Gormly loses battle; beloved PLHS vice principal's life celebrated
by SCOTT HOPKINS
Published - 07/07/16 - 06:05 AM | 6283 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kevin Gormly shows off his smile and favorite maroon and gold tie in his office at Point Loma High School in 2010. / Photo by Scott Hopkins
Kevin Gormly shows off his smile and favorite maroon and gold tie in his office at Point Loma High School in 2010. / Photo by Scott Hopkins
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When I, like anyone else, approached Kevin Gormly, we were assured of receiving one thing in return: a smile.

That wide, trademark Kevin smile was known to thousands of Point Loma High School students, staff, parents and community members over the past l7 years as Kevin served the school and community, beginning in 1999 when he arrived on campus to teach Spanish and social science. 

In 2003, he was selected for a vacant vice principal position, and it was here he excelled. Most VPs are disliked – often hated – by students who have been disciplined or punished. Kevin managed to do his job and earn the respect and even friendship of his "clients."

That tenure lasted until early October of 2015 when the popular administrator began experiencing headaches.

First thought to be a minor problem, Kevin was given antibiotics, but the pains persisted. Tests were ordered, and the results were both stunning and sobering: brain tumor.

Kevin was never again to set foot again on the campus he so loved and spend time with the students and staff who were so dear to his heart.

Surgery was immediately scheduled, and most of the tumor was removed. Weeks of radiation followed, and when the headaches returned, an examination showed the original tumor was growing again and a new, smaller tumor had appeared.

Kevin endured his most difficult days in early April when intense pains and sickness consumed him and mystified his doctors, who inserted a shunt in his brain in an attempt to relieve fluid buildup. But nothing was effective, and two new aggressive tumors were discovered.

In early May, Kevin was brought home and placed in hospice care, later to return to the hospital. He fought so strongly during his final eight weeks, astonishing family members, close friends and caregivers.

But on the afternoon of June 24, Kevin's battle ended. His family posted this on a "GoFundMe" page established in his name:

"It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart we share with you all that God has taken our beloved Kevin home. He fought like a champ to stay here with his family, but God mercifully ended his suffering yesterday afternoon."

Kevin was only 52 years old.

We enjoyed a special relationship because of my writing for the Peninsula Beacon, and I failed to realize how the sight of Kevin and his ever-present smile picked me up during a difficult day or rough week.

I have shed many tears for Kevin over the past eight months and prayed for him often.

Kevin immediately pinned the nickname "Scottie" on me, and I wore it proudly. At a recent sold-out benefit spaghetti dinner (that raised $15,645 for the Gormly family), I met his mother, Rebecca, for the first time. I introduced myself as Scottie, and her eyes lit up. "So you're Scottie," she said. "Kevin spoke of you often." 

While I was honored and fought back tears, I have since berated myself for not writing more cards, sending messages or even inquiring more often about his condition. Forgive me, Kevin.

I believe the last time I saw Kevin was during a visit to the PLHS campus by Academy Award-winning actress Margaret Avery, a Pointer alumna. Following her talk to two periods of students, Kevin asked for a photo with Avery, which I took. That photo will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Earlier this week, I took two large, framed photos of Kevin to Rebecca and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Robert Gormly, a Vietnam War-injured combat veteran, to their Chula Vista home. We chatted for awhile and I learned they moved from Norfolk, Va. when Kevin was entering junior high school. We laughed when I told them I may likely have been his sixth-grade teacher down the street at Kellogg School if they had arrived a year earlier.

As it was, Kevin and I realized that, during Hilltop's glory years of football from 1979-1981, I, along with groups of my sixth-grade students, watched his games. Little did we know that, years later, our paths would cross again. As a senior, Kevin was selected All-Conference, a standout player on great teams, foreshadowing his future at PLHS.

Many times I stood with Kevin at athletic events or in the lunch area and watched him work his magic, chatting with random students while others approached to converse with him or ask a question.

As he roamed the campus, sometimes on foot, other times in a golf cart, students called, "Here comes 'Gorm Storm,'" the loving nickname bestowed on him by creative campus teens. 

Kevin had a favorite maroon tie with gold accents that matched PLHS' colors. Facing the emotionally excruciating fact he would never return to the campus, he gave the tie to Principal Hans Becker when Becker visited Kevin's home during his illness. Becker then wore the tie to the school's 91st commencement last month, telling the audience its story during his remarks.

Also last month, I arranged to interview this year's PLHS valedictorian Kei Takanami for a Beacon story. I met Kei in the school's main office. Becker and current vice principal Kelly Lowry, who was being mentored by Kevin, suggested I do the interview in Kevin's vacant office.

Considering his office "sacred ground," I must have looked stunned, but I slowly walked around my good friend's desk, pulled out his chair and sat down. I noticed a 24-pack of water on the floor, thought for a moment, then smiled and thought "Why not?" I gave a bottle to Kei, took one for myself and began the interview.

We spoke for 20 minutes as Kei shared his fascinating life with me. But he must have wondered, "Why does this reporter keep wiping tears away?"

If there's a school campus in heaven, it's now in better hands.

Godspeed, Kevin. I love you, my friend.

Kevin is survived by his parents, a nephew, and wife Veronica. The two met in 1999 while teaching at PLHS. They have two beautiful children, Samantha and Joseph.

Donations are requested by the family, in memory of Kevin Gormly, to the Cancer Research Institute, One Exchange Plaza, 55 Broadway, Suite 1802, New York, NY 10006, or at (800) 99-CANCER or www.cancerresearch.org.

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