The long haul is over

Shannon Duff
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Avid truck driver’s journey ends at age 43

When he was little, Kirk French was a quiet, albeit mischievous, child. His slightly older sister, Kimberly, remembers growing up with him in the 1980s in Brigus, Conception Bay, and has many happy memories of their childhood years.

Kirk French left the province in 1997 for the open road and spent most of his adult life travelling across Canada and the United States. — Submitted photo

“Throughout life he was always the wallflower, but no matter what he did in life, he did it as though he was making a difference,” she says.

With more than a decade between Kim and Kirk and their older siblings, Roger and Darlene, the young pair behaved as typical brothers and sisters do — they got into a few scraps now and then.

“We fought like cats and dogs,” Kimberly says.

“My friend’s mother asked her the other day what she remembered most about growing up with us and she said, ‘Mom, I learned how to duck.’ She said, ‘What do you mean you learned how to duck?’ And she said, ‘Kim and Kirk were always throwing something at each other.’”

When Kirk was young he tried to learn how to skate in the family’s living room.

“He got new skates, so he put those on and stood up in the living room, fell down and broke his leg,” his sister recalls.

There was another incident where Kirk, being a rambunctious child, pulled a hot cup of tea down over himself.

In school at Ascension Collegiate, Kirk was a little more reserved than at home.

“He was one of those kids who was easy to pick on. He always wanted to fit in, but he was easy to pick on because he was a little shy,” Kimberly says.

His shyness didn’t stop him from making friends, though.

“He had good friends and you can see that on his Facebook page,” she says. “Growing up we fought like brothers and sisters do, but we were always there for each other. If someone picked on him I would certainly put them in their place. I was kind of the protector for my younger brother.”

Kirk’s father drove a tractor-trailer for a living, and from early on Kirk was fascinated with the roar of the big rigs.

“My younger brother was all over everything my dad did. From the time he could walk he was at the truck. So, finally Mom gave him permission to take him for a drive in the truck. He left the province with Dad when he was four years old, his first drive in the truck. Dad actually took him out of province. Dad said he was just thrilled. From that day forward there was nothing but trucks in the house. That was his end all, be all. He was gonna drive a truck like Dad. So that’s what he did.”

Kirk left the province in 1997 for the open road and spent most of his adult life travelling across Canada and the United States, following in his dad’s footsteps. Even though he spent a lot of time away from his family, they were always close to his heart.

“His whole life was his family and he would try not to let Mom and Dad know anything was wrong with him,” Kimberly says.

Kirk struggled since childhood with kidney disease.

His cousin, Wanda Malish, lives in Manitoba. She fondly remembers Kirk as a little boy with beautiful curly hair. As adults both living out West, she says, it brought him great joy when she would call him up out of the blue and tell him she and her husband were coming for the weekend.

“He would call me on my cell to see if we were in the area where he was to meet at a truck stop for coffee or dinner,” Malish says.

Kimberly says over the last few years Kirk found it hard not being close to his children, so she became somewhat of a liaison between him and his two boys, who live out of the province with their mother.

“I became very close to his children. … They talked on the phone whenever they could. So, I became very close to his children and was able to relay things back and forth to him, so that was pretty nice to be able to do that for him.”

Malish says his children meant the world to him.

“He loved his boys and wished that he could spend more time with them.”

When Kirk had a heart attack a few years ago, he decided to return to Newfoundland. Shortly after, his kidney problems resurfaced and by August he was on dialysis.

But his health deteriorated rapidly. On Friday, Sept. 6, he suffered a stroke and went into a coma the next morning. By that afternoon he had stopped responding and was considered brain dead.

“We didn’t expect it. We knew he was on dialysis, but we thought someone might be able to give him a kidney,” Kimberly says.

In an ironic twist of fate, though, Kirk wasn’t the one to receive the gift of life. But he had placed himself on the organ donor list, thereby assuring he would make one more difference in someone’s life.

“On Monday afternoon we got a call that a family was happy because they now have his liver,” says Kimberly, who hopes his selflessness will be an inspiration. “He would like other people to do the same thing.”

His pancreas was also donated.

The funeral was held at Broughton’s Memorial Chapel in Brigus on Friday.

Kirk was 43.

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Manitoba Newfoundland Brigus

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Recent comments

  • Glenys Tuttle
    September 14, 2013 - 11:58

    I admire him for his thoughtfulness about making sure that he signed his Organ Donor Card so someone else could live. I hope from this article that their will be many people sign their License Organ form in memory of this brave man. Sending condolence to all his family. God Bless you all.