Kevin’s Siblings Share Memories of Their Brother on His Birthday

Kevin, the inspiration for Kevin Guest House, was a 13-year-old boy from Pennsylvania who was diagnosed with leukemia and treated at Roswell Park. During his treatment, the Garveys became aware of many other families traveling for care who were unable to find affordable lodging, some even sleeping in their cars. They knew they needed to help, and Claudia & Cyril Garvey lovingly founded the House as a lasting tribute to Kevin.

Kevin was one of eight children in the Garvey family. On Kevin’s birthday, his sibling share memories of Kevin, and thoughts on his legacy:

Kevin was my roommate. He was two years older than me and other than the days he spent at Roswell Park Memorial we spent every day of his life together. We had twin beds (his is now on the top floor in Kevin’s Guest House) where each night mom and dad would kneel beside the bed and say prayers with us. They left a crack in the door when they left, enough light for us to see each other’s faces while we talked. We told each other big secrets; who got in trouble at school that day, which girl he hoped liked him, and the things that made us scared. We would hear voices downstairs, older brothers and sisters home from college, phone calls, laughter. We used to wonder what it would be like to be big, to be allowed to stay up late and speak about the things grownups know and we didn’t understand.

Kevin was a regular boy before he got sick. It’s true he was sweeter than most boys his age, but he was not a saint. Yet.

Kevin’s cancer showed up one summer like a thief who broke down the door and stole our dreams. But there was a secret treasure in our house the thief didn’t know about and couldn’t steal. It had been handed down from generation to generation. It was our inheritance. It was invisible, but more powerful than tigers or armies or even the thief who came to the door.

Heaven exists. There is another life beyond what we can see. It is already here, it has always been, and it will never end. So when Kevin’s hair fell out, and he became thin and weak, he told me he was not afraid. He knew he was about go there. He knew he would still somehow be with us. And he knew he would meet us there.

Without heaven nothing makes sense. Once the veil between heaven and earth is pulled back, even a young boy can see that he doesn’t have to be afraid.

The last nights we spent in that small bedroom are part of my secret treasure. They are what I am passing on to my children and grandchildren. I have a brother in heaven. He told me he would be there and I believe him. When the thief comes banging on my door, wielding a terrifying pandemic or loss of a job or a bad biopsy result I remember the promise made to Kevin and to me and to our family.

God exists and He has defeated all our enemies, and He is waiting for us. The invisible jewel, love, can never die. Love is what pulls us out of fear and can make even death a mere crack in door.

Kevin would want us all to know. There is nothing to be afraid of.

Happy birthday Kev.

Thank you to all the Kevin Guest House family
who make love present every day.

Margaret and family at Affaire of the Heart. 


Kevin was my little brother in body who is now my little brother in spirit.  He was also my hero. We grew up 18 months apart and as such we spent lots of times doing what boys do.  And Kevin always did those things much better than I ever could.  He was an amazing athlete; it used to drive me crazy that he would get picked ahead of me – his older brother (!) in pickup games whether it was basketball, baseball, football or water sports- he was the man!  Further, he was a master mimic.  He could listen to or observe a person, just one time, and then do a spot on perfect impression of them.  He was hysterical.  He was also an enigma: he was game for almost anything-unless it was a scary movie, or a bat, or the thought of our then upcoming trip to Europe as a family….”What if the plane runs out of gas over the ocean! I can’t go!”.  However, if you offered him $5 he would jump into the ring with Mohammed Ali.  The kid had courage.  And he never complained.

Most of all, he showed his entire family and those blessed to be around him both during his life but most especially during his illness, what courage, Faith, strength, grit, and a still sharp wit could do even in the face of his illness-the most extreme of challenges.

Kevin was only with us here on Earth for 13 short years but he has left a good and kind and everlasting footprint on our world.

May Kevin Guest House continue to serve those, like Kevin, at their most needed time,  with a place of comfort, love and life.


Hugh with wife Nina and extended family 


One of the greatest treasures I think for me, if not the greatest treasure and lasting treasure of Kevin’s life, was his humility. I never recall him complaining about his suffering, fretting about the future, or rejecting his illness. He flew to Lourdes, France in the company of mom and dad, went through the Baths and I believe all were purified there and ready for God’s will, whatever it was. He was a true lamb and beloved of God and precious to us for facing death with the courage of a lion. Blessed be God for giving him to us! May his intercession bring to all who find shelter at his Home, equal portions of the grace God poured on our brother.

Blessed be God! Happy birthday Kevin!!

Annette and siblings at Kevin Guest House.


Today would be Kevin’s 62nd birthday.  Like many who have lost a family member at an early age … my thoughts about dear brother Kevin reflect only the fondest memories of him and I hope a reflection of the best in all of us.

With that said this is a memory of Kevin a sibling recounted to me only in the recent past as follows;

My parents last trip together with brother Kevin was to Lourdes, France, where Kevin, upon leaving the bath waters said, “Well, I got what I need.”  Dad said we are praying for a miracle.  Kevin responded … “You know Dad, you can’t always see miracles.”

Shortly after this trip Kevin died, and who says you can’t see miracles … America’s First Hospitality House … Kevin Guest House opened our doors six months later in July, 1972!


Tom and Mary enjoy a dance at Affaire of the Heart. 


There is a wonderful picture in our family album of my youngest brother Kevin at the age of 9, small suitcase in hand, ready to head off for a few weeks of summer camp. Beneath the picture is a handwritten postcard he sent home a few days later saying how much he was missing our brothers and sisters and how he wished he could be with us at our lake house. Kevin also said that he really missed being there to help Dad and a neighbor finish building the front deck they had been working on when he left for camp.

Even at such a young age, there was a real sensitivity and spirit of love, compassion and giving that made Kevin such a unique little boy.

Today, June 5th on what would have been Kevin’s 62nd birthday, his spirit lives on through the mission of Kevin Guest House.


Denis and his wife Suzy visit Kevin Guest House, with her sister Barbara.


As a little boy Kevin was afraid of the most innocent things.  When he was four years old he would hide in his room when we older children played Bobby Pickett’s novelty song, Monster Mash.  When he was five years old Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds was released.  For about a year Kevin dreaded to go outside, for fear of the robins and sparrows.

How ironic it was that when he got sick and went to Roswell for treatment, he endured the most painful procedures — bone marrow treatments, ice baths, constant shots and blood tests — without complaint.  We never would have imagined that the timid little boy he was would be an example of bravery to all of us.


John pictured top right with many of his siblings, children and grandchildren.


This note is very hard for me to write.  Of the 8 of us I am the one who had the least time with Kevin.  My memories of him are bookends of his life.  Caring for him as an infant was a joy.  I never remember him crying.  Even crawling with a heavy corrective bar on his shoes he was happy. All  the stories my brothers tell about Kevin have become mine too.

My last time with him was the Christmas before he died.  He asked me for help with his clothes because he was too weak to do it himself. He was sitting up in bed with our Mom giving him breakfast when I had my last goodbye. I never believed that he was going to die until I received the call from our Dad.  He is my continuing faith in the Resurrection.

Kevin’s house is filled with his spirit.  It shines through all of you who open his doors to all those in need.  May God continue to bless you and all those who keep Kevin’s memory alive.


Mary, third from right, at the KGH 40th anniversary. 


About the author

%d bloggers like this: