MEDINA — After two years of sobriety, Robby’s Recovery Center considered Ken Chiesa one of its success stories.
On Jan. 6, however, Chiesa, 31, suffered a relapse, his father, Don, said Sunday during a celebration of Ken’s life at Robby’s Recovery Center.
“He made a bad decision,” he said. “He reversed back to his old coping skills. It was a decision on a whim.”
And it cost him his life.
Chiesa, a 2005 Cloverleaf High School graduate, was a member of Robby’s Voice Foundation, served on the board for Robby’s House Recovery Center and was actively involved in Cathy’s House, a residence for men recovering from addiction.
He started the first Heroin Anonymous meeting at Robby’s and successfully graduated from drug court, a year-long program that offers intervention in lieu of conviction of crimes committed due to drug or alcohol use.
“He went back to speak at the Medina County Jail,” Don Chiesa said. “Unfortunately, he spent some time there. He had turned his life around in a positive manner.”
Ken Chiesa touched the lives of many in the recovery community.
“We worked together (at Owens Corning) and got sober together,” Bobby Moses said. “He was my best friend. He was a great dude. I’m going to miss him a lot. He asked me to sponsor him a few months ago.”
Chiesa’s death may be a lesson for others, Moses said.
“He thought he could do everything by himself,” Moses said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
He said he’ll always remember Chiesa’s “big cheesy smile” and him wearing a pair of Versace sunglasses.
“He was larger than life,” Moses said. “It still doesn’t feel like he’s gone.”
Moses first met Chiesa at Cathy’s House. Moses’ brother, Ken, knew Chiesa from another venue.
“He was my neighbor in Medina County Jail,” Ken Moses said.
“I’ll remember his great hair,” Ken Moses said. “He had a passion for helping people who were struggling.”
Rob Brandt, president of Robby’s Voice, said it’s been a challenging week.
“There are a lot of emotions, feelings and questions,” he said. “There’s a lot of numbness. Kenny was a gift. He gave so much to all of us.”
Brandt, who lost his son, Robby, to heroin, wonders how the recovery community will respond to Chiesa’s death.
“Ken gave us an example of what living life each day is all about,” he said. “Ken is hope. We need to celebrate Ken’s life each and every day.”
Medina County Common Pleas Judge Joyce V. Kimbler and county Chief Probation Officer Veronica Perry also talked about Chiesa and his contributions.
“I remember the fight within him” Kimbler said.
Perry said she first met him in drug court. She said he worked diligently to get Robby’s Recovery Center open last year.
“We will continue to remember him,” she said.
Stefanie Robinson, director of operations at Robby’s Recovery Center, echoed Perry’s comments.
“We wouldn’t be here with out his determination,” she said. “He was committed to the people here. He had a big presence.
“Now more than ever, our community has special needs. We’re all on common ground. We can’t do this alone. Don’t struggle in silence. We all need somebody’s help. Please honor (Ken) in recovery.”
Chiesa was the father of 3-year-old Dylan.
“It’s not like he went out on a binge,” Dylan’s mother, Valerie Rini, said. “He lost his battle with addiction.
“He was very charismatic. He was always smiling. This took a lot of people by surprise. My mom might have said it best: ‘You can’t continue to pour from an empty cup.’ He gave so much of himself, at one point he lost sight of what he needed to do.”
Chiesa’s mother, Kathleen, said she’s reminded of Ken every time she looks at Dylan.
“Right down to the shape of his head,” she said. “He used to dress (Dylan) just like himself. (Ken) was an impeccable dresser. He picked out Dylan’s shoes and clothes.”
She said when Ken was in seventh grade, he won a contest for the most hair gel.
“He never me anyone he didn’t like,” his father Don said. “He had the charisma to always make you feel good.”
The family suggests contributions may be made to Robby’s Recovery Center, 538 W Liberty St, Medina, OH 44256.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or email@example.com.