Before his death at the hand of a distracted driver Nov. 27, John “Jake” Kirby was very active in the Chaparral High School lacrosse family. Kirby's own children played lacrosse, and he was often …
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Before his death at the hand of a distracted driver Nov. 27, John “Jake” Kirby was very active in the Chaparral High School lacrosse family.
Kirby's own children played lacrosse, and he was often seen at games even when his children weren't playing. Kirby's younger son, Spencer, still plays for the team, and his older son, Tyler, is the junior varsity coach for the team. His daughter, Katie, played lacrosse for Legend High.
Kirby's passing nearly six months ago left the team at a loss, according to head coach Kevin Graefe, who still tears up when speaking about Kirby.
“He was a phenomenal man,” said Graefe. “He treated all these players like his own kids. He came to games that his kids weren't even playing in. He had a great spirit about him. It's been a huge loss to all of us.”
In an effort to keep Kirby's memory alive in a positive manner, the Kirby children teamed up with Graefe to create the John S. Kirby Scholarship Award and the John S. Kirby Wolverine Award, which they presented to two lacrosse players during the annual banquet May 19.
Student Kevin Grogan, 18, received the scholarship award, in recognition of five traits that Kirby and his family valued—compassion, excellence, integrity, perseverance and spirit.
Joan Hartwig, Kirby's fiancé, said Kirby was an avid athlete, and supported every member on the lacrosse team as if they were his own child.
“Jake loved all kinds of sports,” said Hartwig. “His death has been really tough on everyone. He totally supported the lacrosse team.”
Junior Austin Schwartz received the John S. Kirby Wolverine Award, for being the most inspirational player of the year.
Katie, Spencer and Tyler Kirby presented the awards.
“I want to first and foremost thank you all for the overwhelming amount of love, kindness, and help you gave our family when our dad was taken from us almost 6 months ago,” said Katie. “He loved all of you and had so much faith in your abilities to do better on and off the field.”
The Kirby children and Graefe said it was difficult to decide which students should receive the awards.
“The varsity staff chooses the recipients, and we had at least 220 text messages going back and forth trying to pin down who was most deserving,” said Graefe.
“To sum up into five qualities of who our dad is was difficult, but we felt that 'compassion, excellence, integrity, perseverance and spirit' were something our dad lived by every day we were blessed with his life,” said Katie. “This particular individual has exceeded in the classroom as well as on the field.”
Graefe said the tragedy has brought the lacrosse family together, and that Kirby and his family will always be a part of the lacrosse family.
“His death brought us even closer together,” said Graefe. “His legacy will be going on through these two awards.”
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