What I Said at My Father’s Funeral

Nine years ago I volunteered to give the life sketch at my father’s funeral. Below are the remarks I prepared.

Louis Albert Kirby was the cherished only child of Cecil Robert Kirby and Helen Peterson Kirby. Helen and Cecil had been married 6 years by the time Louis came along on June 8, 1940.

Whenever I think about my dad’s stories of his childhood they appear in my mind as moving Norman Rockwell paintings. He grew up in the close-knit small town of Hyde Park, UT. It was close-knit because nearly everyone was related. This meant that his friends and playmates were also his 8 cousins. He loved growing up in this setting. With his cousins he would hike in the foothills, which are now covered with homes. He would sled until his sled fell apart underneath him. He would skate down the frozen canal, because it was much faster that way to get around town. His cousins were the siblings he never had. Even on Christmas mornings, after spending time with his own parents and grandparents (for his dad’s parents lived with them), he would go to his cousins’ home to share the excitement of childhood Christmases.

Despite his close relationship with his cousins, his parents came first. He loved working this his dad on the mink farm so much the he would happily leave this playmates to help. His father was his best friend and he was very close to his mother as well.

Louis’s time with his best friend and father ended far too soon. Not long before it came time for Louis to leave on his mission his father got very sick with cancer. My dad left on his mission knowing that he wouldn’t see his dad again. Cecil died the very day Louis arrived in Denmark to begin his service as a missionary in the Copenhagen Denmark Mission. When the mission president called Louis into his office to let him know about Cecil’s death, Louis walked in and saw the look of anxiety on his face. Louis said, “my dad doed, didn’t he?” Louis reassured his mission president that he would stay and serve because that is what his father wanted for him. Whenever my dad told me this story he would express that he was certain my grandpa died when he did because my grandpa wanted to make sure my dad was on his mission and would stay on his mission.

This experience of my dad’s is part of the legacy he gave me. When I was serving my mission and I told my mission president about Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease. I was able to reassure my mission president that if anything happened to my dad, I would stay and serve my mission because I knew that was exactly what he would want me to do. I told my mission president of my dad’s experience. It brought reassurance to both my mission president and I.

For three years my dad served faithfully in the Copenhagen Denmark Mission. He absolutely love his mission. He loved learning the customs and traditions of the homeland of his ancestors and many of those traditions became our family traditions. He enjoyed success in his labors and made long-time friends with both those he served and the missionaries he served with.

Louis loved to travel. He was able to travel around Europe with his fellow missionaries before returning home. When he got home he and his mother traveled to the National parks in and around Utah, including Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, We spent many evenings listening to my dad’s stories while he showed slide after slide of his travels.

As an only child of a widow, Louis chose to serve in the Army National Guard rather than risk getting drafted and sent to Vietnam. Utah’s National Guard had been called up for the Korean War, so he knew that it would not be sent to Vietnam. He served in the Smithfield Unit for six years as a radio artillery man. He reached the rank of Specialist Fourth Grade and was awarded a Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.

From his mother Dad learned to love listening to music and watching people dance. That is what he was doing when he met Linda at a Friday Night at the Institute dance. After five months of dating they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on March 14, 1972.

As a husband he was supportive of his wife. Mom remembers one night when she was tired from taking care of baby Raymond who was sick. Dad stayed up all night, holding Raymond upright so he could breathe. Mom was able to get some rest. I remember him holding her while she cried when she was frustrated, even if he had been the one she was frustrated with. Both Mom and Dad worked to resolve any disagreement between them peacefully. Their example taught us that marriage and family relationships work as both people work at it. Loyalty matters and you should not ever give up on a relationship.

Dad was also supportive of his children. In all our soccer, softball, baseball, and volleyball games, he and Mom were there. They came to band concerts and competitions, color guard competitions, plays, dance performances, and musicals. Eve when travel became hard because of his Parkinson’s disease he and Mom made it up to Pocatello for Emily’s large band competition at ISU. Just a couple of years ago he was still coming to my dance performance and Brett’s musical. Lifting his head was hard from him by that point, so we aren’t sure how much he saw, but he wanted to be there for us. He was always proud of us.

Dad wasn’t able to take us on the long trips that he and his mother went on, but we did travel. Every year we would go to Bear Lake to play on the beach. And if the sandbox was low at home we would take some of the beach home with us in the trunk of the car. We would travel to South Jordan for life milestones of our cousins. Every baby blessing, mission farewell or homecoming, and wedding gave us a chance to leave Cache Valley and see my mom’s family. School and Christmas shopping turned into family vacations to Salt Lake City where we got to have the rare treat of eating out. Peter Piper Pizza was the coolest place to me. Dad would give us money to play skeet ball since it was the game that gave us a chance to win prizes.

He was anxious for our happiness. He trusted us to make the right decisions and strove to follow his heart to do the same. No matter what rules or consequences he set, he always strove to teach us principles that would make us happy.

Among those principles he taught us was loyalty to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We went to church every week. He always paid tithing and fast offerings even though at times we received help from the church. He enjoyed teaching us the Gospel on deep levels. Trina remembers sitting with him at the kitchen table on Sunday afternoon and asking him doctrinal questions. With the words of the Prophets on hand, she couldn’t stump him. He served in whatever capacity the Lord called him and taught us to do the same. He found peace in listening to the living Prophets. On the last day of his life he rested easiest when he was listening to a rerun of a talk given by President Hinkley.

He was a loyal and caring son. Every day after work and most Saturdays after weekly shopping he would visit his widowed mother. Whatever she needed him to do he would do it. He always made sure she never felt lonely or neglected. He would listen to her and care for her no matter what.

Dad cared for people in his community. He tried his wit on everyone he met: old friends, neighbors, ward members, grocery store clerks. He would give us a full report on ward and neighborhood happenings at Sunday dinner or when we would call home. He also cared about world events, getting his news from the Harold Journal and the evening news. If there was a major news event we were not allowed to change the channel from CNN.

He adored his grandchildren. Although verbal communication with them was hard, he loved getting hugs from them and listening to their accomplishments. He has never been anything less than proud of me. As much as possible he attended their life milestones, from birthdays to baptisms, all the while just happy to be their grandpa.

In all his roles, as cousin, son, husband, father, grandpa and friend, he shared with us the things he loved. His joy in the gospel, music, sports, his Cache Valley home, his determination, his love of living life, and even his stubbornness have shaped who we are. And although he has returned home to that God who gave him life, we remain a living legacy of his love.

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