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Joining the “Seven Summits Club” Where the Journey Leads…. Featuring Kevin Vann

January 24, 2018

“Where the Journey Leads” features individuals who once lived in Coffee County but whose journey in life has led them to new adventures in new places; it’s an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

Manchester’s own Kevin Vann has lived a life many only dream about.  For the past thirty years, hometown friends would exchange stories of “Have you heard what Kevin is doing now?” with great interest and delighting at hearing about his storybook life, filled with adventures and challenges. Many in our community have a great sense of pride in that one of our own has had the courage to truly venture out into the far corners of the world and literally view creation from the tops of the highest mountains.

Kevin Vann on top of mountain pic

Kevin Vann reaches the top of Mt. Albrus, Europe’s highest mountain, July of 2012. Photo provided

It brought me joy when Kevin was asked to be the Keynote Speaker at the Coffee County Central High School Class of 2007 Graduation ceremony because my oldest daughter, Allison, sat amongst the other graduate candidates hearing that anything is possible when you pursue your dreams. Thankfully now with social media, family, friends and spectators alike have occasional opportunities to see a glimpse of Kevin’s adventurous life through incredible pictures and stories. In a interview with CCN, Kevin shared some thoughts from his past, present and future life adventures.

CCN: What are the names of your family members?

KV: How much space do I have to type? AMAZING clan! Thurmon, Sally (who sadly passed away in March) Michelle, Eileen, Stephanie, Renee and Mark. It’s nice to have normal siblings…when compared to my life.

CCN: What is your educational background?

KV: I’m a proud member of the greatest graduating class in the history of Coffee County Central High…The Class of 1977. Equally, I’m proud to have attended Motlow College and receive my Nursing Degree from this gem of a school.

CCN: Did you have a favorite teacher at CHS and if so, who and why?

KV: I would have to answer that as TNTC (Too Numerous To Count) I was blessed with so many inspirational educators. But if I were to name one, I can readily say it was James Blalock. Mr. B., as we affectionately called him, was my band director throughout junior high as well as high school. At the time, many of us didn’t understand why he insisted on precision, timeliness and discipline. The results spoke for themselves. We had one of the most rewarded and admired music programs in the state. He provided his students with dozens of “Blalockisms” that we carry with us today. I recall once, when a fellow trumpet player carelessly left his horn on his chair, it fell to the ground and severely damaged his horn. Mr. B.’s response to the young man was, “If it’s on the ground, it can’t fall.”  Brilliant! That’s just one of many that I remember to this day. I miss that man and owe him so much for my growth and development.

CCN: Where do you live now and how long have you lived there?

KV: I divide my time between San Francisco (where I’ve worked for the past six years) and Manchester (where I call home…and where I can afford a home!)

CCN: What is your occupation?

KV: I’m a Cardiovascular ICU Nurse and work per diem at two hospitals and have recently been hired as a clinical representative of an innovative medical technology company based in Israel.

CCN: What do you like best about your job?

KV: The stress! (LOL) No, I’ve been allowed to treat some of the most interesting people from all over the world. It’s been an honor.

Kevin Vann on bike pic

Kevin Vann bike riding through Amsterdam. Photo provided

CCN: What activities are you involved with?

KV:  As the co-owner of a trekking company,, I’m involved with guiding folks to Mt. Everest Base camp on a yearly basis. Obviously, travel is my passion.

CCN: Please share about some of your greatest adventures.

KV: Was it caring for the Afghan Mujahadeen rebels fighting the Soviets in 1987…was it being the first person to ever canoe the entire length of the Duck River (268.5miles) in 1999…was it the summiting of Mt. Everest in 2003…was it joining the exclusive “Seven Summits” club having climbed the highest mountain on all seven continents) in 2013? I’m not prepared to say that my greatest adventures are behind me!

CCN: What stands out in your mind as some of your favorite Tennessee memories?

KV: Remember when Tennessee beat Alabama in 1982, ending an 11 year drought? I was there! Recall the World’s Largest Pajama Party held on the square in Manchester in 1986? There too!

CCN: Have you met people during your journey that have made an ever lasting impact on your life?

KV: Aside from the most important and impactful (my family), there was my mentor Dr. Demetrio Sodi-Pallares. He was the greatest electro-cardiologist of the 20th century and the only TRUE genius I’ve ever known. Imagine living in Mexico City and being mentored by the greatest heart specialist in the world? I still can’t believe I was afforded that opportunity.

Kevin Vann selfie pic

Kevin Vann’s smile of success after summiting the highest mountain in Antarctica. Photo provided

CCN: What are your future plans and dreams?

KV: I would like to be an astronaut (seriously) and if I could be on that first Mission to Mars….

CCN: Do you have any special accomplishments or have received any awards or recognitions you would like to share with our readers?

KV: Let’s wait until I’m done…I’ll let others decide that one.

CCN: What are some of your favorite memories from living in Manchester?

KV: Exploring Old Stone Fort well before it became a state park, all the experiences with the music programs and all the insanity associated with my fellow jocks playing baseball and softball.

CCN: What advice would you give young people today to help them reach their goals for the future?

KV: OK…here goes. Avoid the vacuous appeal of pop culture. Remember, popularity is fleeting and lasts about as long as “a fart in a hammock.”

My beautiful picture

“The most exhausting day of my life.” Kevin Vann wearing a down suit, with oxygen, May 23, 2013, after a 20 hour round trip climb from Camp 4 to the Summit of Everest and back to Camp 4. Photo provided

Kevin’s life story is far from over and I look forward to hearing about his future accomplishments and experiences. But his adventures weren’t ever just about him and I would be remiss if I didn’t include an aspect of his life that is truly as heroic as every mountain he successfully scaled. For those who don’t know Kevin, I share with you something that many of his friends have known for several years now. Though he is often quiet about such matters, not eager for attention for selfless deeds done on behalf of others, Kevin is known as one that where ever his journey leads, he is willing to share his medical skills and reach out and help those in need. Fully aware, that though his travels take him to amazing and beautiful places, there too is often found the impoverished, sick and hurting.

Kevin truly does purposely live an adventurous, courageous and compassionate life. It will be exciting to see where his journey next leads him.

July 30, 2016 CCN Article by Rebekah Hurst, Photos provided, Reposted with permission

From → Adventure, Features

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