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Chosen Books’ Ken suffers a stroke, benefits in planning stage

By |2020-06-17T11:15:08-04:00February 12th, 2004|Uncategorized|

ROYAL OAK – He’s something of a celebrity in the community, and now he needs his fans to rally. Ken of Chosen Books recently suffered a debilitating stroke. His road to recovery will be a long one, friends say, but one they are sure he will travel.
The trouble started for Ken on Sunday, Jan. 31. He was home when the pain began and didn’t believe it serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. The next morning, however, he relented when he was unable to walk.
Ken’s roommate, Rod St. Clair, took him to St. John’s Hospital in Warren.
“They immediately tested him and found he’d had a stroke,” said St. Clair.
And not just one – further test revealed that Ken had had five strokes in the past six months. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Ken had suffered a major stroke in 1999 and, according to St. Clair, “the damage from this stroke overlapped his previous damage.”
At the present, Ken has been moved to St. John’s North Shore Hospital in Harrison Township, where he is undergoing physical therapy. Doctors say he will be there for at least a month, when they plan on reevaluating his condition.
“Right now he’s holding his own,” said St. Clair. “He’s in great spirits. He’s emotional, but that goes with the territory.”
Ken cannot walk. He has feeling on the left side of his body, but not the use of his motor skills there. Left handed, Ken has had to learn to feed himself with his right hand.
Like anyone in Ken’s position would, he worries about the costs of the extensive treatments he will have to undergo. Doctors estimate that the total tab for his month-long stay and the aftercare he will require will top the $100,000 mark. He is uninsured.
“We did get him emergency Medicare,” St. Clair said. “But we don’t know when that’s going to kick in and Medicare only pays so much.”
St. Clair plans to set up an account for Ken at TCF Bank this week. In the meantime, donations or cards for Ken can be left at the store. Several benefits are also being planned around the area, though none had been confirmed at press time.
“Everyone has said they’re going to do whatever they can,” said St. Clair.

‘Nothing negative to say about Ken’

Newcomers to Chosen Books are often taken back by Ken’s provocative sense of humor. But regulars expect nothing less, and it’s only one aspect – if undoubtedly the most colorful – of his personality. Indeed, Ken plays many roles to the customers he serves.
“Here you’re like a bartender, a doctor, a lawyer – and you help answer a lot of questions,” Ken said in a 1999 interview. “I just use common sense. That’s the main thing.”
Ken’s special brand of common sense has earned him a large league of admirers.
“He’s concerned about everybody,” said Brad Brownheim, who met Ken when he first started working for Chosen Books 18 years ago. “He’s always been very accommodating. If there is anything I need or need to know, or if there’s anything I’m looking for, he usually finds it for me.”
He also finds time to talk for a minute or too, for Ken’s customers are also his friends.
“I get along famously with him,” said longtime customer Gordon Barnard, whom Ken affectionately refers by his alter ego of Rita Hayworth. The two trade barbs every time they meet, and Barnard wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s a camp situation. Camp can be looked up as wicked or evil, but there never seems to be that sort of feeling with Ken. It’s harmless. It’s fun. There is no evil intent. Ken always does it in a happy way.”
In short, Barnard knows that Ken cares.
“If I miss two or three weeks, Ken is always asking about me. He says, ‘When is Rita coming back in?'” said Barnard. “I have nothing negative to say about Ken, and I don’t think too many people do.”
Between The Lines will post details of the benefit fundraisers for Ken in both the printed and online versions of the paper as soon as they’re announced. In the meantime, cards can be sent to Ken in care of the store at: Ken, c/o Chosen Books, 120 W. Fourth St.,
Royal Oak, MI 48067.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.