Work and family was Brandon Kay’s whole life.
The 36-year-old father of four worked six, seven days a week under houses in his small business, Carolina Crawl Space Solutions – maybe the dirtiest, toughest way to make a dollar.
His real first name was Stuart, but nobody could work in a car parts store – and so many tough jobs all his life since high school – and be called Stuart. He was always Brandon, the middle name.
To stretch every dollar, he would fix things at home.
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Well after 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Brandon Kay was fixing one of the family vehicles, up on car ramps.
The vehicle slipped off, and Brandon was pinned underneath. He died a few minutes later at the hospital after his family worked to free him.
Kay’s death is being treated as an accident, said Sabrina Gast, York County Coroner.
An accident that has left a family broken.
Suddenly, Samantha Kay was a widow and those four kids had no father.
The oldest, Caitlynn, 18, is a senior at Rock Hill High School with graduation looming June 2. She achieved the rank of command sergeant major in the Air Force Junior ROTC, and in her words, “My daddy won’t be able to watch me walk across the stage next Saturday.”
Aundrea, 16, in 11th grade, does not have the father she held hands with even as a teenager walking into school.
“My dad was the greatest, and I was never embarrassed, like some kids, to hold his hand,” Aundrea said.
Tyler, 15, does not have the dad who was teaching him to drive.
“He taught me what I needed to grow up and be a man,” said Tyler.
Adrian, called “A.J.,” the youngest in fifth grade, will not have his father there for his advancement ceremony to middle school, either.
“He was just a family man, a great husband and father, first,” said Samantha Kay. “He did without, always, for his family. He said to me many times that all he wanted in life was to make his family happy.”
The schools the children attend have started raising money for the family, and so have neighbors who knew Brandon Kay and his generosity.
In the neighborhood where the family lives, north of Celanese Road off India Hook Road, the death of Brandon Kay has shocked people – but also sparked a surge of love.
Some neighbors who knew the family – and some who did not, but knew this friendly guy – have banded together to raise money for a blue-collar guy’s family who didn’t have enough money after all the clothes and food and bills for life insurance.
Brandon Kay, people have found out these past few days, regularly undercharged senior citizen customers. He didn’t charge some of his poorer customers at all.
He found a crying driver broken down on the side of the road, bought the parts for the lady’s car, fixed it himself and sent her home to her own family.
For years, he drove straight from work, still in his work clothes, to volunteer as a youth football coach, then cut a neighbor’s grass until dark.
This was a guy whose name was stitched over his heart on every work shirt he ever wore, because he was a working man, and that’s what working men wear.
Yet he kept stashed away a blue infant onesie that both his sons wore as babies, which said “Daddy’s little boy” on it.
“This is a man who showed through his life’s work and in how he was raising his family what it means to be a good man and good person,” said neighbor Dana Bruneau. “He was kind. He was nice.
“He was a good father and a good guy.”
One neighbor who just moved in three weeks ago, Jason Stroud, general manager at the Sonic Drive-In on Celanese Road, even offered to hold a fundraiser for the family. From 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, the restaurant will donate 20 percent of all proceeds of the restaurant to the family.
“I’m proud to help,” Stroud said. “People in our neighborhood have been saying that this was a great, great guy.”
Brandon Kay was such a loving husband.
A few months ago, his wife of 19 years – the couple’s anniversary was the day before he died – saw a necklace that she said in passing that she loved.
It was not super expensive, not fancy, but a remark from the woman he loved was all Brandon Kay needed.
After the bills were paid, Brandon Kay tucked away single dollar bills and change for months and months.
At Christmas, he didn’t have enough money saved, so he kept on saving. He saved and scrimped and ate peanut butter and jelly.
Then he went, secretly, and bought that necklace.
He was going to give that necklace to his wife as a surprise, when he died.
His oldest son, Tyler, found the necklace inside his father’s toolbox after his father died.
So Tyler gave it to his mother. She wears it now, and cries for the man she loved, who put his family first – and who bought that necklace for her one dollar at a time.