Kenneth Haskins Gatsby Leftwich, born on February 17, 1950, was the first child of the late Edward Haskins and Essie Mae Leftwich.
Ken attended elementary and high school in the Duquesne City School District within the Pittsburgh, Pa. metropolitan area where he demonstrated academic excellence and athletic prowess at an early age. He achieved high grades and his written communication skill surpassed that of his peers. Ken’s friends and family members like to share memories of childhood sports activities. His nephew likes to tell the story about how Ken, in 1963, played for the Duquesne Little League Association and was the first Little Leaguer to hit a 200-feet Home Run over the left-field fence. Ken not only achieved good grades and participated in sports throughout his early school years, he also was involved in community service. Ken earned Eagle Scout rank in 1959 and served for three years.
When Ken graduated from Duquesne Senior High School, he received a scholarship to attend Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota. That fall he entered Yankton as a History and Journalism major. While enrolled at Yankton, he worked on a Native American Reservation where he tutored children. He would later earn a baccalaureate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in History. In 1980, Ken went on to receive his Master’s Degree from Virginia State University; and, he later earned his doctoral degree.
When he completed his studies at Virginia State University, Ken chose to make Petersburg, Virginia, his home. There he met and fell in love with Sylvia Ann Siler. In 1981, he decided that he would like Sylvia to join him in Holy Matrimony, he proposed, she said yes; and, they were married in August of 1982. From this union came three children: Kendra, Koffye, and Kenneth.
While Ken realized the importance of service early in life, as a college student and adult, he continued to be very much interested in helping to make the community and greater society better for all, including his family; he participated in several organizations. At Virginia State University, he was a staff member of the Upward Bound Program. In 1981, Ken was initiated in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and participated fully in meetings and service projects of the Fraternity. When he became a resident of Petersburg, one of the first projects that Ken became involved with was the Halifax Street Revitalization Project where he worked to help the city to improve the community and provide housing for the underserved. A member of the Petersburg Jaycees, Ken was eager to lend his services where needed; he served as President in 1982. Also, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA; Charter Member of Concerned Black Men of Petersburg; served as Vice President of Petersburg Breakfast Kiwanis Club; and, he was a Member of Petersburg City Council.
Ken spent most of his professional life as an educator in the Petersburg school system. He taught History at Petersburg High School. Though he held a position as Insurance Broker for a brief period, he later returned to education. In addition to his employment with the Petersburg schools, Ken was employed as a referee for the CIAA and MEAC Athletic Leagues. When Ken and his family decided to relocate to Greensboro, North Carolina, Ken assumed a position as a teacher at Southeast High School, taught History, and served as Basketball Coach. He later joined the faculty at Hugh M. Cummings High School in Burlington, North Carolina where he taught History. In addition, as part-time Assistant Professor, he taught online courses at Walden University.
Ken was no stranger to the House of the Lord; as a child and young adult, he was a member of Jerusalem Baptist Church. Until he relocated to Greensboro, NC, Ken was a faithful member of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg where he sang in the gospel choir.
Ken, after years of declining health due to complications from diabetes, peacefully entered eternal rest surrounded by family on January 20, 2018, at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina. Our beloved husband, father, grandfather, relative, and friend was preceded in death by his parents, brother, and sister, Patricia Leftwich. Ken is survived by his loving wife, Sylvia; daughters, Kendra, Koffye, and son, Kenneth; three grandchildren, Khloe, Matthew, and Egypt; a sister-in-law; Cheryl Siler, and a nephew, John Leftwich of Pittsburgh.