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Inspirational heart transplant recipient, Kevin Nurse, dies


July 23, 2010 at 2:23 a.m.

Kevin Nurse, who received a heart transplant from a former Victoria resident, moved to Victoria earlier this year. A former UPS driver in New York City, Nurse followed his heart into the culinary arts, specializing in seafood.

The sign on the marquee at Mustang Bar and Grill said it all.

"We Loved You, Kevin Nurse"

The 39-year-old Mustang chef and recent Victoria transplant passed away Friday morning, devastating the large circle of friends and adopted family Nurse had amassed in a short amount of time, friend and former co-worker Adriane Orta said.

"He was an absolutely amazing guy. The fact that he's gone is devastating," she added. "He was so full of life. He always used to tell me, 'I'm on borrowed time, so I have to live every day as if it's my last.'"

Four years ago, Nurse's life was saved when he received a heart transplant from another Victoria chef, Daniel Zarate Jr., who died in a car crash in 2006.

A New York native, Nurse had moved to Victoria in January after meeting his donor's family and learning about Zarate's passion for cooking, Zarate's cousin Paul Tristan said.

While cooking was always a hobby for Nurse, after the transplant he made it his life.

"We were very close to Kevin, extremely close. He called my aunt and uncle (Zarate's parents) mom and dad and all the rest of the family were cousins, brothers, sisters. When he moved down here, it was the start of his new life; a new beginning for him," Tristan said. "He loved us and wanted to continue Daniel's work and we all respected him for that."

The passion Nurse had for cooking was something Orta saw firsthand.

"Everything he made had to be perfect, every plate he put out had to be perfect," she said. "Even hamburgers and fries."

Mustang co-owner Rhonda Griffin remembered how Nurse was practically a celebrity thanks to word of mouth getting around about his dishes.

"I always used to drag him out of the kitchen to meet the patrons. He was quickly becoming known for his food and we were honored to have a real chef working for us," she said. "You could just see how happy he'd get when he was thinking up a new dish to make. He was so excited. When my husband and I used to come in, he'd always say, 'Let me make something special for you.' That's just the kind of guy he was."

A man who never met a stranger, Nurse was also an inspiration to everyone around him, close friend Amanda Peters said.

"He was always trying to better himself and a lot of people were inspired by his story. It made us want to do something with our lives," she added.

He died from heart complications, but his friends didn't want to talk about the details.

Even in death, Nurse's passion for life will continue. Not only was Nurse once saved by an organ donor, but he is also an organ donor.

He has already been matched to 72 people, Tristan said.

"He's going to save 72 lives," he said. "Seventy-two people will now get to live."

Part 1: Lessons in giving

Part 2: Daughter provides will to live

Part 3: Sharing more than a heart

New York City heart recipient follows donor's heart's desire



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