Ken and Sue Diviney and their daughter, Kari, have been through hell.
I’m not talking about just a difficult period… the kind of challenge you muscle through with the expectation that things will get better.
No, for the Divineys there never could be a hopeful sunrise the next day or even a happy memory of the past.
It was all just too painful. They had to live in the moment.
Those moments, one after the other, lasted for ten years after Ken and Sue’s son, Kari’s brother, Ryan, was brutally beaten in what started as an argument over the World Series.
November 7, 2009, Ryan, an athletic and gregarious student at WVU, got into an argument with several young men outside a convenience store in Morgantown. Another WVU student, Jonathan May, punched Diviney from behind, knocking him down.
Then Austin Vantrease kicked Ryan in the head… hard. Ryan was taken to the hospital with a broken jaw, a fractured skull and bleeding on his brain.
That was it. Ryan Diviney was in a coma from which there was no hope of recovery. A complete vegetative state. He would require 24-hour care for the rest of his life, which was another ten years. He passed away last August 31st.
Ken Diviney quit his job and became the primary caregiver—feeding, bathing and hygiene, health, physical therapy. Ken told me he became so familiar with Ryan’s frequent medical problems that he could diagnose his condition for paramedics, who were often summoned, and doctors when Ryan went to the hospital.
Ken would drink lots of water so he would have to get up multiple times during the night so he could check on his son.
Ryan’s parents never left his side—ever.
They took him on family trips to their cabin in Hardy County. It was during one of those trips over last Labor Day weekend that Ryan became ill and died while being rushed to the hospital. An autopsy is being performed to determine the exact cause of death.
While visiting with Ken and Sue yesterday before Talkline, I found them incredibly strong and deeply grateful for the support they have received over the years. (Watch full interview with Ken here.)
“For the people of West Virginia, one of the greatest blessings in my life, aside from my family, is community and I consider West Virginia, Morgantown and West Virginia University part of that community,” Ken said. “Thanks to these people. They have held me up to this very day.”
Jonathan May was convicted of misdemeanor battery and served seven months in prison. Austin Vantrease was convicted of the more serious charge of malicious assault. He was granted parole after serving four years of ten-year sentence.
Ken Diviney is still angry, still anxious for a full reckoning for what happened to his son.
“There are two paths to go here,” he told me. “I’m talking to legal counsel on this. There’s a civil aspect to it we can go down. They won’t be charged under the same charge—it would be murder or manslaughter—I’m going to explore every option.”
The Divineys have sued both of Ryan’s attackers. The outcome was sealed, but Ken said that does not preclude additional civil action.
Today, Ryan Diviney will be remembered with a bell ceremony at noon at Oglebay Plaza on the WVU campus. That’s in memory of Ryan, but I also think it should be for Ken, Sue and Kari.
Ryan’s suffering is over, but his mother, father and sister must soldier on. After spending time with them yesterday, I got no sense they were ready to “get on with their lives,” as the living are so often coaxed to do.
Ryan’s life, his decade-long coma, his death, the injustice of it all, are indelibly imprinted on their very being. Through it all they have bent, but not broken. They found the strength and resolve to do what had to be done to care for and love their son.
That’s what families do.