Mr. Kenneth Spratling “Husky” Kirkwood — 1923-2019

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2019

GOLD HILL — “We are all born here leaving,” said Husky Kirkwood, “and I’ve lived every day exactly like I wanted to.” Ninety-five years. No regrets.

Kenneth Spratling Kirkwood was born Nov. 1, 1923, to John Kenneth Kirkwood and Sarah Spratling Kirkwood at the family home in Gold Hill, and died there April 6, 2019. His mother died in April 1930, two weeks after the birth of his younger sister, Miriam Ann. He lost his father as the result of an auto accident in May 1950. He was also predeceased by his wife of 63 and a half years, Alice Ann Pozorski Kirkwood, his son Kenneth, Jr., his son Everett H. Kirkwood, his sister Sarah “Pat” Kirkwood Lodge, and his sister Miriam Ann Kirkwood Syler. He is survived by daughter Nancy Ann Kirkwood of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, daughter-in-law Deborah S. Kirkwood of Eufaula, granddaughters Sarah Kandell Rhodes and Tanya Kirkwood Thur (John), four great-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and many loving friends, special among them, David Brooks of Gold Hill and Jane Mount of Auburn.

Husky’s early education was at Sturkie School (Gold Hill community in Chambers County) from 1929 to 1934, until the school closed due to the Depression. His grandmother then hired a tutor, Nan Heath, to finish out the1933-34 year for him and his sister, Pat. His seventh-grade year was taken at Baldwin Junior High in Montgomery. Eighth through tenth grades were at Lee County High School in Auburn. He then transferred to the prestigious Boys High School in Atlanta, where he graduated in 1941.

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He attended their reunions until 2015.

Husky enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API, now Auburn University) in the fall of 1941. He was selected as one of the 10 most outstanding sophomores and thus became a member of the “Squires.”

Then came World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a Seaman 1C on June 25, 1942, went to Navy flight training and was commissioned as an ensign and naval aviator on Aug. 23, 1943. He served in the Pacific in World War II. While stationed at the Naval Air Station in Clinton, Oklahoma, Husky met Alice Pozorski, a member of the “WAVES” or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, who taught the pilots instrument training.

The two married in the summer of 1944. Husky and Alice were married for 63 and a half years until she died on Feb. 28, 2008. In 1983, she retired as the director of payroll and special benefits at Auburn University.

Kirkwood remained in the Naval Reserve after active duty, and was staff commander of the Naval Air Reserve in Atlanta, retiring from the Navy in May 1973 with the rank of captain. Upon his release from active duty in 1945, he returned to API to complete his B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering.

Following his service and his education, Kirkwood returned to his antebellum, ancestral home, “Roamer’s Roost,” in Gold Hill. His was the fourth generation of the family to live there, and he represented the third generation of Naval officers. He was a diversified farm operator, raising cattle, grain seed and timber. He and Alice placed half of their beloved farm under a conservation easement with the Alabama Land Trust near the turn of the century, ensuring it would never be developed.

On Jan. 1, 1953, Congressman George Andrews appointed Husky a rural mail carrier in Waverly. He served in that position 30 years, making lifelong friends, until May 1983, while still farming, and in the reserve much of that time.

Husky was the featured speaker for Auburn’s “Mayor’s Memorial Day Breakfast” in 2015. He was included in a 2009 “Honor Flight” to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. and was escorted by then-mayor Bill Ham, who said, “I’ve learned that Husky is a man who never met a stranger, never shunned hard work, never held back the truth and spent his life serving his family, community, church and country. I’m proud to know Captain Kenneth ‘Husky’ Kirkwood and proud for the veteran’s committee to honor him as Auburn’s 2015 Distinguished Veteran.” A video of Husky’s speech can be seen on the city’s website.

A life-long Episcopalian, Husky was baptized at Holy Innocents (now St. Dunstan’s) and became a member of Holy Trinity when the former became a student chapel, later serving on the vestry. He was active in both Lee County and Chambers County throughout his life. He was a 50-year member of the American Legion and a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association, the Marine Corps League, and the Boys High Alumni Association in Atlanta.

Husky was particularly proud of his membership in the Order of Daedalians, a military aviators society, and attended a meeting at Maxwell Air Force Base as late as 2017. He served as president of the Chambers County Cattleman’s Association, the East Alabama Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, and the Retired Officers’ Association. He was a member of the Alabama Forestry Council, and the Department of Conservation Advisory Board. He was a 70-year member of the BPOE (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks), Auburn-Opelika.

To his many friends, Husky is remembered as a man who spoke his mind, for good or ill, who — along with his beloved Alice — opened their hearts and home to countless neighbors and friends, who worked hard, loved deeply, and enjoyed a good time. His loss signals the end of an era for many.

A Memorial Service will be held at Holy Trinity Church on Saturday, April 13, 2019, at 10 a.m. CDT. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the parish hall. Memorials may be made to the Food Bank of East Alabama or the Lee County Humane Society.