Elmer Herbert Kirkwood, age 94, son of James and Bessie Cole Kirkwood was born August 24, 1914, at Oak Hill north of Houston. He passed away October 8, 2008, at Houston House.
He married Vivian Marie Noe, December 24, 1933. They had seven children. He is preceded in death by his parents; wife, Vivian; son, Arthur Lee Kirkwood; infant son, James Grover; infant daughter, Betty Sue; son-in-law, George Snelling; great-grandson, Arthur Lee Kirkwood III; and infant great-granddaughter; Stephanie Radford; one brother, Homer Kirkwood; two sisters Anna Haney and Nora Shockey.
Surviving are one son, Herbert Kirkwood, and wife, Jane, of Houston, MO; three daughters, Shirley Snelling of Houston, MO, Annetta Shelton and husband, Lester, of Ellis Prairie, MO, and Bonnie Hayes and husband, Larry, of Ellis Prairie, MO; 15 grandchildren; 35 great-grandchildren; and17 great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Grandpa grew up in the Oak Hill area and in Quapaw, Oklahoma. He would love to tell stories about him and his family. Many times they traveled for seven days in a covered wagon back and forth between Missouri and Oklahoma during the 1920’s. He and his siblings attended school on an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. He would entertain us all with wild stories about the Indians and the sad stories about the hardships he and his family endured.
He met and married Grandma here at Oak Hill. He always said with her dark hair and eyes she reminded him of the Indians in Oklahoma. Several times they revisited Oklahoma to attend the pow-wows in Quapaw seeing the friends and places he had known as a child.
Later, they moved their family to Iowa. He said it was the best flat farmland he had ever seen: “You could grow all the corn in the world up there,” but Grandma grew homesick for the hills and hollers of Missouri and they soon moved back home. They moved several times living at Oak Hill, Arthur’s Creek, Ellis Prairie, Raymondville and 25 years at Boiling Springs, which is home for most of us.
Besides working and his family, farming with horses was a big part of Grandpa’s life. He spent many hours plowing his garden, mowing and raking hay and logging in the woods with his Belgian draft horses or mules. Grandpa was never much of a hunter because that would take him away from work, but when opportunity knocked, he could put meat on the table. In fact, the only deer he ever killed was when he was planting grass seed down in the bottom at Boiling Springs.
His dog ran a deer down and caught it where Grandpa was. Grandpa jumped on its back and killed it with his pocket knife. He then had to go get his son, Lee, to help him get it up the hill to the house as it was too big and he was too worn out to get it home by his-self. In Iowa, he would kill pheasants in the cornfields by throwing corn cobs at them and hitting them in the head.
He participated in several local horse pulls and trail rides. In 1976, he drove in the Bicentennial Wagon Train from West Plains to Jefferson City in his covered wagon and mules sponsored by Big M Resorts at Boiling Springs. But perhaps his favorite horse/mule activity was making molasses. Most all of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren participated in molasses at one time or another. Grandpa, with a grumpy attitude and work to be done, would get his old mare, Jude, and his dog, Zach, and get the mill ready to go. Zach would follow Jude around and around in circles grinding the cane carrying a rock in his mouth. If Jude would stop, Zach would take the rock to Grandpa and he would throw it at Jude. She would take off, making the mill grind more cane. Good, bad or ugly, we all will forever carry those memories of molasses making time. In 2003, when he was 89, was the last time we were all together for that special time and as molasses goes, “thick” and “thin” fights and grins, it was one of the best times of our lives.
Grandpa had a huge sense of humor but when he was serious, everybody else had better get serious with him and if he was mad, you knew it pretty darn quick. He always said, “If you don’t like my peaches, then don’t shake my bush,” and he meant it. On the other hand, he always had time to teach his grandchildren how to milk a cow, ride a pony, and plant a potato. He had time even for his great-grandchildren. I doubt any of them here over the age of 12 did not get wormed with a bit of his Good Money tobacco twist.
Grandpa was also known for being a tight wad: One time giving Steve two pairs of socks from his drawer to pay for gas and hauling wood pellets to Raymondville. He always left Shirley a quarter for patching his overalls, and the snap that held his billfold on his overalls was always stuck shut when you had him out to lunch. Grandpa was also kind, caring and loving, especially with Grandma when she was sick and they way he would hold each new grandbaby that was put on his lap. To all of his children, that first Christmas without her, he went and bought and delivered them all presents.
I know that this may seem like a long obituary to some, but it is hard to put on paper the 94 years that Grandpa had. I heard in a poem once that the most important mark on a tombstone is not the date of your birth or death, but the dash in the middle that counts for your life. Grandpa’s dash was a long one, and we are all blessed to have shared his dash with him.
There will be a lot of stories told about Elmer Kirkwood: some good and some bad, but all of them will be told with a big grin, a tear in our eyes and a heart full of love for that old man in overalls and a worn out cowboy hat. We will miss him dearly.
Memorials may be made to Oak Hill Cemetery. On line condolences may be sent to www.evansfh.com
Services were 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Evans Funeral Home Chapel. Rev. Gary Davenport officiated with burial in the Oak Hill Cemetery.