Life Story: Ken Garabrant, 66; Remembered For His Sense Of Humor

Ken Garabrant passed away at home on May 28 surrounded by the family who loved him. He was 66 years old.

He was pre-deceased by his parents Kenneth and Helen Garabrant.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Barbara. He is also survived by his daughter, Kate Clark, her husband Dave and their children Shane and Ellie, his son Kenneth Garabrant, his wife Jen and son Caleb and his daughter Beth Rellaford, her husband Chris and son Evan. In addition, he is survived by his brother Dennis Garabrant and his wife Kathy as well as his sister Cathy Ciaccia.

Visiting will be held from 2 – 4 and 7 – 9 PM on Friday, June 1st at The Gleason Funeral Home, 1360 Hamilton Street in Somerset. On Saturday, June 2nd a 9 AM funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Matthias RC Church on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Somerset.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, NJ.

Imagine a life lived as the child of Ken and Barbie. Our handsome, youthful looking dad even sported an enviable head of Ken doll hair. We wondered what it would be like when the chemo took that beautiful hair. It turned out not to matter. Bald and beautiful he was still so handsome and still our dad. He would attribute his retained good looks to my mother “saving his skin” by never allowing him to get a tan. Cancer tried to take other things too. No one could blame anyone given the news my father heard for losing their sense of humor. I’m sure many would think laughter would be the first to go. With his wit and infamous one liners my dad refused to stop laughing. When he was told he had stage 4 prostate cancer while lying in a hospital bed, he turned to my mother and said, “I guess this means we won’t be having anymore kids Barb.” That joke was the first of thousands. The cancer never took our father’s spirit, never quelled the laughter as he even made us laugh out loud with his final breath. His granddaughter Ellie perhaps said it best when she wrote to him, “Dear Pop Pop, I love you because you make the best jokes every single day even if you make it bad.”

My father taught people things too. For example, the email we received from his colleague Marlon during some volatile weather while our father was receiving cancer treatments which read “Just want to extend a cordial salutation to my friend Ken. Please let him know that his in-depth educational lessons on weather patterns would have proven very entertaining today.” More than arm chair meteorology though he taught people things like how to not give in to despair and to keep showing up even when things get tough. He taught his grandchildren many things too, especially how to be spoiled with love and presents. He taught them that they were each worthy of being adored. His greatest pride and joy were his grandchildren Shane, Ellie, Evan and Caleb. And in his final lesson to them, he showed them what it means to be resilient. He taught them that love is stronger than cancer, stronger than death. Love never dies.

We always teased our dad that he needed to have more hobbies. Throughout his cancer battle it became clear to us what had always been true, our father’s favorite hobby was generosity. He was generous with his time, his money and his compassion. Our dad cared deeply and wanted to ease the suffering of others when he could. He was an expert at his chosen hobby and we will do our best to take it up in his name.

Our father always said that you cannot define anyone else’s happiness. He defined his own happiness as loving the sunshine of his life, our mom. He loved watching her do things that made her sparkle like gamble with her best friend and blessing to us all Christine Ann. He defined his happiness as loving his children, their spouses and his grandchildren and being loved by them in return. Our dad described himself as a simple man and his happiness on earth was his family.

Our father also said that there are no instructions telling us how to live this life, we all do the best we can. With the suffering of cancer came many blessings. Our father became more of himself in the last 9 months of his life. He told us he felt bullet proof. He took time to watch the birds. He most wanted and did spend time with our mom. He drank coffee and savored breakfast sandwiches with bacon, because what was it going to do, kill him? He lived, simply and purely.

In spite of the cancer my father prayed. He relied on God as he always had. When the diagnosis was terminal and the prayer changed, it was still for grace, strength and for things to be as God intended. Our father survived the attacks of September 11th and that has been difficult for us all. The cancer caused by what he endured that day took him from us 17 years later, but we feel blessed for the time we had that so many others lost. We recognize the blessing that he did not perish in that building but went home to God surrounded by love in his home.

Simply put, our dad loved and was loved. Our dad forgave and was forgiven. Our dad died as he lived, with quiet strength and integrity. Cancer lost, because against willful defiance, boundless laughter, and infinite love, it never really stood a chance.

As my dad said to all of us gathered anxious and concerned when we were told of the actual prognosis, “Can’t we just get over this crap?” We will get over this crap Dad but we will never get over you. We will miss you every single day of our lives and we will work on our one-liners to laugh every single day of our lives too.


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