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Remembering Mike Kirk

Mike Kirk was a well-loved math teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School for many years. He passed away in August.  Courtesy of Bob King
Courtesy of Bob King
Mike Kirk was a well-loved math teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School for many years. He passed away in August.

Hi, Juneauites! I haven’t formally introduced myself — my name is Katie Moritz and I started working for the Empire about a month ago as a general assignment reporter. I also do some Facebooking for the paper. You might have seen me around town, looking a bit out of place (I drove here from Missouri, cut me some slack), but I'm really trying to get to know Juneau and the people who call this community home.

Speaking of the people of Juneau, quite a few readers called and emailed wanting to talk about Mike Kirk, a beloved Juneau math teacher, mentor and friend who passed away last month. Our sports editor, Klas Stolpe, wrote a really nice column about Mike that ran on Aug. 27. But I know there's much more to be said, so I decided to post some memories people shared with me via email.

Many thanks to everyone who sent me their thoughts. To everyone else, feel free to add your own stories in the comments.

From Jane Lindsey:

I am sure you will have a wealth of information about Mike Kirk and you may hear over and over how years after retiring from being a teacher, he was still a mentor — he was with my children. I met him about 13-14 years ago through a mutual acquaintance at the time and was invited to brunch at the Prospector. I must have passed the test, as I was told that Mike thought I was “articulate” and the friendship began. Soon after, my two children who were 10 and 7 at the time also joined the mix. He became a part of our family and quietly supported my clumsy and struggling efforts as a single parent in Juneau. He was a regular guest to our house for dinners that he almost always attended, and the kids were always excited to be invited to brunch at the Prospector. He was gentle, encouraging, and responsive to my children and never talked down to them. He encouraged them to think and pursue their ideas and interests and always followed up with them on their interests when we got back together. 

Mike taught them how to think and communicate their ideas, especially to adults. His influence in our lives was real and deep and our household craved it. This was the gift he gave my small disjointed family at a challenging time. My son graduated two years ago from college and is teaching English in Russia. My daughter is in her last year of college studying biology and anthropology and spent the summer working on a graduate thesis project related to political ecology. We were able to sit with him at Wildflower Court just days before he passed. As a family with others in the room we talked about the world. As he floated in and out of the conversation, Mike raised the question of Socrates and Justice — challenging us how to learn and think.

From Barb Guertin Nielsen:

I arranged for him (Mike Kirk) to attend this year’s Juneau-Douglas Picnic, in Seattle. ...  I had some great visits with Mike while he was in Seattle... I’ll treasure them, along with the pictures.  You can see one of him signing my 1966 yearbook... 47 years late. ... It was a fun experience for both of us! 

From Rob Crosby:

Mike was a teacher of mine in the mid-’60s and a colleague from 1971 to 1973 when I returned to Juneau as a language arts teacher in the Juneau schools. Over the years I have been proud to consider him a dear friend. ... 

Sometime between the mid-’60s and ‘70s. Mike was made an honorary member of a local Tlinget clan. This needs to be remembered. It was an honor well earned and dearly cherished. 

From David Weld:

My ex and I first met Mike within about 6 hours of getting off the Taku in August of 1964. We were both just out of college and as green as an English lawn. We took to Mike instantly and, apparently, he to us. ... Mike is a fierce friend — if he’s in for a penny, he’s in for a pound. There are few other teachers who are as solidly and consistently pro-student and as willing to take on the power structure in the quest for proper treatment of students. 

Since 1967, I have managed to see Mike every one to two years as he traveled outside in the summer. I last saw him two falls ago in Ashland, Ore., when he came to see the plays at the Shakespeare Festival.

There is a significant hole in the world.

 

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