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 firstname.lastname@example.org