It’s common, when you hear that somebody died, to react with surprise. But when I heard yesterday of the passing of Kevin Vost, I felt that emotion especially acutely. Kevin was just a young and uncommonly vigorous 62, with no health issues (at least, any that his wider group of friends and fans knew about). His attention to diet and exercise, combined with his keen mind, made him a legendary model of mens sana in corpore sano—a healthy mind in a healthy body. Kevin was going to live to 120, not get cut down early. It was a shock and remains a shock.
Kevin was a complete man of God who answered to many descriptors. He was a doctor of psychology, a prolific author, a Mensa member, a weightlifter, a Thomist, a Highland Games competitor, a lover of gentle wordplay and evangelist for classical mnemonic systems; a husband, a father, a grandfather, a convert, a Catholic.
Seventeen years ago, I answered a publishing query from this extraordinary fellow. He wanted to write a book applying the method of loci—a classical memory technique that had been revived in the Middle Ages—to remembering the doctrines of Catholicism. I thought this was a little too quirky, but in our correspondence I learned of his zeal for fitness and its connection to the spiritual life. Thus Fit for Eternal Life, his first book, was conceived, and in the years that followed it has been helping readers become what Kevin called “dynamos of charity” by cultivating the body-soul unity that was the guiding concept of his life.
Four years later, he got his memory book: Memorize the Faith turned out to be just the first of a series of titles applying his beloved method to a host of Catholic data: doctrine, apologetics arguments, the parts of the Mass. All using the funny mental images and rhymes that it so delighted him to think up. I remember how pleased he was when a boy of about ten used the method to memorize the names of all the popes, in order—and recited them on Good Morning, America.
In all, Kevin’s mental discipline and restless pen produced at least twenty books, a remarkable output over that time. I was privileged to have had a hand in acquiring or editing six or seven of them, with each one a chance to renew our friendship.
I will miss that friendship. It’s common, when you hear that somebody died, to make a saint of him—whether he deserves it or not. (In his humility, Kevin would have laughed at any suggestion that he was saintly or even close to it.) But in Kevin’s case, there’s no need to force praise. He was universally regarded as a gentleman of the business. He was unfailingly polite and good-humored in professional dealings: never quibbling over edits or rewrites, never griping over media demands, always prompt and cheerful in correspondence. He was also quick to extend himself personally: to faith-seekers, to fans looking for help with the Summa or their free weight routine, to friends (or friends of friends) needing an encouraging word in their trials. And to me in mine.
The first page of the first edition of Fit for Eternal Life contained a lawyer-prompted notice advising readers to check with their doctor before taking up any workout routine, because “we want you to be fit for eternal life, not to get there before your time.” Now Dr. Vost has gone to eternal life, at an appointed time that nonetheless seems premature. The champion of body and spirit is now for a while just spirit. Pray for that spirit, that God may receive him into heaven with the speed and directness that his zealous earthly witness surely merited.