P-K. These two letters represent the nickname that an American soldier recently killed in Afghanistan went by when he attended Avon Old Farms School.
But it takes the people who knew U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel, 28, many words to describe him.
For Avon Old Farms staff and friends, those words include humanitarian, athlete, positive, brother, charismatic, honorable, patriotic and much more.
Avon Old Farms Headmaster Kenneth H. LaRocque was notified Tuesday night about the 2002 graduate's death overseas. Pedersen-Keel, a Madison native, was killed in action on March 11, 2013, along with a fellow officer while serving his country in Afghanistan.
“Obviously, my heart sank. It’s just so different when you know someone," LaRocque said. "His eyes were just full of energy and life and that’s just who P-K was."
A flag over Diogenese dormitory where Pedersen-Keel coincidentally used to live in was flown at half-staff in his honor on Wednesday. Flags were also ordered half-staff in Connecticut and across the country in honor of him and another American soldier killed.
The all-boys private school was out on break when the news broke Tuesday and school officials were in the process of notifying the school community Wednesday afternoon.
Pedersen-Keel came to Avon Old Farms after attending James H. Moran Middle School in Wallingford. He boarded on the Avon campus all four years. According to the 2002 yearbook, he lived in Coral Gables, Florida his senior year.
He was a dean's list student, taking some advanced placement courses. He was also editor of school newspaper The Avon Record and was involved in the school's Model United Nations and Habitat for Humanity. As a dorm monitor for two years, he watched out for other students and was a role model for underclassmen and peers.
"He was a true leader on campus," Larocque said. "His dream was always to go to West Point."
And he did, graduating in 2006. Pedersen-Keel was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was killed by a member of the Afghan National Police while conducting a patrol brief in the Jalrez District.
A biography prepared and released by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, NC, provided .
A tri-sport athlete, Pedersen-Keel played football and lacrosse and was also a wrestler.
Dean Kevin Driscoll, who coached him in football and was dean of students at the time, called P-K "the alpha dog" despite being one of the smaller players at 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 180 pounds. People listened to him and "he was the man," Driscoll said. He described him as a hard worker who taught others loyalty and had a high moral standard. P-K was never someone who'd just sit around, Driscoll said.
Driscoll's nephew graduated from Avon Old Farms in 2005 was there for part of the time Pedersen-Keel was in high school. Driscoll thinks of him while remembering P-K because his nephew is overseas in Afghanistan now with the U.S. Navy.
"He gave back more than any of us ever will," Driscoll said of Pedersen-Keel. "He was a brother."
The last time LaRocque and Driscoll saw P-K was when he returned to campus for a visit last spring.
Pedersen-Keel's mother, Helen lived in Canton while he attended the Avon all-boys private school.
"I love you, son," his mother wrote in an ad she placed in his senior yearbook. "I am so proud of you, and so thankful to the years that have given me so much to be thankful for. You are my adored son, and also my friend. Love, Mom."
The two were really close and his mother was very supportive of him and Avon Old Farms, school officials said.
“She let Avon do what we had to do to help her son," Driscoll said.
LaRocque's oldest son, Nick, who graduated the year before Pedersen-Keel and played sports with him, wrote in an email to his dad upon hearing the news that P-K was "kind of the quintessential Avon kid." He remembered Pedersen-Keel as a "positive" and "friendly" person and someone who would play with faculty members' kids after dinner. LaRocque shared some of the email with Patch.
"That was some really shocking news yesterday. I've been processing it sort of slowly and it's tough to get past how sad it is," Nick LaRocque wrote to his father. "In thinking about how much potential someone like that had (between his intelligence and his charisma and his work ethic) - it's tough to think that he really could have been anything and now he's dead. Certainly I don't mean to devalue what he was in saying that. It's really just the outcome of it that is really hard to swallow."
He told his father that he supported establishing a memorial on campus for Pedersen-Keel. No plans have been made at this time as the school community processes the news, school officials said.
During Avon Old Farms School's Alumni Weekend in May, it is tradition to hold an informal memorial service for alumni that have passed away in the past year for people to stand up and say some words in their memory. LaRocque anticipates that Pedersen-Keel will be mentioned at the May 18 service.
Already, he is memorialized in his senior yearbook from 2002. He thanked the following people on his page.
"I would like to start by thanking my mom, without you nothing was possible. Dad, thank you for this gift, it was definitely worth it," Pedersen-Keel wrote. "Bob, thanks for putting up with me, I love all of you very much. Mary, you are half my soul and my best teacher, I love you! Will, you are a true friend, thanks for your perspective and support. Seth AKA Killa, you are the best kid. Nate AKA Skills I don't know what I'll do without you. To all my cronies, thanks for the good times. Thanks to the Murphy's, Mr. Cooper, Mr. McGinn, Mr. Driscoll, Mr. Beneski, Mr. Ogden, The Narsipurs, and everyone else."
His senior quote?
"Just surrender to the cycle of things, give yourself to the waves of the Great Change, and when it is time to go, then simply go without any unnecessary fuss," he chose in the words of T'ao Chien.
Pedersen-Keel is survived by his parents and sister.