Article from Tech Annual 2013 - ISU School of Applied Technology

Article from Tech Annual 2013 – ISU School of Applied Technology

Honoring a Legacy Dale Kirkham

In honor and recognition of Dale’s contribution to the College of Technology, a tribute scholarship will be awarded next academic year to a student studying in the ISU Diesel/On-Site Power Generation Technology program.

The involvement of Dale B. Kirkham, Sr., in the Idaho State University Diesel/On-Site Power Generation Technology program is long, devoted, and treasured. He was a generous supporter of diesel education at the College of Technology before passing away on February 8, 2012. The diesel program would not be where it is today without Dale’s attention to detail and the support that he freely gave during his life.

Dale had a great love of cars, parts, and a persistent entrepreneurial spirit that garnered the support of ISU faculty, staff, and students. For 21 years, Dale generously sponsored scholarships for diesel students and served as an industry mentor. He often volunteered his time as an advocate for the program and was able to impact a countless number of students who pursued an education at the College of Technology. Over his lifetime, Dale also provided hundreds of jobs in the area.

Dale, 86, was born in Lehi, Utah, where he learned a love for automobiles and hard work. After high school, Dale fought in World War II and eventually graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in accounting. He then moved to Pocatello where he married Bodell Smith and started a small auto parts business known as Dale’s Auto Supply Company. The business eventually grew to include auto recycling, equipment sales, real estate development, and outdoor advertising enterprises.

Dale was a hard worker, spending everyday actively engaged, and many times his work took him to the ISU diesel program. He visited the College of Technology on his last day of life, a memory that will continue to live on in the hearts of those who admired his dedication and commitment. Dale’s vision and devotion to ISU has resulted in a nationally-recognized and accredited curriculum for the diesel program.

Tech Annual 2013 | 6


Funeral Services for Dale Bruce Kirkham

The funeral services for Dale Bruce Kirkham were held February 18, 2012.

To listen to Dale’s Life Sketch from his funeral please click here.

To listen to Dale Kirkham’s Funeral click here.



Pocatello businessman dies at 86

Article from the Idaho State Journal 2/12/12


Dale age 18 behind the wheel of his 27 Model T road buggy next to his mother and brother with his brother's new 1941 Ford.

DALE KIRKHAM had a special talent  for  finding the good in everything, and he made a nice living doing just that – finding the good!  Whether it was seeing value in a broken down car sitting in a farmer’s field, or helping a destitute young man get through vocational school, or serve a mission, Dale saw the good and capitalized on it.  He made a career of finding value in salvage, repurposing old buildings, developing raw real estate, and overhauling broken lives by being a friend, counselor, and mentor.

SCRAPING MODEL T’s – When Dale was 13 or 14 years old he used to go around his neighborhood, begging and buying old Model T Fords that in the late 30s were being phased out in large numbers by newer, more powerful automobiles. “I would “find the good” in other people’s junk.  People would often give me their old cars if I would just drag them out of their beet fields”, Dale recalled.  “I would take an ax and cut the bodies off, stripping them down to their frames.  I would load them on a wagon and when I had a full load I would hitch up my old horse and drag them down to Geneva Steel in Orem, Utah where I would get $10 a piece for those frames. They made sheep camps out of them. I often had a hundred dollars or more in my wallet when I was just a kid.”  Dale helped support his family during the very lean times of the depression years when money very scarce.

Oliver Kirkham on a home made Model A tractor

CREATING AND REBUILDING – Dale’s passion for cars was not just for the scrap value they had, he could also “find the good” by creating new from used.  With the help of his father he would creatively put pieces and parts of different cars together to make  tractors and road buggies.  Because his family lived on a farm, they could get fuel ration coupons during the early days of the war. “I always had a car from the time I was about 14 years old. I drove to school, and in the winter I would often go out on Utah Lake when it was frozen over.  I would spin my friends around in my hacked off Model T.  I’m lucky nobody ever got killed!”  Later in life Dale would make a business purchasing wrecked vehicles and rebuilding them.  “I always had nice cars.  I love cars!  I would build my cars up from scratch, repaint them, and presto, I had a beautiful car.”

Dale standing behind the counter of one of his auto parts stores in the 1970s

THE AUTO PARTS BUSINESS –  Dale came to Pocatello from Utah in 1949 to start an auto parts store in partners with his brother, Reed.  They modeled the Kirkham Auto Parts stores using principles pioneered by Uath auto parts magnate Frank Bradshaw. Both Dale and Reed worked for Frank before the war.  Dale and Reed eventually split up and finding the good in the separation, Dale went his own way.  As Dale’s business grew he discovered that he could “find the good” in wrecked cars.  He would buy cars that had been totaled in accidents to harvest them for their engines. “The Ford Flathead V-8 engine was all the rage after the war.  Everyone wanted one.  I would buy wrecked cars that had the engines, sell them, and then I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the car.  Finally I bought an empty lot south of Pocatello and I put the bodies there.  Then people started buying other parts off the bodies and before I knew it, I was in the salvage business.”

A FUNNY MEMORY BUILDING CARS – Years later, Dale remembed purchasing one wrecked car in American Falls in the early 1950s.  The car was a rollover but still had all four tires, brakes, and could be steered.  “I took my father-in-law and a chain and we drove to American Falls to tow the broken car back to Pocatello.  A few miles out of American Falls the chain broke, and I was obliged to pull over to the side of the road and wait till he came back.  People would stop to see if I was alright.  It looked like I had been in a terrible accident.  A police officer came and I had to explain that I hadn’t wrecked the car, I was just being towed back to Pocatello and I didn’t need a ride to the hospital. Meanwhile my father-in-law drove all the way back to Pocatello, pulled up in front of my house, turned around and to his astonishment, I wasn’t there! Baffled, he drove all the way back to American Falls, found me, and seeing me surrounded by concerned drivers he asked, “What happened to you?”  I fired back at him, “I was wondering the same thing about you!”  We laughed for years about that experience.”

EXPANDING BUSINESS – Dale’s Auto Supply and Dale’s Auto Salvage served customers all over the Western United States and Canada.  “We got one of the early tele-type systems and joined an association of other auto salvage yards.  If customers needed a part and we didn’t have it, we would put it on the tele-type and see if we could find it.  It was the early internet system.  Eventually we transitioned to “hot-lines”, expensive dedicated long-distance phones that allowed dozens of salvage yards to talk to each other simultaneously.  “You would walk in the store and it sounded like a live-stock auction and a carnival all rolled up into one.  Those were days that you had to be sharp and really on your toes.”  Finding the part was only half the battle.  Whether buying or selling, the parts had to pulled, tested, cleaned, crated and shipped.  “There was a lot of overhead in doing all that.  We had a alphabetic price system we would use, instead of numbers, so that we could speak in code front of our customers.  It was amazing to watch.  To me it felt a lot like being live at the stock exchange on wall street.”  Dale eventually opened specialty salvage yards including yards for imported cars and yards for heavy duty truck parts.

Dales Auto Salvage 1982

AUTO RECYCLING –  Dale was a pioneer in the recycling business and his enterprise grew rapidly.  Dale started salvage yards in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Montana.  “The yards were  very profitable and eventually people caught on to recycling so the scrap became valuable as well.”  In the late 1960s and early 1970s people starting buying cars from Japan.  “The Japanese needed scrap to make steel.  So we started a second company called RECYCLE CONTRACTORS and went all over the country literally cleaning up everywhere we went.  We owned our own trucking company and began shipping pre-processed scrap to the large mills in Las Vegas, Houston, Sacramento, Portland, and Regina, Canada.  People used to abandon cars in gullies, farm fields, and at public dump grounds.  We gathered them up, crushed them, and sent them over to Japan on huge ships.  They would melt them down and send them back to us as new Datsuns or Toyotas.  We had a lot of fun in those days.”

TETON DAM FLOOD.  On June 5, 1976 an earthen dam on the Teton River, north of Idaho falls failed, causing a devastating flood that resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of property and took 11 lives.  Dale had several contracts with insurance companies to buy their auto salvage.  “We guaranteed to pay them 20% of the retail value of any wrecked vehicle they got.  We were geared to picked up the occasional salvage from a car wreck, but we weren’t prepared when the dam broke. Thousands of cars were swept away in that terrible flood.”  Immediately the phones started ringing and Dale was told he had to go out and gather up the salvage from the flood.  “The extent of the damage was catastrophic.  Often the cars were miles away from where they started.  They were all filled with mud. Some had rolled over hundreds of times and the model was unrecognizable.  The cost of all those cars nearly bankrupted our company.”  Somehow Dale managed to raise the money and gather up all the battered cars.  Slowly, overtime, he turned the huge inventory into a valuable asset.  “I just tried to find the good in a very bad situation and thats exactly what I discovered.”

DEMOLITION WORK.  As Dale acquired equipment and trucks he also got opportunities to branch out into other forms of salvage.  He started finding the good in demolition work.  “We always helped out in the community, tearing down little shacks especially in the poorer area of Pocatello around the rail road where I lived with my family in an apartment over our store.  One day officials at the Union Pacific saw us tearing down some old houses and asked if we wanted to bid on the demolition of their old freight depot.  I knew nothing about demolition work, but I gave them a bid.”  Dale’s bid was so low that they questioned that he could even do the job.  He not only completed the demolition ahead of schedule but came in below budget.  “They were happy and we were happy.  Everyone came out a winner.”  Finding the good in demolition work opened up many new doors for Dale and his company.

Blackfoot Sugar Factory

BLACKFOOT SUGAR FACTORY.  In 1982 Dale and his sons, who had now both joined him in the business, were driving through Blackfoot, Idaho. Dale pulled the car over next to a dilapidated old sugar factory and said to his boys, “My father used to boil sugar beets up on the top floor of that old building. Come on, lets go have a look.”  The property had been sadly vandalized and was a terrible eye sore in the community.  As they walked through the rubble Dale said, “What a mess! We should buy this and clean it up.”  Once again Dale was finding the good in something where others saw no value.  He called Amalgamated Sugar Company and made them aware of the liability of the enormous nuisance they had in Blackfoot, and he asked if they would consider selling the property.  Negotiations began and Dale soon acquired the property and he had a huge cleanup project in front of him.

REPURPOSING AN OLD SUGAR FACTORY – During the process of tearing down the old factory, a man stopped by and asked him if he could buy one of the old bagging machines that was still inside the factory.  “You can have it for nothing if you want it, take it.”  The man then asked about Dale’s plans for the property and he was told that it was all coming down.  Dale wanted it cleaned up.  “Please don’t tear down any of this old brick warehouse”, he said, “I would like to rent it from you.”  With that Dale found a home for Con Agra Foods fertilizer division and the property has been used for fertilizer distribution ever since.

BECOMING A REDEVELOPER – After the sugar factory, Dale went on to repurpose a number of other historic properties in Southeast Idaho including The Garrett Business ParkMeridell Park, and the old ZCMI warehouse in Pocatello.  Dale saw so much value in old property. “Find the good and get rid of the rest”, was his motto. The allure was more than he could resist.  Garrett Freight Lines was a facility that had been built during the high years of government regulated freight tariffs.  Garrett’s buildings were built to the highest standards. Clarence Garrett chose to build the headquarters for the fifth largest freight company here.  But when Mr. Garrett died and the company was sold, the facility was too large to serve Pocatello any more as a single purpose freight facility.  “We envisioned that Garrett’s could be turned into a business park and provide affordable incubation facilities for many businesses.”  Finding the good in the remnants of Garret Freight Lines proved to be a small gold mine. Once again customers found that when properly remodeled and updated, those facilities functioned as good as new and at a lower cost.

FINDING GOOD IN OTHERS.  Dale also was a believer that you can find the good in people as well.  He loved to help others.  For over two decades Dale sponsored scholarships at Idaho State University School of Applied Technology for students who couldn’t afford tuition. “Many of those kids were very worthy of help but had nowhere to turn.  Vocational scholarships were pretty hard to get in those days.”  Some of those students went on to very successful careers of their own, some becoming famous in their own right.  Dale helped to give them that start.  One such student was ISU Alumni Boyd Cottington who went on to be one of the most famous hot rod car designers in the industry.  His cars and designs are highly sought after to this day.

Hot rod designer Boyd Cottington, recipient of Dales Auto Scholarship

Boyd Cottingham Thank you letter to Dale Kirkham

Through his company, Dale provided jobs to hundreds of people through the years.  His ideas and philosophies have influenced his industry and his family.

CONCLUSION – Dale lived by the idea that true religion is helping and serving others.  “There is no better form of service than helping people by serving in business”, Dale loved to say.  “In business you treat people well.  You treat them with courtesy.  You call them ‘sir’ or ‘mam’, and if you please them and serve them well they will come back and do business with you again.  They will become your friends and you will be wealthy because any man who has friends is never poor.”  Dale had many, many friends.


Dale Kirkham – Obituary

Dale Bruce Kirkham

Dale Bruce Kirkham, 86, passed away Wednesday, February 8, 2012 from a sudden stroke.  His family, to whom he was devoted, was at his side.   He was born May 24, 1925 in Lehi, Utah to Oliver George Kirkham and LaVerde Bushman Kirkham. He was the youngest of five siblings.  His childhood was filled with opportunities to learn as his father taught him capentry, farming, mechanics, and handiman skills.  As a youth he was very entreprenurial.  He raised and sold rabbits, delivered news papers, scrapped Model Ts, and helped out on the farm where he learned a love of animals.  His passion for animals continued all through his life. He attended Lehi schools where he was involved in sports, music, and student affairs.  He loved to dance and swim.  He graduated with the class of 1942 and enlisted in the Navy at the height of World War II.

He spent his 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays serving in the Navy aboard a landing craft, LCI222.  He fought in the Pacific during World War II.  These were important formative years in his life.   After the war he attended Brigham Young University graduating with a degree in accounting. He then moved to Pocatello, Idaho where he started an auto parts business and took advanced business courses from ISU.  In Pocatello he met Bodell Smith and they were married on May 29, 1950.  Together they worked daily and enjoyed a 55-year partnership establishing both a family and a business. Their small single auto parts store, Dale’s Auto Supply Company, has grown to include auto recycling, equipment sales, real estate development, and outdoor advertising enterprises. For twenty-one years, he and his company have sponsored scholarships for the School of Applied Technology at Idaho State University and have provided hundreds of jobs in the area.

Dale faithfully worked daily with his sons, Kirk and Rich, daughters-in-law Kathy and Jill, and Grandson Scott to the day of his death.  Business and family were his life. He also served continuously in the community.  He was active on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, the Hospital, and the City and County Zoning Boards.  He was a licensed pilot.  He quietly sponsored annual volunteer community cleanup efforts throughout his life removing dozens of undesired structures and unwanted trees to help beautifty Pocatello.

He was a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He served faithfully in many capacities including serveral high councils, bishoprics, and bishop. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He continually reached out to the one.

He is survived by his son Dale B. “Kirk” (Jill) Kirkham Jr., and their four children; son Richard D. (Kathy) Kirkham, and their four sons Michael Adam (Jill M.) Kirkham, Richard Christian (Elyssa) Kirkham, Kirk Robert (Lauren) Kirkham, Matthew Thomas (Morgan) Kirkham; daughter Karol Bodell Kirkham (Scott) Stokes, and their five children Steven Scott (Jaquel) Stokes, Amy Karol (Aaron) Ricks, Elden Dale Stokes, twins Julie Veda Stokes and Jenny Bodell Stokes; Ten great grandchldren; sister Dona Parkinson, brother Dean (Gloria) Kirkham, brother-in-law Gary (Rita) Smith.  He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Bodell, and brothers Reed Kirkham and Avery “Huck” Kirkham.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or ISU College of Technology, attention Melisa Moon, 921 S. 8th Ave, Stop 8380, Pocatello, Idaho, 83209-8380.

A viewing will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 pm Friday, February 17, 2012, at the Colonial Funeral Home, 2005 S. 4th Ave, Pocatello, Idaho.  Funeral Services will be held Saturday, February 18, 2012 at the LDS Highland 2nd Ward Chapel, 2925 Michelle, with Bishop Rodney Eggleston conducting.  Interment will be at Restlawn Memorial Gardens, Pocatello, Idaho. For more information visit Dale’s website at www.LCI222.com

Dale Bruce Kirkham 1943, age 18

Dale Kirkham – Bannock County History 1993

History of Dale and Bodell Kirkham 1993 Bannock County History

(The following history about Dale and Bodell Kirkham and their family was published on page 673-674 of The Bannock County History, Volume III.  Bodell served as editor of the history at the request of the County Commissioners at the time the history was published.)

History of Dale B. and Bodell S. Kirkham 1993

Written by Bodell Kirkham

Voltaire suggested, “The trade secret of being tiresome is to tell everything,” so not “everything” will be recorded. The Dale B. Kirkham family began May 29,1950, as Dale and Bodell Smith were married. Little did she realize the challenging and exciting adventure that marriage to him would be.  Whatever he does, he does wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. Her blessing has been to be in the center of all the energy and vitality that he constantly generates. At times she has longed for a “dull moment”, but the unexpected has been the norm.

This dynamo name Dale Bruce was born the fifth and last child of Oliver George and LaVerde Bushman Kirkham in Lehi, Utah. May 24, 1925. His childhood was filled with opportunities to learn to work as his father taught him carpentry, farming, mechanics, and “handy-man” type skills. His Salt Lake Tribune paper route was diligently and daily discharged for many years. The picture of Dale on his bicycle, pursued by his collie dog was a familiar one 10 many Lehians. He graduated from Lehi High School, were he was active in athletics, music, and student affairs. He was a record-setting state trackman. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. His service in World War II found him at sea aboard the LCI 222 for his “19th. 20th and 21st birthdays.” Brigham Young University was his college choice, and he graduated with a degree in accounting. He also took advanced business courses at Idaho State University.

An opportunity for a partnership in an auto parts store in Pocatello brought him to Idaho in 1949. After purchasing his partner’s interest, he built his auto parts business into a thriving entity and expanded to salvage later in his career. His business interests have included the new-parts stores, three salvage yards in Pocatello, a new-auto parts store and a salvage yard in Idaho Fails, all under the umbrella of Dale ‘s Auto Supply Co., Inc. He organized Recycle Contractors Inc., in 1973, headquartered in Pocatello, with branches in Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana.  As Dale was a child, his father boiled sugar in surrounding areas.

This whetted Dale’s interest in the long vacant and idle U and I sugar factory in Blackfoot, which he purchased and has developed into a thriving operation leased to Con Agra (Pacifex.) His interests include heavy equipment, to buy, sell, and operate. Gemco, Inc. is a real estate development venture he enjoys. He is an officer in Crazy Comer Auto Sales, Inc., and has enjoyed an association with Kent Steed and Bill Orr in Pocatello and Idaho Falls in his venture. His most recent concern has been the purchase of the Garrett Freightliners complex in Pocatello, which is being renovated and leased. His business success of the past twenty years has been more meaningful because his two sons have contributed their efforts, dedication, and vision.

Always interested in the community, he has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce and served as a director. He served as Franklin Jr. High P.T.A. president. Locally, he was, for many years, an admissions’ advisor for Brigham Young University. For over 17 years he was a member of both the Bannock County Planning and Zoning Board, and the City Planning and Zoning Board. He was liaison between the two boards. Boy Scouting has received his support for over thirty years. Periodically he has been a member of I.S.U. Vo-Tech advisory boards. He was also a member of the Bannock Regional Medical Center Hospital board for two terms. He is a licensed pilot. His political affiliation is republican

A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has always been active and has served in many leadership capacities, including three different high councils, bishoprics, and bishop. Currently he is a stake missionary and high priest’s group instructor.

His pet peeves are abusive governmental intrusion, shoddy workmanship, pretense, indolence, dishonesty, casseroles, sweet pickles, lines, and clutter. His list of “likes” include motorcycles, the cabin, building structures, razing structures, physical fitness, clean cars, chocolate, soft shirts, red, harmonicas, meat and potatoes, band concerts, gardening, brahma bull riding, loyalty, swimming, asparagus, boxing, making a profit, grandchildren, flying, common sense, tomatoes, animals, driving, and his family. His credo is that one gets out of anything exactly what he puts into it. He has a rare gift – either he only does things he enjoys – or he enjoys everything he does. A tireless workaholic, he believes that if one retires, he expires.

Bodell Smith was born in Pocatello, the second daughter of Maud Bodell Jensen and Alma Gibson Smith. The family included three brothers. She is product of the greater Pocatello school system, including graduation from Pocatello High School and the University of Idaho Southern Branch. Always active in student affairs, she served as editor of the “Wickiup” at UIUSB. Requirement for her bachelor arts degree were completed at Brigham Young University. Following her graduation she taught at Dixon Jr. High School in Provo. Graduate school followed this first year of teaching, at which time she returned to teach at her Alma Mater, Pocatello High School for five years. The work ethic was taught to her early and she began at eleven to be gainfully employed working as a housemaid for the Hood Family. Her employment included maid at the Sunset Motel, secretary at B.Y.U. and at Challenge Creamery and an IBM machine operator at Garretts for six years. After her marriage to Dale, she left teaching and joined her husband in his business ventures, where she still assists.

A life-long member of the L.D.S. Church, she has served in all the auxiliary programs, but admits to favoritism for the young women, an organization in which she served in many capacities for 33 consecutive years. Music has always been a passion and she has led the ward choir for nearly seventeen years. She has been a member of the Les Belles Lettres Literary group since it’s beginning.  The American Cancer Society, American Association of University Women, and P.T.A. have all been important areas of concern for her. A graduate of the L.D.S. Institute, she continues to attend classes there and at Idaho State University. She was a member of both the Bannock County Centennial Commission and the Bannock County People’s history executive committees. Currently she is Regional Council Chairman of the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. A special association she enjoys is with her 1942 classmates. Her cause is the Republican Party.

Bodell intends to clean out her life- today, or tomorrow at the very latest. She means to start with things she dislikes, namely tipping, social security numbers, going to bed, getting up, waiting, property taxes, wind, hard lead pencils, liver, cats, ironing, and liberated women. She intends to expand her list of likes which now include birthday celebrations, reading, newspapers, football, BYU, lists, crossword puzzles, kaleidoscopes, sneezing, parties, republicans, writing, gardening, and good news. Her hobby is Christmas.

Three children blessed the Dale Kirkham home, Dale B. “Kirk” who is married to Jill Hoggan. They are the parents of Wendy Bodell, Dale Scott, Katie Christine, and Aaron Glen. Richard Dean Kirkham married Kathy Young and Michael Adam, Richard Christian, Kirk Robert, and Matthew Thomas are their children. Karol Bodell married L. Scott Stokes and their children are Steven Scott, Amy Karol, Elden Dale, and twins Julie Veda and Jennie Bodell. All three children and their mates have followed the lead of their parents and are Brigham Young University graduates. Kirk and Richard are involved in business with their dad in Pocatello. Scott is a civil engineer employed by the state of Idaho.

These two Bannock County supporters are grateful for a rich and full life with friends and family and try to remember that to serve brings more rewards than to be served, that to learn requires study, and that to know people are more important than things. Their lives runneth o’er.


Preliminary funeral plans for Dale B. Kirkham are being arranged for February 18, 2012 with a viewing at 10:00 am and a Funeral Service at 11:00 am.  Services will be held in the LDS 2nd Ward 2925 Michelle Street, Pocatello, ID.  More details will be posted.

Highland 2nd Ward, 2925 Michelle Street, Pocatello, Idaho


Dale Kirkham 1925 – 2012

Dale holding a Japanese flag that he brought home from the war. Photo taken two days before he died.

With a heavy heart I share with you all that Dale Kirkham passed away February 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm.  His passing was the witness of the miracle that we call the completion of life’s voyage.  He was a great sailor.

My name is Rich Kirkham. I am Dale’s son and I have been the ghost writer for this amazing story we call his War Diary.  As I write this it is 10:30 pm, February 8, 2012.  I rode to work with my father this morning and tonight I said good bye for the last time.

At about 8:30 this morning he drove past our house anxious to get to work.  My wife, Kathy, had flute practice so I was going to take my own car, but when I saw him drive by I called him on his cell phone and asked him for a ride to work.  I was anxious to tell him about the progress I was making on his War Diary.  I told him about the interesting letters and amazing things I learned about that very morning having to do with the last few months that he was in the Navy.  He asked me if I got his email about the B29s that flew out of Saipan during August.  He also sent it to me just this morning.  Neither he nor I could sleep during the night so apparently both of us were up, looking back at the war.  “You have to watch it.  Its just been released by the government!  Its absolutely amazing!  I remember watching those planes fly over as they were headed back and forth to Japan!  I remember it like it was yesterday.”  Three times today he asked me to please watch it.  I finally told him that I would watch it when I got home, for sure, but while I was at work I had to get the books closed.  Something about death and taxes I guess.  I got the books closed but I wish I had watched the video with my Dad instead.

Dad worked in the office all day today.  He spent his time with Kirk and Scott.  They were in the conference room setting goals for the company, but occasionally he poked his head in Kathy’s office where we were both working on the year-end books, and we listened to him politely while he shared with great excitement all of his plans and ideas for the day.   He said ‘If you want to “Get Where We’re Goaling” then you have write your goals down and work on them.  He was teasing me about the book I wrote by that title many years ago on the subject of goal setting.  He had his list and he got a lot of them done and crossed off.  He didn’t get to keep his appointment with Colonial Funeral Home that he set for Thursday at 2:00 pm.  He didn’t say anything to anyone but apparently he wanted to make some plans.  As it turns out he got to Colonial Funeral Home a day ahead of his appointment.

At 5:00 pm I was in the office when he came back from Costco with his grandson, Scott.  He was finally going to do something about his hearing.  At 4:30 he told Scott that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go back to the office.  When he came in the door of the office he told me that he wasn’t feeling well at all.  He was light headed and feeling dizzy.  He asked me if I could take him home.   I got up and headed to the hall where he was and he was obviously quite ill and very dizzy.  He walked down to his office and sat in his chair and started heaving.  He didn’t pass any vomit but the dry heaves got worse and worse.  I asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital and he waved me off.  I asked him if he wanted to lay down and he just waved me off again.  He was starting to sweat terribly. He reminded me of how Kathy gets sometimes when her blood sugar is low.  I knew something was not right.  After about 5 minutes of trying to coax and cajol him into letting me take him to the hospital I finally just took charge and told Scott to help me get him to the car.  I could see he was really not feeling well at all.  He walked down the hall pretty much on his own, with a little help from Scott on one side and me on the other, but the longer and farther we went the less steady he seemed to be.  I was glad we made it to the car without a fall.

Dale's last list of goals 2/8/2012

After loading him in the passenger seat I ran around to the driver’s side, jumped in, started the car, and headed for the hospital.  Dad rolled down his window as we drove down Garrett Way.  I called Kirk and asked him where he was.  He said he was in the shop.  I told him I was taking Dad to the hospital, that I thought he might have had a stroke.  As we drove I tried to talk to my father to keep him lucid.  “Dad are you all right?”  He motioned and mumbled but the only thing I could understand was, “Slow down!  Slow down!”  Every light seemed to take forever and the closer we got to the hospital the more worried I became.  I was very frightened.  When we got to the emergency room he couldn’t get out of the car.  He said, “I can’t do it.  I can’t do it.”  I rushed in and got a wheel chair and a man helped me move him over to the chair.  They admitted him and took him back to an emergency room bed where two nurses got him out of the chair and on to the bed.  As they striped off his sweat-soaked clothes, they asked me questions and I couldn’t seem to come up with answers.  What happened to him?  Does he have any allergies?  Does he take any medications?  What is his medical history.  The questions kept coming as they hooked him up to an EKG and I wasn’t able to do a thing.  In a slurred speech Dad said, “Head ache.  Head ache.” The doctor, Randy Fowler, finally came in, having reviewed the chart, and ordered Cami Taysom, our good friend and neighbor and the nurse on duty, to give him 4 units of morphine to help him with the pain.

Once the morphine hit, Dad started to relax and that was the last I saw of him really.  He didn’t say any more to anyone.  He didn’t even seem to see us any more.  It was as if he was high up in the conning tower of his old ship gazing out deliberately toward the horizon.  He was starting to ‘check out’ as he always liked to say he would do someday.    I think he made a decision as soon as the morphine hit that he was done.  He didn’t want to fight the battle that would likely mean deep rehab, breathing tubes, and wheel chairs.  His blood pressure was very high, 213/170 I think.  His heartbeat was about 73 beats per minute.  Kirk, Kathy and Scott all arrived about the same time.  I asked if anyone had any consecrated oil.  Someone found a vile and brought it in.  As quick as I could I anointed his head and then Kirk sealed the anointing with a very brief prayer.  I can’t remember what he said, but I think he said that everything was going to be alright.  He said that Dad would respond to the Doctor’s treatment.  I remember thinking, “I’m not so sure about that.”  Kirk was very calm.

After we finished our quick prayer, they rushed him into MRI.  They had already waited some 5 or 10 minutes because another patient was in there.  The precious moments ticked by like centuries, but at least Dad seemed to be comfortable.  His color was good. He was getting quite cold and clammy and I knew he must be uncomfortable.  I took a blanket and covered him up, seeing he must be cold.  Finally the MRI opened up.  They took him in and said, “We’ll only be about 3 minutes.”  We all sat stunned, looking at each other.  I was falling apart but Kirk announced, “I’m as calm as a summer morn.  He is going to be just fine.”  I wasn’t convinced of that at all.

About 3 mintues later Cami came back in the room in tears.  She threw her arms around me and said, “It doesn’t look good.”  I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about.  He was fine when he left the room.  At least sort of.  They rolled him back in and the Doctor said, “Its very serious.  He has had a severe stroke at the base of his brain stem.  We can do heroic things if you want us to try, but his chances are not very good.”  What did he mean?  What was he talking about?  Dad was fine a few minutes ago.  I thought to myself, “Can’t you just do what you do here and make him better again?”  I finally blurted out, “Yes! Of course we want you to do heroic things.”  They didn’t really want to go that route and they tried to calm me down by reasoning with me. They got the neurosurgeon on the phone and after briefing him they put the phone up to my ear.  I kept my hands on dad’s head, trying to comfort him.  The neurosurgeon droned on and on and told me how bad things were, that he was coming to the hospital but that surgery doesn’t go well for people in this condition, especially when they are over 80.  I asked him what he would do if it was his father.  He said, “I wouldn’t do it.  I’d let him go.”  I looked down at my Dad.  What would he want me to do?  Every decision I have make in life I have asked myself, “What would my father do?”  Now I had to act for him and act fast.

While we were trying to make decisions, and wait for the arrival of the neurosurgeon, Dad slowly started slipping away.  His breathing became the characteristic agonal breathing that indicates that death is ripping him away from mortality.  With much denial and shock we watched him slowly pass away.  It was the second hardest thing I have ever had to do, right next to watching Mother die 6 years ago.

I think it would be easier for everyone if our mortal bodies would just start to fade out when we die and then finally disappear altogehter.  Instead, the spirit seems to slip away at some moment when we aren’t really watching, or even aware that it is happening.  I don’t know when Dad us left for sure.  I don’t know if anyone was there to meet him or not.  I don’t know if he did it the way he would have wanted to, although I think he did.  I just know that my heart was breaking so badly that I couldn’t bear up under all the strain.   Before long I was sore and dry from crying and the room was filled with people who had dropped everything and rushed to his bedside only minutes too late to say good bye.  His body was there in the room with us, but I think he was out there somewhere, perhpas walking through a grove of plam trees, carving his name in a log, or exploring the jungle that we call death.  He didn’t have time to be afraid of dying.  He lived with energy right up to his last breath.  All I could say as he faded from this life was, “I’m sorry Dad. I’m sorry.  I love you so much.”

We gathered at Kirk’s house and Dad went to Colonial Funeral Home in the hands of loving friends.  He ripped a big hole in my life today.  I can barely deal with it.  I know that there is a plan of happiness and I know that death is a part of that plan.  Like my mother, I live in fear of death every day.  I don’t know why that is.  I need more faith I guess. I will work on that.  Perhaps I can pray for a miracle that my heart will be healed and I will understand what it all means.

In the mean time, Happy Sailing Dad!  We will see you back at the harbor!

Welcome Aboard!

My name is Dale Kirkham and this is my WAR DIARY.  I celebrated my 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays in the Pacific Islands, far away from my boyhood home of Lehi Utah.  This is a photo that was taken of me when I retraced the bloody steps of the Bataan Death March back in 2007 when I visited the Philippines.

I hope to hear from you.  Please drop me a line, or leave a comment.

To read my WAR DIARY just click here.

The Bataan Death March Trail