MAN, W.Va. — Oct. 1, 2021, is a day Keona Acord will remember the rest of her life.
That’s the night she was crowned as the Man High School homecoming queen.
Acord, a 17-year-old Man senior, was happy and surprised she was voted queen by her peers — but she’s also happy to just be alive.
Sickened with the delta variant of COVID-19 in late August, Acord was hospitalized in Cincinnati for two weeks.
She was on a ventilator briefly, but was able to recover and go back to school.
Acord’s father, Shawn, however, died Sept. 4 at the age of 44.
It was a blow to the Man community.
The past month has been an emotional roller coaster ride for Keona and her family, but being crowned as the homecoming queen helped lessen that pain.
“I will remember this forever,” Acord said. “I did this for my dad and my mom.”
When Acord’s name was announced as queen, the crowd at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field roared. Most of them knew her story and survival.
Acord was visibly surprised and happy, pumping her fist into the air after her name was announced by PA guy and Man basketball coach TJ Blevins.
“I was shocked and very surprised that I won this,” she said. “It means a lot to me. It surprised me because I didn’t think anyone would do this because I’m a very quiet person. When they got behind me, it really touched me.”
Man senior football player Jayden Brown, who scored a touchdown in the Hillbillies’ 20-6 homecoming win over Buffalo, said the whole school got behind her.
Brown said he and several students went on a schoolwide campaign, encouraging students to vote for Acord.
“The whole school got behind her. We got everybody in the school to vote for her,” Brown said.
Acord’s mother, Cathy, said watching her daughter win was special.
“This was so awesome,” Cathy Acord said. “She’s been through a lot. Keona and her dad were on the vent at the same time. They both had the delta variant. She was able to pull out of it.”
While her daughter and husband were hospitalized, the outpouring of messages and prayers from the Man community was off the charts, Cathy Acord said.
“She’s a good kid. Everybody loves her,” she said. “The messages she received and the prayers were unbelievable.”
Keona Acord said she began feeling sick in mid-August. She was not able to attend classes at the beginning of the school year.
“I had the delta variant and had a mix of pneumonia and COVID,” Acord said. “I was on the vent for four days. Two of those days they had me awake. It took me about two weeks to pull out of it.”
Watching her be crowned on the sideline was Jerry Fekete, her longtime school bus driver.
“I was tearing up,” Fekete said. “I was crying and happy for her. She’s such a great girl and has such a great family. She’s kin to my family. My son Justin is married to her cousin Brittany Lusk. Her mom’s dad and Brittany’s mom are brothers and sisters. I was her bus driver all through school, from kindergarten all the way up.”
Keona had an incredible homecoming week all around.
Earlier in the week, she also helped her senior class win the tug-of-war battle, besting the juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
“She was our anchor, and she helped us win the tug-of-war,” Brown said.
Keona’s father, an Oceana native and a 1994 graduate of Oceana High School, was active in the Man community. He was a Little League baseball, basketball and softball coach and was employed at Coronado Coal.
Shawn and Cathy Acord were married for 19 years. He had rededicated his life to the Lord on Aug. 18.
“He’s in a better place now,” Keona Acord said.
Acord said after graduation, she wants to study criminal justice, possibly at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.