Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of Kuti Zeevi.
The popular Westporter was killed during a robbery at his jewelry store, on the 2nd floor of Compo Shopping Center.
The next day, Fred Cantor — a long-time friend and player on the Late Knights, a group of local men who enjoyed the game, and socializing together afterward — remembered the Israeli-born businessman and teammate. Fred wrote:
Many years ago someone told me you can learn a lot about a person by how willing he is to pass the ball and share it with teammates. Kuti was always looking to pass to an open teammate, and it was indeed just one indication of his great generosity — both on and off the field….
There was a boyish spirit that remained inside him — one that I thought would never succumb to old age — and that was only snuffed out by a murderer’s bullet. We will all miss Kuti’s smile, and his laugh, and his joy for the game.
Other tributes poured in. Readers remembered the care with which he selected the perfect ring for customers; his pride and delight in his family, and grief at the death of his daughter a few years earlier from leukemia; his genuine concern for everyone he met; his volunteer work as a Hebrew school teacher at Temple Israel, and his sweet gentle nature, matched only by his tenacity on the soccer field.
The other day — as the hard-to-believe 10-year mark neared — his wife Nava shared her thoughts. She wrote:
His passion for soccer was beyond words, but also his passion for his trade. He was lucky to be dealing with happy people, catering to good and happy times in their lives: engagements, weddings, newborns, anniversaries, holidays and so many more.
All his clients became his friends. He dealt with them as if he was the uncle, the father, the brother. protecting them from spending too much, saving them to build their future. He added to their event his own personal excitement, as if it was his. He was family to everyone.
Before his death, Kuti waited impatiently for the arrival of his grandson. Yuval is now 10 years old, and — like the grandfather he never knew — an avid soccer player.
Kuti missed him by only 4 days.
Both grandchildren — Yuval and Noga, his sister (now 8) — hear stories about their grandfather. They are very proud of him.
Neva adds, “I feel blessed to have had Kuti by my side during those wonderful years together. He gave me a reservoir of strength, love and devotion, so I can spread it around now, among my dear ones, as he would have done, had he been spared.”
The Zeevi family, and Kuti’s many customers and friends, have never forgotten him.
Neither have his teammates.
12 19 — just a few days after the anniversary of his murder — they’ll gather again, to play a memorial game in his honor.
Stories will be retold. Tears will be shed.
And Yuval hopes to play.