Family, friends remember man who died on Spartan Snowmass course

Maddie Vincent
The Aspen Times

It was a hot, sunny day on Fanny Hill as thousands of racers across the state, country and even world came out to compete for the Spartan Snowmass mountain race series Aug. 3, and Kenneth “Kenny” Crochet was excited to be one of them.

Crochet, of Colorado Springs, was set to take on his last leg of a Spartan Race trifecta, or third Spartan race completed in one calendar year, which would earn him a special medal and Spartan recognition.

Photos of Crochet competing in this final trifecta race show his excitement and the big, bright smile his friends and family members knew him for best.

Soon after these photos were taken, they became the last time Crochet’s smile would be captured.

“You know he was being worked harder than anything, but you didn’t see that on him, he was just filled with joy in what he was doing,” Crochet’s older brother, Steve, said in a phone interview late last week. “That smile he carried was the first thing that everybody saw and he carried that smile in everything that he did.”

Around 1 p.m. Aug. 3, Crochet reportedly “went down” during his Spartan competition, according to the coroner’s report. A couple from Arizona racing with him stopped to administer CPR until Spartan medical staff arrived.

Crochet was transported to the Aspen Valley Hospital. The Arizona couple took his Spartan headband and Colorado hat he was wearing through the finish line in his honor, Steve said.

At 1:56 p.m., Crochet was pronounced dead due to suspected cardiac complications. He was 50 and just over a month away from turning 51.

“Over the past three or four years, Kenny spent a lot of time reshaping his body and reshaping himself. He was always at the gym,” Steve said. “He was literally at the peak of his health, which makes this kind of completely un-understandable on how this happens to someone who did everything right.”

According to Steve and the dozens of people who made posts about Crochet on Facebook, Kenny didn’t just do everything right when it came to health and fitness. He did most everything right.

“My life was better with you in it. My life is less with you gone. But I am a better person for knowing you,” an old friend wrote.

“He taught me about trust at an incredibly important time in my life … he exemplified friendship in a way few people ever can,” another friend wrote.

“I’ll miss how you’d stop by every day to say good morning & goodbye without fail, and if my door was closed because I was in a meeting, you’d wave & smile through the window until you were sure I saw you,” a coworker wrote. “Everything you did, you did wholeheartedly.”

Since Crochet was 9, he lived in Colorado Springs with his two older siblings, Steve and Toni, and his parents, Don and Earline.

The Crochet family was tight knit, but the two brothers had an especially close bond growing up and into adulthood, sharing a deep love for Scrabble and heavy metal music, Steve said.

After graduating from Colorado College with a mathematics degree, Crochet worked his way up the ladder in the internet technology field, landing his most recent job as the director of database management for PGi, which creates and develops collaborative video conferencing and virtual communication services.

Outside of work and spending time with his sons, Joey and Alex, and his wife, Molly, Crochet was known for his great generosity and enthusiasm to learn new things.

From teaching himself how to sew and embroider, to cooking on an award-winning barbecue team, Crochet showed Steve and many of close friends and family he could do anything he set his mind to.

“His skills were limitless; if there was something he wanted to do, he bought the equipment and he taught himself how to do it,” Steve said, reflecting on the time Crochet sewed renaissance fair costumes for Alex, Joey and himself from scratch.

Crochet and his wife were heavily involved in giving back to their community. Steve said the couple volunteered and donated to local animal charities and were willing to help out whoever was in need.

“Kenny’s generosity was boundless. … He always saw what people needed without them asking for it,” Steve said. “He would always find a way to fulfill your need and always make the time.”

The day before Crochet’s death, which was Steve’s 53rd birthday, the brothers talked on the phone about Steve’s business plan to move to Ireland and open a bed and breakfast.

Steve said Crochet was working to edit and perfect the business plan, saying he’d help Steve finish it after his Spartan race.

“We talked about what he was helping me with but not about anything else,” Steve said. “He’d take the time, he’d stop, he’d never ask for anything and he’d never say he was too busy.”

As Steve reflected on Kenny’s life, he also reflected on the surprise of his death. Steve said Kenny recently had an in-depth series of cardiac tests done to ensure his heart was healthy following two heart attacks Steve endured and their mom’s recent open heart surgery.

“Literally within the past two years he had a full work up, the doctors did every test and they told him everything was good. Literally he was at the healthiest point of his life,” Steve said.

The Crochet family is waiting on the results of Kenny’s autopsy and toxicology tests to better understand what happened during the race. Steve said a celebration of life for Kenny will be held Sept. 1 in Colorado Springs, hopefully on the Colorado College campus, and that Kenny’s full obituary will be published in the Colorado Springs Gazette on Aug. 18.

Moving forward, Steve said he is confident that Crochet’s parents, sons and wife will carry out his genuine and honest legacy, but that he’s not sure what life will be like without him.

“He cannot be replaced. There are very few people who were as endearing and true as Kenny was and I doubt anybody in the world will ever have a negative thing to say about him,” Steve said. “The world is emptier, completely emptier because he’s not here. Everyone — everyone — loses because he’s not here.”

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