One year ago today, on February 8th, 2015, my best friend Kyle was killed by a drunk driver. I feel compelled to write a few words about him here (an obituary?) in his memory.
Kyle Quigley was my oldest friend. We became friends in kindergarten and have been close ever since.
We spent most of our waking hours together throughout elementary and middle school. We’d wreak havoc in New Cumberland during the day, and play Goldeneye on Nintendo 64 all night long.
Kyle sparked my lifelong passion for music by introducing me to hip-hop. Back in 7th grade, he’d bring his CDs over and we’d listen to them in my room while I prayed that my parents didn’t hear any of the lyrics: DMX, Notorious BIG, Bone Thugs & Harmony, Wu-Tang, 2Pac, Eminem… the list goes on.
I felt so cool listening to this music on the bus while riding to school. I was sure that we were onto something that most of our peers didn’t know about yet.
When I moved to Philadelphia in high school, we’d take turns visiting one another on the weekends via Amtrak.
I saw my first concert with Kyle, and it was an awesome one: CKY at The X Games in Philadelphia.
When I went to Shippensburg for college, he’d visit often – at least one weekend a month. I always looked forward to his visits. Any college weekend with Kyle visiting was crazy in the best possible way.
We stayed in close touch during his 4 years of service in Iraq. I guess we were “pen pals”… I’d often send him care packages with CDs of the latest metal bands I’d found.
We discovered music festivals together. We had ridiculous amounts of fun at these events.
I can’t count how many festivals we went to together. Bonnaroo, Langerado, High Sierra, multiple years of Camp Bisco, among others.
Our young minds were completely blown by what we saw at Bonnaroo in 2008. To this day, my favorite live music memory is seeing Tool with Kyle at that festival.
Before I moved to LA, I spent my last weekend on the east coast with him, in October of 2009. On Saturday night, we went to see The Disco Biscuits at the 9:30 Club in DC.
The following night, we saw another concert in Philadelphia on the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum: In Flames, Between the Buried and Me, 3 Inches of Blood & The Faceless at The Trocadero Theatre.
The following morning I got in my car and drove across the country to Los Angeles with my sister.
Kyle and I both loved craft beer. He started homebrewing and was getting pretty damn good at it. I had a kegerator in college, and once I graduated I stored it in my garage. When I moved to California, I gave the kegerator to Kyle.
He was kegging his homebrewed beers at this point, so he got a lot of use out of it!
He came out to visit me in California a number of times. I always looked forward to his visits. On two different occasions he stayed with me for several weeks. It was awesome to have my lifelong best friend as a roommate, and I’m extremely grateful for all of the quality time that we got to spend together during these visits.
He was a great houseguest. My roommates (and later on, my fiancée Lauren) never asked me how long he’d be staying for, or when he planned on leaving.
We didn’t have to worry about getting in as many activities as possible in a short amount of time – we were able to just relax, hang out, and watch Ali G videos on YouTube to our hearts content.
Kyle and I shared a love of horror movies. On one of his visits to California, we went to a showing of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There were people in masks chasing guests around the cemetery with chainsaws. Kyle loved it. Here we are before the movie started:
Venice Beach was one of his favorite spots in Los Angeles, primarily for the people watching. He never got tired of walking down to the beach and interacting with all of the colorful personalities that put Venice on the map. I’m pretty sure he had photos with almost all of the regular Venice Beach performers/characters. When he was back on the East Coast, on more than one occasion he texted me and asked if I’d seen anything crazy lately while running through Venice.
Kyle was always down for an adventure, whether planned a year in advance or at the drop of a hat. He was more excitable than most in that regard, and I knew that I could always count on him to join me when I was planning something fun.
I haven’t crossed paths with many people who enjoyed exploring the human psyche and testing peoples limits the way Kyle did. It may just be that we grew up together and provoked one another in this regard. In high school, he kept a giant spotlight in his truck. It was meant for deer tracking, but he used it to irritate people. He also had the loudest air horn I’ve ever heard.
Needless to say, we got into more than our share of trouble together when we were growing up.
One story that comes to mind is from when we were in middle school. Kyle decided to dig a massive hole in my neighbors yard while they weren’t home. He spent a good 45 minutes digging away, in broad daylight, while I stood there nervously laughing. Then I saw my neighbors car coming down the alley. He dropped the shovel and we took off running, but she spotted us and called the police, who were at my parents door 10 minutes later.
He loved creating new memories with his friends and sharing those memories with everyone who wasn’t there. Kyle’s memory was better than mine, for better or worse, and he was a storyteller through and through. He loved telling stories about all of the dumb stuff that we did when we were younger. When you talked to Kyle, sometimes you’d mention something and his eyes would light up, and you’d know right away that you reminded him of a story that he couldn’t wait to tell you.
Kyle was a unique soul, and he truly didn’t care what people thought of him. Case in point, his drivers license photo, where he was dressed in full drag. When he went to the DMV to be photographed that day, he actually had an eye patch on as well, but they made him take it off. He still won that day, as evidenced in this photo.
Kyle was not shy about his political views. He saw the horrors of war firsthand while in Iraq, and when he got back to the US he spent a lot of time as an anti-war activist, attending (and organizing) protests.
One of his proudest moments as an activist was when he met Bobby Seale, co-founder and former chairman of the Black Panthers. He was so excited about this photo:
On February 8th, 2015, Lauren and I were driving home from a weekend in Vegas. Right before we got home, I received the worst phone call of my entire life. Kyles brother told me the news. My entire body went numb, and I had to pull the car over to the side of the road. I was in complete and utter shock.
I still remember exactly where I was when I received that call: getting off of the Cloverfield exit of “the 10” in Santa Monica. Every time I pass that exit, I think of Kyle immediately.
I got on a plane a few days later for his funeral service in Pennsylvania.
Kyle wouldn’t have wanted a somber or reverent gathering. He wouldn’t have showed up in a suit and tie. In fact, he probably would have worn jean shorts and a Dead Prez shirt. If he could have planned his own funeral, he would have tried to get GWAR to play there.
As such, his brother Jeremy and I wore baggy, oversized hawaiian shirts to the funeral service. I felt a little out of place, but I took comfort in knowing that Kyle would have been annoyed at me had I dressed in a reverent manner.
After the funeral service, many of his friends and family gathered at a nearby restaurant and spent the night sharing stories about Kyle. He would have loved it.
Kyle Quigley left us 6 days before his 31st birthday. He was taken way too early, and no one was ready for it. How could you be? That being said, I truly find solace in the fact that he lived his life to the fullest. He did things on his own terms and didn’t let anyone hold him back. I don’t imagine that he left this earth with many regrets or “what ifs”. One example: he got overwhelmed with life in Pennsylvania, so he got in his car and went on a 3 month road trip, because… Why not?
Here’s one of the last text messages that I received from Kyle. Out of the blue, he sent me this old photo that I’d never seen before. It’s of me being woken up by having salsa and moisturizer dumped all over me. Thanks Kyle.
Needless to say, 2015 was a really tough year for many of us. I’ve never dealt with a loss of this magnitude in my life, and I suppose that nothing could have prepared me for it.
Lauren and I have been planning our wedding this past year, and it doesn’t feel right that Kyle isn’t a part of it.
I suppose he will be part of it in a way though, as many of his favorite stories will be shared around the campfire at the wedding.
I’ll do my best to keep the storytelling alive. That’s exactly what he would have wanted.
Kyle was a staunch supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project. Donations can be made in his name here.