David Kern was many things, but one trait that greatly defined him, and his whole life, was that, from the very beginning, when Star Trek first aired in the 60s, until his last days on Earth, he was a devoted fan of Star Trek. Dave’s life was filled with hardships, but I know that Star Trek made it better, including his last good day.
He loved the shows and movies for everything that they were, but he was never the kind of Trekkie who would dress up and attend conventions. He was a Trekker, interested in the science and mechanics of it all, while enjoying the drama. Over time, he collected toys and replicas, and obtained a copy of every episode – and he raised his children watching those very same episodes with them. “He was obsessed;” says his youngest daughter, Audrey. “He had an entire wall filled with VHS tapes of just Star Trek.”When he moved to Southern California, he formed a band with new friends and their drummer happened to work on the set of The Next Generation. Thanks to that foot in the door he was able to get a lot of great memorabilia, such as personal autographs, signed scripts and even a communicator used on screen by Brent Spiner.
As the years went on, even as the shows ended or were canceled and the movie productions seemed to halt, Dave remained a loyal fan. He would make a passing Trek analogy in a casual conversation and even find time to watch other shows just because they featured actors who were in Star Trek. Whenever a certain celebrity, like Kirsten Dunst, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or Iggy Pop, was in the spotlight or the topic of discussion, he was quick to point out that, yes indeed, they had made a guest appearance in an episode of whichever Trek series. At the end of a trying day, working hard to support his family, he was always happy to watch a rerun or a full-length movie for the umpteenth time. And, whenever he did, I could see in his face that he enjoyed it as much then as he must have the first time.
Come the summer of 2014, Dave, already dealing depression over losing his wife Angie, also a Star Trek fan, who died in 2010, and suffering various health issues and financial struggles as a result, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung. Upon hearing the news, Debbie, a longtime friend of Dave and Angie’s, came to visit from out of state. While the cancer was stage four, David did not want to give up and opted to try chemotherapy. Now, while most are aware that the process of chemotherapy is very hard on the body, the first day, mixed with a vitamin B shot, leaves the patient feeling pretty good. It is usually later that the medicine begins to take its effect and the harsh symptoms arise. Debbie knew this and when a date was scheduled for four days later, she suggested that we should throw a party for his first day of chemo. He quickly replied with, “A Star Trek party,” adding, in his gruffest and most-virile voice…, “A KLINGON party!”As his daughter-in-law and live in caretaker, I wanted nothing more than to throw him the best damn Star Trek party I could on such short notice. It was a challenge; to say the least; Star Trek party supplies aren’t exactly lining the shelves in any brick and mortar stores, nor are Klingon supplies, for that matter. Ordering any on the Internet was not an option, but I must add that there was not much there, either. Finding Trek-themed decorations was nigh impossible, so instead I thought, “How would the crews of Enterprise, Voyager or DS9 decorate for a party?” This was a much easier approach. We stuck to the traditional red, blue and gold color scheme, and grabbed anything that was shiny and wouldn’t have been out of place on the set of The Original Series. Also, anything outer-space-related was great, as long as it was not too childish. The theme really came together when I found a 40-foot roll of a plastic, starry backdrop/tablecloth material and covered all the windows with it, as if the house itself were our vessel and we were in space. It really helped set the atmosphere, or lack thereof! All of that just was not Klingon enough, though, so for Dave’s desk, his special space and usually the hub of the house, I quickly made some Klingon banners out of black and red poster board and draped black and red steamers by his window. Dave, a finicky PC user, even let me set his screen saver to changing views of starship schematics, which looked like they were displayed on Enterprises’ own consoles.
When he arrived home from his appointment, he was beginning to have second thoughts about the party. I do not know if it was seeing the house in disarray, or maybe he was overstimulated from his session and all of the movement bustling around him at home. Perhaps he was having a hard time coping with the gravity of being a cancer patient and beginning chemotherapy. Even though he was feeling OK, it is a lot for anyone to face. He began to relax and enjoy himself once the house was in order and guests started to arrive.We had decided to keep it a potluck affair, so people brought their own dishes and none of them were particularly Trek-related. However, I was in charge of the drinks. Fruit punch was now Klingon Blood Wine, blue Kool-Aid became Romulan Ale, and fresh limeade made for an excellent Ferengi Snail Juice.
Dave didn’t have much left in the way of family, but his son, daughters and only grandchild were there that day, along with some of his closest and oldest friends. Now, as I had mentioned before, Dave wasn’t much of a geek, but on this day he fully embraced the theme and wore none other than a golden shirt with the command insignia. He sat, happily sipping his Klingon Blood Wine and chatting with his loved ones while random episodes of TOS, TNG and DS9 played in the background.
We kept watching episodes nearly every day after the party… until Dave succumbed to his illness and passed away only a month later. The family debated on what to have engraved beneath his and his wife’s name on their plaque. It came down to either “Beam us up” or the title of their favorite song, which won by the flip of a coin. However, his oldest daughter Amanda said of the party, “I truly believe it was his last good day,” and we were able to make that happen because of Star Trek.
For that, we’ll forever be grateful.
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