KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Kevin Beaver usually walked from his West Plaza home to his Westport workplace, McCoy's Public House and Brew Kitchen, stretching the 15-minute walk into an enjoyable 20-minute stroll.
The Kansas City chef didn't see well enough to drive, and he never sensed any danger in his early-morning ritual.
Friday morning seemed no different. The man everyone called simply Beaver woke up before dawn, figured it was warm enough and kissed his wife goodbye.
By 6:20 a.m. he had reached 43rd and Wyoming streets. There, a would-be robber cut short the life of the simple, sweet, silly midtown man who taught himself to cook and worked his way into the kitchens of Kansas City.
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"I bet you can't walk into a kitchen in Kansas City without somebody in there who will know him," said his friend Melanie Roberts. "I guarantee it."
Beaver, 40, struggled with the assailant. Police said the man pulled out a handgun and fired several shots into Beaver's torso. Beaver ran around the corner and collapsed in the street, where neighbors found him. Neighbors rendered first aid until police arrived.
Police said Friday they had no suspects in the case.
Beaver's wife, Susie, missed the first call from authorities about the shooting but rushed to St. Luke's Hospital once she found out.
"Beaver would say, 'Don't panic,' " Susie Beaver said. "I kept hoping it wasn't serious. Couldn't possibly be. I didn't want to believe it. That sort of thing happens to other people, other sad people on TV."
By the time doctors let her into his room in the intensive-care unit he was brain-dead. Doctors had cut off part of his lung to save him, but he lost too much blood. Beaver died at 9:11 a.m. Beaver worked hard to become a chef. He grew up cooking for his older sister and younger brother, and after he left home at the age of 15, a priest told him he should graduate from high school rather than simply earn his GED. So Beaver worked at restaurants while completing his education at Rockhurst High School.
As an adult he was sous chef at Capital Grille, Webster House and Accurso's before he became a prep chef at McCoy's, making soups, breads, sauces and desserts. There he invented the chocolate peanut-butter ice cream sandwich, his wife and Roberts said.
He cooked for friends' birthday parties, for his wife on their first date, and even for his own wedding.
"He could make something amazing out of nothing," his wife said.
Other midtown denizens knew Beaver for sitting on the porch of his wooded bungalow with his big bear of a dog, Spike, a black lab-chow-husky mix. He called it a Blachowsky.
"He liked his dog, his house, his lady and his home," Roberts said. "He was a homebody."
When not stirring up a favorite dish in the kitchen, Beaver entertained friends with trivia or stories — embellished perhaps for entertainment value.
"'Susie, what's rule Number 1?' he'd say," according to his wife. "'Believe the Beave.' "
Four years ago he and Susie married. He promised her that even though he hated the cold, they would move to northern Wisconsin upon retirement so she could be with her family.
Susie said she didn't feel the need for revenge against the gunman. She just misses Beaver.
"Everyone who knew him loved him," his wife said. "Everyone should know what a good person he was."