Heavy Keavy O’Donnell dies; El Wingador pays tribute
In late 1998, I received a random phone call from a man named Kevin O’ Donnell.
Little did I know at the time that the call would change my life forever.
Kevin, or “Heavy Keavy” (as most Wing Bowl fans in the Delaware Valley know him), was a two-time, back-to-back champion of the biggest, single day eating event in the country. He looked to groom a Wing Bowl replacement he could pass the torch to.
As fate would have it, that person turned out to be me.
I recalled in my book how I absolutely knew nothing about Wing Bowl when I spoke with Kevin for the first time. He had been looking for his successor for almost a year. Word was out around South Jersey that I knew my way around a plate of food. Somebody gave him my number, and we soon met up and shared a plate of wings. Never one to beat around the bush, Kevin was initially unimpressed with my eating skills that night at the bar, and basically told me I’d never last in Wing Bowl if I didn’t take the necessary steps for what was to come. I promised him I’d put my heart and soul into training. I did just that, and the rest is history.
Under the El Wingador guise, I eventually surpassed all of Kevin’s eating accomplishments, in regards to Wing Bowl and beyond. Be that as it may, not once did he hold it against me or discourage me. In fact, it was just the opposite, as Kevin and I got closer. It was an honor to stand side by side with him at Wing Bowl after our competitive eating days ended.
After I started my new life in 2015, I reconnected with Heavy Keavy, who was extremely guilt-ridden over the trouble I got myself into. Kevin expressed regret in not being able to help me when I fell upon hard times. He took great pride in the fact that he helped introduce El Wingador to the eating world. As a result, Kevin felt responsible for my transgressions.
While nobody can predict the future, I told Kevin there was no way he should feel guilty over bad choices I made. Everybody is responsible for their own decisions in life. He didn’t know I was in trouble because I didn’t tell him (or anybody) about it. As a result, Kevin took even more of an interest in hearing about my future endeavors, while I kept assuring him he did more than enough to help change my life for the better.
There was so much more to Kevin O’Donnell than just Wing Bowl. His career in the mortgage business speaks for itself. He tackled any challenge head on, and almost always succeeded.
Unfortunately, the one battle Heavy Keavy wouldn’t win was his bout against cancer. We all knew the odds of Kevin surviving were not good. In hospice for almost a year, he kept battling and never gave up—fighting until the bitter end. It was hard visiting him on several occasions, knowing it could likely be the last time I ever saw him.
Simply put, there is no El Wingador if there’s no Kevin O’Donnell, and you can never put a price tag on what he did for me. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters during this difficult time. I will continue to honor his memory and make him proud of everything I set out to accomplish.
Rest easy my friend. Until we meet again.