He was a pillar of his faith, a pillar of his family and a pillar in his education career.
On Monday, March 16, David died after a courageous four-year battle with cancer.
This week his former students and colleagues remember his deep and abiding influence on their work and lives.
A common theme among all his friends and colleagues were the “KP hug,” his always- positive attitude and his ever-present warm smile.
Lapeer East teacher and girls’ soccer coach Bill Kinzer knew “KP” as a student and later as a colleague.
“I was lucky enough to have him as my counselor while I was a student at East,” Kinzer said. “I then coached with him for 15 years at both East and West high schools.”
“KP was a tremendous advocate for kids, he was a genius at relating to people, and I remember being amazed at the line up outside his office at White Junior High before school each day,” Kinzer said. “It seemed like every kid in the building wanted to stop in and say ‘hi’ every morning. Personally, I just feel a deep sorrow that he’s gone. He was a one in a million person.”
West teacher Andy Roberts also remembered KP’s connection with the students, including those that might have had discipline issues or outside school problems.
“It didn’t matter what type of kid, he would stand outside the counseling office each morning and high-five every kid going by,” Roberts said. “He did it because he genuinely cared about them and his goal was to make a connection with every kid.”
When his mother died, Roberts’ younger sister was a senior, and a former player of Kirkpatrick’s. Although she was worried about her grades, she was not ready to go back to school and it was Kirkpatrick who told her to deal with her grief and that he would take care of getting her caught back up in school.
“He took care of it, he made sure it happened and he had it handled,” Roberts said. “He was the ultimate role model.”
Even with his great affection for his students, his life’s priorities were firm, said West counselor Brad Walker.
“In KP’s life, God was first, his family was second and the students third,” Walker said. “He put everything he had into what he did and was the kind of person people went to if they needed a hug, because you were going to get one like it or not.”
At work he was diligent and focused on making a positive change for students.
“I’ll always remember sitting in the back room discussing how to better serve the students of Lapeer Schools, especially the ones who seemed to have no desire to be reached,” Walker said.
“He was always positive, even in the face of all of the issues he was dealing with when Katie took ill,” Walker said. “He lived his life never giving up because of his circumstances and he expected to find a way to get others to do the same.”
Everyone remembered KP’s devotion to his career.
“He had the knowledge, and he had the desire to pass on this knowledge to others who were sometimes willing and sometimes not willing to absorb his wisdom,” said West assistant principal Tim Zeeman. “He had a passion for loving people and educating people. I firmly believe that everyday KP lived he educated someone. I also believe that even in his death, the memories of KP, living on as they will, will allow people to continue to learn from him and educate for him.”
East teacher and soccer coach Chad Kenny remembered KP as a person who just made everyone around them better.
“I learned so much from KP, mainly on how to discipline players with dignity,” Kenny said. “Now, as I run my own program, I refer to KP’s ways frequently. When I have to deal with a difficult situation, I ask myself, ‘how would KP handle this?’
“He would often say to me, ‘I don’t know much about soccer, but I understand kids,’” Kenny said. “And, he certainly did know how to handle kids. He was amazing to watch in action.”
West counselor Karol Settergren remembered KP as her mentor and friend during her 11-year counseling career in the District.
“He walked me through the process of becoming a school counselor, teaching me skills, giving me feedback, advising and supervising,” Settergren said. “Most of all, he gave me a tremendous amount of support and encouragement. He shared generously of his time and knowledge and for that I am truly appreciative. He expected the best of others and inspired students to reach beyond their expectations.”
Lapeer Superintendent Debbie Thompson’s memories of David were in his capacity as counselor at a time when she was in charge of curriculum and instruction.
“David always had a smile on his face and was the most positive person I ever met,” Mrs. Thompson said. “On a bad day, he was the person to see.”
A 1970 graduate of Southfield High School, Kirkpatrick attended Rochester College where he played basketball. He received his bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and began his teaching career at Lapeer Community Schools.
In addition to his teaching and counseling career, he was a track, soccer, basketball and Quiz Bowl coach.
He earned a master’s degree in administration at Central Michigan University and was a licensed, professional counselor. He spent the last portion of his nearly 32-year career as a guidance counselor at E.T. White Junior High School and Lapeer West High School.
In 1995, he was awarded a “Distinguished Service Award” by the Great Teachers Foundation. In 2005, he received the Outstanding Alumnus in Education Award from Rochester College.
He served as an elder at the Lake Orion Church of Christ and was most recently a member of the Lapeer Church of Christ. He also served on the Michigan Christian Youth Camp Board of Directors and was chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Metropolitan Detroit Youth Chorus.
KP is survived by his wife of 36 years, Niki; his daughter, Sara (Kevin) Nelms, of Metamora; son-in-law, Nick Godwin, of Port Huron; grandchildren, Jake David and Hayley-Kate Elizabeth Nelms, of Metamora; parents, James and Hazel Kirkpatrick, of Southfield; a brother, Thomas Kirkpatrick, of Lake Orion; parents-in-law, Nick and Geneva Schafsnitz, of Arizona; sister-in-law, Dawn (Jack) Neveau, of Arizona; nephew, Jonathan Neveau, of Arizona; niece, April (Tom) Martini, of Arizona; great nieces, Kaitlyn, Jacklyn and Madilyn Martini, of Arizona; and countless other family, friends and colleagues.
He was preceded in death by an infant son, Nathan Kirkpatrick, in 1982, and daughter, Katie Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Godwin, who died in January 2005 after her courageous battle with cancer.
Memorial contributions are requested to Katie’s Wings, P.O. Box 458, Metamora, Michigan, 48455. Katie’s Wings is a non-profit organization founded by the Kirpatrick family in memory of their daughter, Katie. It provides assistance to local people dealing with cancer by offering products and services through Katie’s Spa in Lapeer.
Visitation is tonight (Friday), March 20 from 2-8 p.m. at the Lapeer Church of Christ, 1680 N. Lapeer Road. Funeral services are planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at the Bristol Road Church of Christ, 1315 W. Bristol Road in Flint.