Tom King will remember his son Kenzie as the social boy with the infectious, quick smile.
Blakely, Kenzie’s sister, will remember him as her best friend, and the funniest person she has ever known.
At the age of 25, Mackenzie Austin Drew King of Niagara-on-the-Lake died in a car collision last Friday morning on his way to work in Welland.
Tom has two stories to tell about the son he and Blakely called Kenzie, and the boy his friends called Mack. One is the tragedy of losing his beloved son in a tragic accident. The other is the darkness of the events that led up to it.
Mackenzie had been working for QBM in Welland, as a conveyor belt splicing technician, for about two and a half years. It was a good job, well-paying, one that sent Mackenzie all around the world, sometimes on ships, to repair belt splicing.
He loved to travel, and often went away with other family members, says Blakely.
Tom would get up and make his son’s breakfast, see him off to work, and when Mackenzie finished his work day, most often he’d disappear in the basement.
In recent years, he’d been a loner, cut off from his school friends, although he had a girlfriend.
“When you’re on drugs, you don’t need friends,” explains Tom. “Drugs are your friend.”
Tom says his son’s problem started years ago, when Tom had knee replacement surgery. He came home with oxycodone for pain, but he was allergic to it, and didn’t take it.
Mackenzie discovered the pills, shared them with his friends, and he was hooked.
It was about six years ago that he shared his problem with his dad, and entered a rehab program.
But he relapsed. It was easy, with a drug dealer not too far away, always ready to sell him drugs.
The boy who had attended St. Michael Catholic Elementary School, Niagara District Secondary School until it closed, and then Governor Simcoe Secondary School, the boy who was a great athlete, playing travel hockey and soccer, and grew into a handsome young man, couldn’t be helped.
Blakely remembers her brother as a surprise, one with beautiful blue eyes, brown hair and porcelain skin — her parents had been told throughout her mom’s pregnancy that they were having a girl.
His favourite movie growing up was Toy Story, she says. He would watch it over and over again and everywhere he went, he had to bring along his yellow “blanky,” she recalls.
“Before our eyes,” she says, “Kenzie became this
handsome young man. He was tall and slender, standing at 6 foot 1 inch, and had the most freckly skin.”
Kenzie would leave her “in tears and bellyaches” from laughing so hard, she says.
“He was a social butterfly, and could strike a conversation with anyone.”
Kenzie was adventurous, sailed as a youngster with the NOTL Sailing Club, and “built these beautiful large wooden boats as a child,” says Blakely.
Because of his love of boats, and travel, his job was a perfect fit for him, she adds.
He also had “the biggest spot soft for animals,” and in every picture she has of him, he’s holding or cuddling one of the family pets.
“He loved our dogs immensely, and he left behind not only us, but his dog named Chevy.”
He loved Tom’s wine, a Costco steak, and a concert at the Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre with his sister and father, and more recently, with his girlfriend Emily, says Blakely.
“He truly did have a big heart, and had so much love to give.”
But now, says Tom, with the loss of his son, he has made a promise to himself and to Kenzie.
“I’m on a mission. I want to rid the town of this drug dealer.”
He knows his name. He has been to his house to ask him to stop.
He has provided the names to the police, he says, but to his knowledge, nothing has been done. He can only imagine it isn’t a police priority.
He says the dealer admitted to selling his son drugs the night before his death, and Tom knows the drug contributed to the collision. Mackenzie fell asleep at the wheel at 8 a.m. on his way to work in Welland, Tom says. He went off the road and into a hydro pole. He was thrown from the Jeep, and died instantly. “He never knew what happened. He didn’t even hit the brakes.”
He was taking Xanax, a drug sold for anxiety, but when melted and smoked, produces “a very quick high,” says Tom.
He says he knows of other young adults in NOTL who have suffered from overdoses.
“If I can stop another family from going through this, my mission will be worth it.”
In addition to Tom and Blakely, Mackenzie is survived by his mother Louise (Paul) and his half-brother Colton in New Brunswick.
He will be missed by many aunts, uncles, and cousins and especially his favourite uncle Peter and long-time friend Emily who loved him dearly.
A celebration of Mackenzie’s life will be held at a later time, when this pandemic is over.