Editor's note: If you or somebody you know are in crisis, contact Crisis Support Services of Alameda County's 24-hour confidential crisis line at 800-309-2131 or CrisisSupport.org, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, via text at 800-799-4889, chat or at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
There is one thing I could say about growing up around Scott Kinney in Pleasanton -- he always made me laugh and smile.
Need a smile to brighten your day? Talk to Scott. Maybe just not feeling it on a certain day? Talk to Scott and he would turn you around.
It did not matter whether it was around school, on the athletic fields where he starred in football and soccer, or just around town, spend enough time around Scott and you would have tears rolling down your cheeks while you were laughing.
Today I have tears thinking of Scott. But they are not of joy, and there is no laughing.
On Feb. 21, Scott took his own life, inexplicably jumping off a North Bay bridge. He was 59.
We have all lost friends through illness and others because of accidents. Until last weekend, I had never lost a friend to suicide.
It made no sense when I first got the call, and it makes no sense five days later as I sit here writing. I am guessing for most of you, it will make no sense when you read this story.
I mean it’s the Kinneys -- an iconic Pleasanton family! The Kinneys, led by Scott’s parents Ed and Roberta, along with younger brother Brad, were like Pleasanton’s "Royal Family." Come in contact with any of them and you could guarantee a smile on your face.
They have always been sunshine on a cloudy day.
Ed passed in 1995, but Scott (a 1980 Amador Valley High graduate) had grown into that larger-than-life persona carried by his father, a former mayor of Pleasanton. In fact, as Scott grew older, he looked like Ed’s twin.
How could this happen to someone that was always so positive and uplifting?
This is one of those things that sets the Kinney family apart. They decided not to hide from the moment. They wanted the truth to be told after Scott's death -- to help others.
This is the legacy of the Kinney family, and even going through unthinkable agony, it is what they wanted to do.
"We didn’t want to go through a tragedy and not have something positive come out of it,” Brad Kinney told me.
Having known the family for over 50 years, Brad reached out to me and we were able to spend time together to search for answers. He shared what happened.
Brad was in Oregon the week of Feb. 15 and was scheduled to fly back to his home in La Quinta when he had a feeling.
“I don’t know what it was, but I decided to keep the rent-a-car and drive back to stop in Pleasanton,” Brad said. “I wanted to surprise my Mom and Scott.”
Which he did.
“We had a great time,” Brad added. “It was like always -- we laughed and hung out. It was a lot of fun. Everything seemed fine.”
Scott was living in Pleasanton with Roberta as he and his wife, who lived in Clayton with their 18-year-old daughter, were going through a separation. The couple also has a 24-year-old son.
While on the surface it might seem the separation could have been the reason Scott made his choice, Brad, as well as Scott’s friends, didn’t see it.
“They were not fighting, and they got along,” Brad said of Scott and his estranged wife. “They spent time together every Sunday. Scott would go over to the house to pay some bills. They would hang out with the kids, have some lunch and play some family games.”
On that Sunday, the 21st, Scott left for Clayton at the normal 10 a.m., asking Roberta before he left if she could do his laundry.
He never got to Clayton.
“There is a 30-minute time block that’s a mystery,” Brad said. “Something had to trigger him on the drive. Was it a song? A phone call?”
Brad, and his friends believe as well, that when Scott left the house, taking his life wasn’t on his mind.
“You know Scott. If it was pre-planned, he would have left a note explaining why,” his brother said. “Why would he have asked my Mom to do his laundry? It just doesn’t make sense. Not once did Scott say, ‘Brad, I’m really hurting.’”
Scott decided not to get off I-680 at Ygnacio Valley and head to the house. Instead, he kept driving past Martinez and out onto the bridge where he stopped the car.
He got out of his car on the bridge at 10:30 a.m.. Someone saw what was happening and tried to get to him, but Scott jumped. Authorities found the body at 11:15 a.m.
It would be easy to understand if Brad and Roberta wanted to circle the wagons and withdraw from the public. Then again, that would defy what it means to be a Kinney.
Fight through your pain and suffering to help others. Brad feels there is a simple message that comes from Scott’s death.
“Be really open and honest with things you are dealing with,” Brad said. “Rely on your faith and your friends. If you are going through something -- are depressed -- go and get help. Talk with your friends; you are not alone.”
Brad also added people should be looking for people that may be struggling.
“Always communicate and help others process with what they are dealing with at the time,” he said.
The Kinney family will be having a family get together at Scott’s house in the next month to honor his memory.
Later this year there will be what Brad is calling an "Amador reunion," which will be held at a fellow Amador alumni’s ranch. Details are to come, but Brad was clear as to how it should proceed.
“It will be a blowout for everyone to get together,” Brad said. “It should be about you all honoring each other’s friendship, as well as to honor Scott.”
I have a feeling that day, the tears of pain will be joined by tears of laughter recalling Scott. And that is exactly the way Scott would want it -- make us laugh.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his "Pleasanton Preps" column, email [email protected]