Leslie Walker’s father was known as the “cheerleading dad.”
Ken Gant was at Walker’s every cheerleading competition and almost every practice, always prepared with his photography equipment. He was the first parent that the coach ever allowed in the back warm-up rooms. And sometimes, he had more information about the competition and the opposing team than the coaches themselves.
“He was just a free-spirited, fun-loving guy and he just had a really big heart,” Walker, Gant’s only child, said. “He tried hard to be a part of my life as much as he could.”
At first, Joe Johnson — the owner of Walker’s gym, ALLSTAR Panthers, in Alpharetta — thought it was strange that a father was so involved in a what is more often a “mom’s thing.” But soon, Johnson saw how Gant became an “unofficial staff member” of the team, traveling with them everywhere.
“What made it unique was that [Walker] was his only child and this was her sport,” Johnson said. “He just learned all about it.”
Before long, Gant had such a grasp of the team’s routine that he was able to take some of the Johnson’s favorite photos, like one of a toe-touch jump sequence with every team member at the apex of her jump.
“Whenever you saw [Gant], he had that camera in front of his face,” Johnson said. “He was probably Kodak’s best customer.”
Kenneth “Ken” Gant, of Marietta, died suddenly on Saturday from complications of strep-pneumonia in WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta. He was 60.
A memorial service is planned for Friday at 2 p.m. at Winkenhofer Pine Ridge Funeral Home in Kennesaw.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1953, Gant moved around the country often in his youth because of his father’s military career. Before moving to Georgia, Gant’s track coach in California attempted to convince Gant’s father to allow his son to stay back so Gant could train for the Olympics, to no avail. Gant finally graduated high school in Smyrna in 1971, where he was known for his speed in football, basketball and track.
After high school, he studied architecture at Georgia Institute of Technology and Southern Polytechnic State University.
Dating back to his youth, Gant taught himself construction work, finishing small household tasks for friends. In the 1980’s, he became a self-employed contractor and traveled around the country doing construction jobs for hotels.
Whether it was his daughter’s college apartment or Johnson’s gymnasium, Gant was constantly helping out with construction projects. Johnson said that he was amazed that Gant never missed a cheerleading event, despite how busy he was.
“He was back when he needed to be back,” he said. “He wasn’t going to miss anything.”
Johnson said he loved the “time, energy and talent” Gant contributed to his team, mostly because of his contagious optimism.
“It was different from someone who just took a lot of pictures,” he said. “It was a labor of love for him.”
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his mother, Frances Gant, of Kennesaw; grandson, Davis Walker, of Nashville, Tenn.; brother, Tim Gant, of Canton; and sister, Nancy Trott, of Canton.
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