Kevin B. O’Donnell, 59, of Williamstown, a former chief lending officer at Greentree Mortgage Co. in Gibbsboro and a two-time Wing Bowl champion known as “Heavy Kevy,” died Thursday, March 12, of kidney cancer at Samaritan Hospice in Voorhees.
Mr. O’Donnell was a study in contrasts. On the one hand, he was a get-up-and-go-to-work-in-a-suit kind of guy; on the other, a man with a taste for the outrageous.
Born in Gloucester City, he graduated from Gloucester Catholic High School in 1978.
He received a degree in business and finance from West Liberty University in West Virginia, then worked briefly as a stockbroker before settling on a career in the mortgage industry.
Mr. O’Donnell established several small lending firms before joining Greentree. He showed up impeccably dressed, in crisp shirt and tie, trousers with a perfect crease, and sports coat. He was a member of the New Jersey Mortgage Bankers Association.
By all accounts, he loved the work at Greentree. “They built a unique culture there,” said his wife, Vickie Curtis O’Donnell.
But there was another side to Mr. O’Donnell. “Heavy Kevy” was a champion Wing Bowl competitor and commentator. In 1994 and 1995, he was the winner of Wing Bowl II and III, and went on to be inducted into the WIP Wing Bowl Hall of Fame.
Created by WIP radio hosts Al Morganti and Angelo Cataldi, Wing Bowl was a contest to see who could eat the most buffalo wings in a half-hour. The two men were ticked off that the Eagles kept failing to win the Super Bowl, so they scheduled the greasy, raunchy contest on the Friday before the Super Bowl as a stunt, never expecting it to catch on.
But it did, and Mr. O’Donnell was there from the get-go. In Wing Bowl I, he was bested by Carmen “the Beast of the East” Cordero. A year later, Mr. O’Donnell won by devouring 127 wings, and he improved his winning record to 133 wings in 1995. His prizes were trips to the Bahamas and to Las Vegas.
“We had a good time,” his wife said.
He appeared again in Wing Bowl X against champ Bill “El Wingador” Simmons from Wing Bowl IX. “I didn’t train for the first two and I won,” Mr. O’Donnell told the Camden Courier-Post in January 2002. “I wouldn’t be competing if I didn’t think I could win.”
He laid out his strategy: “On the Thursday before, I’ll eat breakfast, and then I won’t eat again until the Wing Bowl. The first 80 I eat will just be my breakfast. Then we’ll see what happens.”
But it was not to be. Simmons won by consuming 135 wings. Mr. O’Donnell never again competed in the Wing Bowl as Heavy Kevy, but the moniker stuck. He was in demand as a commentator for eating contests at 4-H fairs and other events, especially in South Jersey.
His wife said he participated in the Wing Bowl for fun and because he liked the camaraderie. The two got engaged at Wing Bowl VI in 1996 and married in 1998.
Ever after, his wife said, “we would go to Phils games. People would come up and say, ‘Oh my God, are you Heavy Kevy and Vickie?’ They saw us get engaged.”
In October 2013, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. His family, friends, and coworkers rallied around him as he went through chemo, radiation, and a grueling surgery. He beat that cancer, but the disease emerged in other forms.
A lifelong devout Catholic, Mr. O’Donnell was a friend to anyone in need. He was kind, compassionate, and sought opportunities to comfort and support others.
He enjoyed coaching Pennsauken football, watching sports, hanging out with his family, and binge-watching Dallas, The Sopranos, and Live PD. A music lover, he could quote the lyrics to songs of the 1970s and through the 2000s.
He was a Phillies and Eagles fan till the end.
Besides his wife, he is survived by daughters Devin and Riane; his father, Thomas J.; five siblings; and nieces and nephews.