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Kevin Nicholas Coulter Fund
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Life Story / Obituary
Gregarious and genuine, Kevin Nicholas Coulter (a.k.a. Sass) lived his life with passion. Because of his super outgoing personality, Kevin naturally made quick, deep relationships, no matter where he was: an ultimate frisbee field, a math class, a party, a bagel shop. He was confident and intense, and everything was definitely more interesting and exciting when he was around--oh yeah! Kevin embraced each moment fully, pushing himself and others to do their best, especially in ultimate. While Kevin's days were far too few, there is no doubt that the positive impact of his life will continue to inspire those who were blessed to know this “cool, fun dude,” as many of his fellow ultimate friends across the country have written this past week on social media sites.
Kevin zoomed into the world on June 13, 1990, in Mesa, Arizona, when Steve and Greta (Robertson) Coulter welcomed their second son into their hearts and lives. Kevin’s beloved older brother, Sam, had preceded him by four years in 1986. As a child, Kevin was very smart and curious, and he liked to hug his family and suck on his finger with his grungy green blanket Babo (made by his Grandma Ruth). He attended Montessori Elementary and then Ishikawa Elementary. A natural athlete who loved sports, Kevin began playing soccer competitively at age five and quickly found his position as a midfielder on various high-level club teams for the next ten years.
After completing Stapley Junior High, he attended Mountain View High School, where he played soccer and also excelled at tennis, following in Sam’s successful Nike Zoom tennis shoes. When Sam was in college and discovered Ultimate Frisbee, he introduced Kevin to the game. Kevin was instantly hooked and began playing a bit of ultimate pick-up. Kevin graduated from high school in 2008 and attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff in the fall. After taking a break from school due to low grades (boys often don’t like to study), Kevin returned to the pines of NAU in 2009 to study forestry. That subject didn’t challenge Kevin however, so he shifted his focus to math, which he was intensely passionate about and had always excelled at.
While at NAU, he joined the ultimate frisbee team and on the green turf practice fields he had the great fortune of meeting Lindsey Cunningham. Lindsey, like Kevin, had been a soccer star growing up. Not only did he and Lindsey share a love of ultimate, ultimately they found love for one another (they dated for a bit, broke up for a year and then became inseparable). This is also around the time that Kevin picked up the “Sass”moniker. His brother, Sam, was already known in the Southwest ultimate world as Sass, short for “Sassback,” since he tended to have a bit of a chippy, lippy attitude, but other players thought that Sassback was Sam’s actual last name, so Kevin too became “Sass" or sometimes “Baby Sass” if Sam and he were playing on the same team in a tournament. Kevin and Lindsey both captained their men''s and women's squads and helped grow the ultimate at NAU and played on many teams together including two mixed club ultimate teams while in Arizona: Rubix and Del Sol, and Kevin also played with Sprawl, a men’s club team.
In 2014, after Kevin and Lindsey had their undergraduate degrees (Kevin in math, Lindsey in biology), they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, so she could pursue her Doctorate degree in cellular and molecular biology, specializing in Parkinson’s disease at the Van Andel Institute. It didn't take long for Kevin to find himself a valuable member of the area's Ultimate Frisbee community. He was very active with the Grand Rapids Ultimate Frisbee Association. On Mondays, he played pick up ultimate games at Michigan Sports Academies (MSA) Woodland. He played for various teams including: the Detroit Mechanix (a pro team), a club team High Five, which was a Michigan-Ohio mixture of players, and he went to many fun tournaments along the way (Poultry Days, Lei Out, Virginia Beach Nationals etc.). Kevin constantly traveled for ultimate, mostly to regional games in the Midwest, but occasionally nationwide and internationally. He played in California, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He even got to play in Colombia in South America and sought out pick up on the coast of Scotland.
But Kevin was not just a player. He had an insatiable need to help other players improve their ultimate skills. While living in Grand Rapids he did some youth coaching with fellow ulti players (some of those youth have written moving tributes to Kevin). He loved kids and was very encouraging, though demanding. He also helped coach the Western Michigan ultimate team in Kalamazoo and the Grand Valley State team in Grand Rapids. He also “coached” many of the people he played with, sometimes coaching a bit too hard. Even though he was fun-loving and so friendly, Lindsey worked with him to tamp down his coaching enthusiasm so that others weren’t intimidated or ticked off. He wanted you to get better, maybe more than you wanted to. But with Lindsey’s help, he became the leader and communicator he always wanted to be.
After watching Lindsey studying so diligently over such long hours, and with a good bit of encouragement, Kevin was inspired to go back to school, and he did. In two years, he earned a Master's Degree in pure mathematics from Western Michigan University in 2018, receiving an award for excellence in teaching where he tried new teaching methods on his pre-calc classes. Kevin was pretty much a natural at teaching. He got the math from his mom (a math major and statistics master’s) and the teaching from his dad (40 years an English teacher). Kevin continued to play ultimate during and after getting his master’s, while he did all he could to support Lindsey in finishing her doctorate.
Not ready for a full-time teaching position (though that was what he was planning to do in the fall of 2020), Kevin took a job at the Bagel Beanery in late 2018. Kevin was super attentive and took pride in his actions and work. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to be of service to others, he was proud that he made the best bagel sandwiches and coffee drinks. Though a procrastinator, he was exceptionally detail-oriented when it came to sports, always looking for ways to grow his game and helping others to improve as well.
Kevin was a student of life who enjoyed learning and growing. He liked being around people and sharing new experiences. He loved playing video games and the friends he made doing so. One, in particular, was his friend, Fred from Texas, who traveled to Michigan with his girlfriend, Natali, and proposed in Kevin and Lindsey's basement. Kevin also loved music and live entertainment. He constantly listened to music and especially enjoyed listening and singing to his favorite Hip Hop, Rap, and Tom Petty songs. Lindsey bought him multiple sets of headphones so she could have some quiet, but he preferred to carry his mini stereo around and be surrounded by music. He recently attended the Grand Rapids Symphony Harry Potter performance; it blew him away. A true lover of all forms of music, art, food, and expression, he also enjoyed exploring new restaurants and foods; he would try most anything. He had a sweet tooth, which he often satiated with mint chip ice cream, soda, and pastries. He had many favorite foods: Pho, sushi, tacos, Indian food. Going out to eat was one of Kevin and Lindsey’s favorite ways to spend time together.
In January 2020, Kevin was able to see the culmination of all Lindsey’s hard work at the Van Andel Institute graduate school, as she eloquently defended her dissertation with a public presentation and then behind doors with her professors. Lindsey became “Dr. Cunningham” and Kevin was oh so proud. He was always so supportive of her studies and her growth. They looked forward to moving to the Southwest and starting their next chapter. Sadly, while traveling to Detroit for practice with the Detroit Mechanix Professional Ultimate Frisbee team, on Saturday, February 29, Kevin and two of his teammates were killed in a fatal car accident when they were hit from behind on I-96 after stopping on the highway for a previous rollover incident.
Clearly, Kevin's sudden departure leaves us stunned. While it is beyond words to imagine life without Kevin's magnetic presence, may we find comfort in our many wonderful memories of him. May we also find the courage to carry his legacy forward in our own lives. Along with his life partner, Lindsey Cunningham; his parents, Greta Robertson and Steve Coulter; and his brother, Sam Coulter, each of us will keep his vibrant spirit alive. And, in this way, he will continue to inspire others as he so inspired us.