NEPVA President Larry Callaghan. Undoubtedly Ken learned more about PVA, NEPVA, and veterans issues from Larry, and Ken was later elected by the Chapter’s membership as NEPVA President in 2000. He has been re-elected every year since.
Ken took the spirit of team-work and camaraderie from the athletic arenas into the office, board room, and beyond. Since becoming President, Ken has worked tirelessly in building strong working relationships with the VISN 1 Director and VA staff. His efforts had a sole agenda, to assist all veterans especially the most severely injured. The commitment and compassion he has shown on the courts, he continued to show all individuals at all levels to bring the Veterans Administration and the New England Chapter together.
Ken realized that while the Chapter office is in Massachusetts, there were six states in New England and that NEPVA had a responsibility to assist all of our members. He soon appointed Chapter members residing in the other New England states to serve as Chapter liaisons at the VA SCI clinics. It has been an extremely helpful endeavor, as the liaison has acute knowledge of what is working well or of any issues that need to be addressed at that particular VAMC. If there were no liaison or hospital staff member in communication with the Chapter, there would most likely be no corrective measures to address a problem. What this has also done is give the membership in each New England state the confident feeling that NEPVA is there looking out for their best interests.
He has been immensely supportive of a problem facing not just the VA, but the country as a whole, in the area of hiring nurses. The West Roxbury facility for many, many years was the least staffed and had the least available beds for patients. As Chapter President, he worked with all parties; the Director of the Boston VA Healthcare System, the SCI Chief, Nurse Manager, PVA’s Service Office in Boston, and staff themselves in finding a solution to the problem. The staffing and beds available levels are at a number they had not been in years and the nursing staff’s confidence and positive attitude has been in direct correlation with his efforts.
National PVA honors Chapters in various ways with awards at the PVA Annual Convention. It is because of Ken’s enthusiasm and determination, the Chapter received several PVA awards during his stewardship: The John M. Price Award (Most Outstanding Chapter) two times, the Bob Webb Excellence in a Newsletter Award, the Sports and Recreation Award, and the Chapter Web Site Award. In 2008, PVA awarded Ken the Cliff Crase Award for Professionalism for his past work for veterans afflicted with spinal cord injury and disease and all individuals with disabilities.
New England PVA wishes its heartfelt prayers and thoughts for Ken’s family. Ken will be sorely missed but fondly remembered.