SPRINGDALE — Kevin Bodenstein and his wife and high school sweetheart, Pam, had four boys: Jon, Nathan, Greg and Travis.
Even before the boys reached high school at Shiloh Christian, Kevin made it a point to be involved at the school. Whether it was as the band booster club president or driving the football team’s bus on road trips, he was as “hands-on” a parent as there was.
Kevin had played football in high school in Hobart, Okla., starting at center and even winning a state championship during his senior season in 1980. If you ask Pam, however, his true love was his tuba.
“To be honest, he was a bandie at heart,” Pam said, smiling.
Kevin’s wide range of interests were best on display in the four boys. If there was a ball involved in an activity, Jon took part. Nathan and Greg had other interests, singing among them, but that didn’t stop Kevin from encouraging them and playing active role in everything they did
The one common trait the three oldest boys shared was easily identifiable; they were all momma’s boys.
And then there was the baby the group: Travis.
“From the time Trav walked and talked, he wanted to be with his daddy,” Pam said. “I told Kevin, ‘You had four and you finally got your boy, your daddy’ boy.’
“From Day 1, he was always daddy’s boy.”
Kevin first complained to Pam about being out of breath at halftime of the Shiloh-Star City football playoff game in 2003. He had driven the Saints team bus to the game, just like always, but he called home to tell his wife that he was out of breath and his chest hurt — and that he planned to watch the second half of the game from the bus.
Looking back, Pam believes the blood clots would likely have killed anyone else right then, but not someone as physically strong as Kevin, who stood nearly 6-foot-8 and weighed 400 pounds.
The next few days are a blur for Pam. The following day, after returning at 3 a.m. with the team, Kevin continued to feel fatigued. On a quick visit to Target to pick up a present for a birthday party Travis was attending later that day, Kevin had to catch his breath after a short walk in from the parking lot.
A day later, on Sunday, Kevin spent most of the day in his easy chair. Later in the day, after Jon had returned to college after a visit home for the Thanksgiving weekend, Pam was making some popcorn when she heard Kevin call out her name, and she found him passed out in the bathroom.
The diagnosis of blot clots came on Tuesday, and Kevin was doing better by Wednesday — though any exertion led to a seizure. On Thursday, after being out of bed for about 45 minutes while his hospital bed was changed, Kevin looked at Pam and said, “I’m going to do it again,” referencing another seizure.
She knew that one was different.
Kevin passed away on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2003. He was 40 years old.
Time heals most wounds but not completely.
For all of her joy — watching her boys grow up, watching them get married, watching them turn 21, watching her first grandchild be born — the happiest moments also carry with her a sense that something is missing.
“You never get back to normal,” Pam said. “At least what normal was before. You can get back to OK, life is good.
“But when all of those things happen and you’re so happy, happy is still happy, but there’s still some kind of void, something not whole about it.”
A little more than a month before Kevin passed, the family traveled to Tulsa for a pee-wee football tournament that 11-yearold Travis was taking part in. The tournament was held on a sod farm, with plenty of flat, wide-open room to run and roam.
Kevin and Travis did both.
“I had never heard Travis and Kevin laugh so hard,” Pam said. “Travis didn’t even realize his dad could run till that day. He was a big man.
“I remember Kevin just chasing Trav, and Travis was belly laughing and Kevin was belly laughing. They were rolling all over, and Kevin would tackle Travis and throw him.”
The closeness of that moment wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for the fatherand-son duo. To say the two were inseparable would be an understatement.
One of Kevin’s greatest loves were trains, the real things and the model versions. Often times, the two would pack up and disappear for the day — gone off in search of some trains.
“We spent a lot of time together watching trains,” Travis said. “A lot of times, we’d go up to Waggoner, (Okla.), sit on the train tracks and watch trains as long as he wanted to.
“I remember always spending so much quality time with him by ourselves on the train tracks.”
Even now, nearly seven years after Kevin’s passing, the time spent with his father comes out in Travis, who has grown into a 6-5, 295-pound senior at Shiloh. Sometimes he’ll tilt his head or say something similar to how Kevin would have. Travis hears about the similar mannerisms all the time from friends and family, usually followed by comments like, “There’s no way he remembers some of this stuff; there’s no way an 11-year-old kid would remember that.”
“We have a lot of the same facial expressions,” Travis said. “He was a real goof-off , just making fun of people, and I’m the same way.
“I’ll say stuff with my grandparents or aunt, just say something, and they’ll say, ‘That’s exactly what Kevin would say.’”
The similarities, in some strange way, give Pam a better understanding of just why Kevin and Travis were as close as they were in the limited time they had.
“(Travis) had 11 years, but he had so much quality time that even the other three didn’t quite have,” Pam said. “In 11 short years, he had a lot of quality time with his dad.
“You look back and that’s the reason.”
Believe it or not, Josh Floyd had doubts about moving Travis up to the varsity team.
That is, until the Shiloh football coach watched the then towering freshman more than handle himself against bigger, faster and more experienced players at a summer team camp at Tulsa. In fact, Travis was one of the best there.
“You could tell he was going to be pretty special,” Floyd said.
Floyd, who has known the Bodenstein family for as long as he can remember, was well aware of Kevin’s passing when he fi rst talked with Pam and Travis about moving the freshman up to the varsity level. He was aware of Travis’ matter-of-fact approach to doing his job at left tackle as well as his maturity off the field — both traits that have served him well as he has helped lead the Saints to back-to-back state championships the past two seasons and has earned him multiple college scholarship off ers.
“It’s a big advantage going into the season knowing your left tackle spot is solidified,” Floyd said. “It’s a pretty important role, no matter what offense you run, but especially in a passing, Spread off ense.
“He’s one of those guys that everybody loves. He likes to joke around and is a lot of fun to be around.”
Amongst his many traits that Travis shares with Kevin, at the forefront is that desire to have fun, first and foremost. It’s evident in his ritual pregame table tennis battles with close friend and teammate, Garrett Harper, and it’s well known to those who know Travis at all.
“He’s a mature kid and loves to have fun,” said Craig Harper, Garrett’s father and a family friend to the Bodensteins, particularly Travis. “He likes playing all kinds of what you’d call just kid games.
“I think that’s one of the reasons Garrett and him have always gotten along so well. There’s enough stress in life with grades, doing sports and everything else for kids these days.”
Following this season, Travis will head to Kansas to play college football. He’s verbally committed to the Jayhawks, choosing the school over other offers from East Carolina, Memphis, Tulsa and Ohio.
Pam’s favorite part about Kansas is that Lawrence is just four hours away. And given how she’s seen her baby grow up into a man much like his father, she has no worries about his future success — on and off the playing fi eld.
“My boys are all great young men,” Pam said. “Life is good but diff erent, I’ll just put it that way.
“You can be happy and we are; it’s just a level of happiness.”