Composite / Images Courtesy / Bonham Exchange
Kenneth Garrett, owner of the downtown nightclub Bonham Exchange, had a heart of gold and often went out of his way to help those dear to him, recalled his close friend, Joan Duckworth, who met Garrett when she was 17.
Duckworth, now 61, recalled the time many years ago, when she was caring for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, as well as for a friend dying of AIDS.
“Kenneth knew how stressed out and overwhelmed I was,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Joan, you need to come work.’ I told him I couldn’t because of my situation, so he hired me to help at the Bonham Exchange during the day because he knew I needed to get out of the house and be around people. I will always be grateful to him for that.”
Garrett died Feb. 8 of a heart attack at his home in the River Road neighborhood. He was 68. Though he was cremated, a memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, on the main dance floor of the Bonham Exchange. Afterward, a celebration of life will be held from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Davis Park on East Mulberry Avenue. For more information click here or call (210) 224-9219.
“We are asking people to wear colorful clothes because Kenneth had a colorful personality,” Duckworth said.
Born on Sept. 13, 1950, Garrett graduated from Midway High School in Waco in 1969. In 1973, he visited San Antonio to celebrate the city’s annual Fiesta where he met Arthur “Hap” Veltman, a downtown real estate developer. It was love at first sight, Duckworth said.
“Kenneth would go back home to Waco, but would always return to San Antonio to see Hap,” she said. “They were such an adorable couple and were so in love. Hap loved to spoil Kenneth.”
The two were inseparable until Veltman died in December 1988 at age 52. After Veltman’s death, Garrett preferred spending time alone at the home he and Veltman shared in San Antonio’s River Road neighborhood. He also became owner and president of the 1122 Corporation, which owns and operates the Bonham Exchange that Veltman opened in 1981.
Duckworth credits Garrett with creating the annual Chili Queens Chili Cook-Off, which became an official Fiesta event. “It was entirely his conception, and he asked me to help him get it off the ground,” she said. “Proceeds from this event benefit the gay community.”
Garrett supported the LGBTQIA community over the years in many other ways, including donating to Fiesta Cornyation, which funds charities that assist people with HIV/AIDS, as well as Thrive Youth Center for LGBTQIA youths, and other fundraisers.
“I remember he used to go to Earl Abel’s and buy a whole bunch of pies and cakes and then deliver them to the San Antonio AIDS Foundation,” Duckworth said.
A huge animal lover, Garrett adored caring for his six dogs and feeding stray cats that showed up at his door. He also enjoyed taking trips to Port Aransas where he took walks along the beach with his beloved pets, Duckworth said.
“Kenneth was always so kind and loving, and that’s what I’ll miss the most,” she said.
Garrett is survived by his Bonham Exchange family and countless friends in the LGBTQIA community.