Editor's Note: This story was originally published Jan. 28, 2011. 

Kenneth “Kenny” Cloud was an amazing athlete, a dedicated teacher and man who dearly loved his family.

His friends, colleagues, students and family say he was tough as nails on the outside, but inside, he had a big, soft heart.

Cloud, a 50-year-old father and husband, died Wednesday afternoon of cardiac arrest.

He had spent Wednesday skiing at Great Divide with students from Helena Middle School on an annual trip he always looked forward to. He taught physical education at the school for the past 21 years.

He collapsed on the deck of the lodge shortly after making a final pass to ensure all students were off the hill. Emergency personnel started CPR and waited for an ambulance.

That’s when fellow teacher Aaron Sieminski was called off the bus. The students were already loaded up and prepared to head back to town.

“Once he was out, he never came to,” Sieminski said.

CPR was continued in the ambulance on the ride to St. Peter’s Hospital, but not long after they arrived, he was pronounced dead.

“There wasn’t a single sign throughout the day that there was anything wrong,” Sieminski said.

In fact, Cloud got a clean bill of health from the doctor after a visit just two days earlier.

“It’s very shocking news,” said Jade Fetters, a state wrestling champion whom Cloud had coached.

Fetters said Cloud worked to teach what was right.

“Perfection is granted with repetition, hard work, and not giving up until the clock stops to its last and final tick tock,” Fetters said Cloud taught him. “He revolved his life around making everything the best.”

A sports fan, Cloud followed the Baltimore Orioles, the St. Louis Rams and the L.A. Lakers. But his heart was with the Helena High School Bengals and the University of Montana Grizzlies; he wrestled for both teams. In 1978, Cloud won the 145-pound state championship while at HHS, compiling a 20-3-1 record. He was an all-state defensive back in football and the starting right fielder in Legion baseball.

In a 2003 interview with the IR, Cloud credited his coach, Dave Miller, and his father, Mike Cloud, for his success.

“I would never have had the success I did in high school and then in college, if not for their guidance and support,” Kenny said.

Kenny was the oldest of four boys, all of whom wrestled. Miller says their mother must have always had pottery glue on hand with all the attempted pins throughout the years happening in the house.

Kenny’s brother Mike Cloud was two years his junior. The pair went fishing on Sunday and Kenny spoke about his excitement to go skiing with the students.

“His heart was so big, people didn’t even realize,” Mike said. “We lost a good one.”

Dean Colvin knew first hand about Kenny’s heart. As a lifelong family friend and assistant coach, Colvin described him as meticulous about all aspects of his life.

He remembers in high school Kenny making his bed and folding his clothes every morning. He’d even get after his younger brothers when they didn’t follow suit, Colvin said.

As a professional, his office was diligently organized. Colvin laughs with tears in his eyes describing how his fellow coaches would move perfectly aligned pencils on his desk or tilt a picture frame on the wall.

“He’d notice right away … we’d do it three or four times a week, but he never caught on,” Colvin said.

Colvin said Kenny was competitive and didn’t like to lose, but often commented about how important losing is.

“Sports really prepare you for life because you win some and you lose some,” Colvin said.

Many say Cloud had a good sense of humor, and it’s probably what Colvin will miss most.

Cloud was a man who remembered names. He had strong opinions but was always willing to listen to those of others, Colvin added.

He may have been a die-hard sports enthusiast, but he was involved in much more, although if it wasn’t hunting and fishing, it almost always involved young people in the community.

For 18 years, he contributed to the Intermountain Children’s Home. During the summer months he was part of the maintenance crew that helped keep up the grounds.

Colleague and friend Kelly Robertson admits Kenny wasn’t good at everything.

The two taught together at HMS, and one of the many units throughout the school year was on dance, one that was very popular with students.

“He loved to do it, but he just wasn’t very good at it,” Robertson said.

Cloud was particularly fond of teaching the two-step.

“He would get the steps right but he was always off beat,” Robertson laughs. “He’d just be smiling, going to town, and if the kids followed him, they’d stumble. I kind of had to reteach it.”

Robertson would tease Kenny and call him “no-rhythm Cloud.”

Cloud spent the majority of his professional career at HMS, and the school is feeling a void.

“The district unfortunately had has some experience dealing with the grieving process both when we’ve lost students and staff,” HMS counselor Jim McGrane said. “I’m pretty confident (students) will do well, but it’s a tough time… this experience will help them grow into bigger and better people.”

Janet Erickson worked with him all his years at HMS, and three years at C.R. Anderson Middle School before that.

“We work together like a marriage,” she said. “We knew what the other one was going to do. We each have important roles and it flows. Kenny took so much pride in what we do in the gym at HMS. We knew that what we were doing was right for kids. His part was he was firm, but had a huge heart.”

Erickson said Kenny was in great shape. Sieminski said the ski day was one of his favorites of the year.

“There is a huge part of our circle missing and it will be difficult to put on our happy faces and go on,” Erickson said. “But that would be what he’d want.”

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

(7) comments

blkirish

What a sad, sad loss. My brother coached with Kenny, and had nothing but good things to say about him. My condolences to Mr. Cloud's family and friends. No doubt his presence will be greatly missed.

tylerhouston

Coach Cloud was a great guy that loved and supported the Helena community. Coach Cloud was a devoted coach and mentor for a lot of young people who grew up in Helena. I first met Coach Cloud when I was about nine years old when he came to help coach the AAU program and he continued to be my mat side mentor for the next nine years. He not only was a long time coach that I will never forget but also a good friend that I could speak with for hours everytime we happened to cross paths. Truly a tragic loss. I will miss Coach Cloud as will many others.

DanOlson

It is a terrible day when we lose a person that has meant a lot in our lives.

This is what I remember about Coach Cloud…
I believe I was in 4th grade at Smith school. We had a new PE teacher a fresh faced kid probably right out of college (UM) I’m guessing around 24years old. I can remember looking at this man as a physically fit person with weird ears who believed in what he taught. He was kind yet didn’t take no BS form anyone. I think I may have been in the 7th grade he moved to the middle school were he was my home room teacher and Pe teacher. Ken basically followed everywhere my class was throughout the years.

As I progressed into 5th grade I decided to go into wrestling AAU. There he was with his Best friend Dean. Wouldn’t you know it he was the Coach and that is were it all started. As a freshman in high school I didn’t want to wrestle, I wanted to play basketball with the majority of my other friends. After finding out that I was too rough at the pumpkin pounding he took me aside and told me to join the wrestling team. Took him a few goings but I did. He coached me in wrestling all the way through being a Junior in high school. I was a misfit at that time in my life hanging with some kids that I shouldn’t have been and having trouble at home. Ken and I had a falling out so I didn’t wrestle my Senior year. Looking back this was a great mistake and I regret it. I think he could have made/pushed me to get into the top of the brackets that year. The man always seemed to make you want to try harder.

As far as football goes again it was Ken and Dean. They were the coaches of my small fry football team 6th,7th, and 8th grade. When the group of my friends and I moved into the high school as freshman they moved up with us. I guess you could say that the two of them have been a coach of mine the majority of my young life. Without Ken I wouldn’t have learned how to play football and wrestle at the levels that I did.

He has every respect from me that a person should have. He dedicated his life to many children in both sports and physical education and I’m sure that they all respect him as much as I do. He will be missed and never forgotten in my life and I have thought about him numerous times over the years. Its too bad I couldn’t say thank you for all he has done. He will always be Coach in my book.

ORGriz

I'm shocked and saddened with the news of the sudden passing of Kenny Cloud. He was a top-notch person, educator and coach. And his brothers, Mom & Dad and family in Helena are the best of the best in Montana. He will be sorely missed. My condolences to his family & friends. God Bless the Cloud family in this very difficult time.

Craig Cervantes

ORGriz

I am shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Kenny Cloud. He was a top-notch person, athlete, educator, & coach.
I feel very fortunate to know his brothers & parents > the Cloud family is the best of the best in Montana. This is a tragic loss to the community. My condolences to his family and friends in this difficult time.

Craig Cervantes

GoneFishing

RIP Coach.

Werle3

HMS misses him terribly! I had Mr. Cloud as my Gym teacher this year. I was the first out of many students that had cried their eyes out the day we came to school and just took that time for grieving and more. Our school principle came to the gym during 1st period, that B Day and he held my hand and walked me down to the library so that I could talk to someone. I was probably in there longer than anyone else I saw down there during that class period.
As one of the Werle kids 3 out of 5 of us knew him and had him as a teacher. He loved and enjoyed having us in class as we felt the same way about him. During 6th grade when I had Sieminski and this year as well when I had Cloud, he and I grew closer each and every other day that I had him. I always came to class with a smile upon my face... even when I saw his subs when I never wanted to. Mr. Cloud was a very funny guy he made me laugh and his death made me cry. During these past few weeks we were actually doing our dance unit which we all looked forward to even though some kids didn't want to admit it. I always enjoyed watching Mr. Cloud dance and sometimes I would just smile and giggle a little. I remember a few days ago when he and Erickson were showing one of the dances and I was smiling and he made a funny face at me.
I had very found memories with him such as the times he made jokes with me like when we did our stretches. I remember earlier this year when I stopped wearing my glasses and I it was during our volley ball unit which I've gotten hit in by volley balls a few times- sometimes in the head; but that day he was making fun of me and say I could hit pass the ball because I wasn't wearing my glasses and probably couldn't see it. I loved his humor! During that unit I forgot my glasses on his table and he walked over to me wearing them and I just laughed.
One of my favorite memories of him feels painful to think about and that was when I was at a wrestling meet at our school between HMS and CR A students. He shared half of his potato oles with me and even offered me the job of being his little assistant at the meets for next year when I was an 8th grader. Somehow he knew I was interested- I don't know if he knew about my love for wrestling from Sieminski or if he heard me talk about it to friends in my gym period. He even bribed me by telling me that I would get paid and score some free food.
For kids who said they didn't like him realized when they heard the bad news that he wasn't as bad as they thought he was. He wasn't very hard on his gym classes but they didn't always like how he ran things compared to how Erickson did them but after winter hit he let her have her way with our morning walks. We do them at the beginning of class but instead of bringing our jackets, we started to just walk laps around the gym. Cloud always brought a smile to my face and we had a sweet connection that rarely students have with teachers. Like when he played a song from "Shrek" and told me that song reminded him of me.

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