I will treasure the many dinners we had over the past few years discussing changes in the roofing industry, our families and good wine. As I sat at his memorial service, I was amazed at everything my friend and business guru had accomplished in his 70 years of life.
Herbert Ross Kirby was born November 14, 1934, in Newark, Ohio. He was the son of Herbert Reeves Kirby, an inventor, entrepreneur and later a Baptist minister, and Helen (Ross) who for many years worked in the family business. As a child, Herb's family moved frequently when his father worked for Owens-Corning. They eventually settled in Monrovia, Calif., where his father established Kirby Fiberglass Inc. in 1946.
Herb began working in the family business while in high school and learned all aspects of its operation. He graduated from Monrovia High School in 1952, entered Pasadena City College and received his associate degree in Arts on June 17, 1954.
After graduation, Herb worked as a salesman for the family business in the Chicago area. He then served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1957 to 1962. He took his first solo flight in 1958 and received his pilot's license. This was the beginning of a life-long love of flying. Returning to civilian life, Herb pursued educational and other goals. He entered LaVerne College and received a BA in June of 1967.
One of Herb's dreams was to sail around the world. In 1971, Herb and family sailed his 45-foot Mayflower ketch down the coast of California to Baja, where a storm short-circuited the dream. They continued to live on the boat for a year.
Herb then entered the Baptist Seminary of the West, receiving his Master of Divinity degree on June 1, 1974 and then continued there to his Doctorate of Ministry degree on June 7, 1975. He then went back to La Verne College, where he received a Master of Science degree in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling on Aug. 31, 1975.
At this time, Herb, now single, lived on Balboa Island. He was a substitute teacher for both junior and senior high classes and worked for the Los Angeles Probation Department. At night, he taught business seminars. It was during this time that Herb became re-acquainted with Lynda Melton. Herb and Lynda became good friends, courted and were married five years later on March 29, 1981, at the Mt. of Olives Lutheran Church in Mission Viejo, Calif. Herb became a second father to Lynda's two children: Josh Melton and Naomi-who is now married to Rich Dupre and has a daughter, Alyse.
The family lived in Laguna Niguel, Calif., and soon after their marriage, Herb returned to the family business. The Whittier earthquake motivated Herb to move the business to Pueblo, Colo., in 1988. The family then settled in Monument, Colo. Herb enjoyed the horses, dogs and Western lifestyle that he and Lynda lived. He still enjoyed flying and did it for pleasure and business as much as he could.
In 2000, Herb was diagnosed with lymphoma. This challenge became his focus. After two years of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, he had a clean bill of health. Even the doctors were surprised.
In February 2003, Herb and Lynda purchased a condo in Destin, Fla. Herb's attention turned to a re-certification to fly. He received his flying license a year ago. Herb realized that if he had a jet he could commute to the condo, spending more time with family and use it in the business. Herb had 46 years of solid flying experience. He began jet certification on Oct. 18, 2004, and received his jet rating four days later. The next month he purchased a Citation jet.
Herb's plan was to fly his old plane (a Cessna), along with his long-time friend and employee, Cleve Reeves (past president of Reeves Roofing Equipment, Helotes, Texas), to Destin to pick up his Citation jet and fly it back to Colorado Springs. A refueling stop on the trip to Destin was scheduled at Little Rock, Ark., where the accident occurred.
"Herb was so many things to so many people, a devoted husband, father, son, grandfather, friend and pilot," says stepdaughter Naomi, who is now operating Kirby Fiberglass. "He was an avid outdoors man who loved hunting and horseback riding. He lived life to its fullest; no accomplishment was too big or unattainable. Flying and being a pilot was just one of his many achievements and it was also his passion. An example of his zest for the life he was destined to live."
She continues: "Herb was an impressive man. As our good friend Jessie Barboa said, ‘Herb was large and in charge.' When he walked in a room his presence was known. He was a man of principle and a man of his word. His confidence was almost visible energy, evident to all. His generosity has been experienced by many people. I could never thank him enough for the opportunities he provided for me and my family. He's my second father who influenced 25 years of my life and will continue to do so in spirit. He will remain the most influential man in my life. I love him, my dad."
Besides Lynda, Herb is survived by his mother Helen, and his stepchildren, Robert (wife Liz) Anderson of Del Mar, Calif., Mark (wife Wendy) Anderson of Old Lyme, Conn., and Judy (husband Roger) Elliot of Little Rock, Ark.
Herb moved Helen to Colorado Springs in 2004 so he and Lynda could spend more time with her. Herb visited his mother daily. He was a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Asphalt Roofing Manufactures Association, the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association and the American Quarter Horse Association. Memorials may be made to: First Lutheran Church Disaster Relief fund for the South East Asia Tsunami victims, 1515 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80907.
Cleve Reeves' body is believed to still be in the plane, which is in the Arkansas River. To send a card to Karen Reeves, she can be reached at: 417 West Fairway Dr., Pueblo, CO 81007.
Both families appreciate your thoughts and prayers.