his Life
Michael E. Kirkman was born in North Platte, NE to James and Edith Mae Kirkman and was the younger of two brothers. His father worked for the North Platte Telegraph, eventually becoming publisher of the paper, and his mother was a homemaker and involved community member who later became active in the PTA at the national level.

The Kirkman’s were a competitive family. Card games were cutthroat, and his parents never took it easy on him, often leaving the young boy in tears. Michael eventually created “gentleman’s rules” for many of these games, which eliminated some of the nastier plays and made it more challenging to win, and he would eventually teach these versions to his children. Michael has always had an acute sense of fair play and sympathy for the underdog. His dad was a competitive tennis player, and Michael eventually became an excellent player as well, but his father never gave him any lessons or tips. The story became that the elder Kirkman didn’t want to give the kid any competitive advantage over him. Nevertheless, Michael was drawn to sports and he excelled.

Michael had a life-long love affair with sports, both as an athlete and a fan. As a teenager, he followed in his father’s footsteps and wrote articles for the school paper as well as the Telegraph, mostly covering local sports. He enjoyed so many things about sporting contests, the unscripted outcomes, the narratives, the numbers, and the infinite variety. Although he participated in multiple sports throughout the seasons, he excelled in tennis and football. Small but scrappy, he was a pit bull of a linebacker, known for his fearless play. Michael was a member of North Platte High’s 1962 undefeated State Champion Football team, of which he was immensely proud. Though his football career ended after his senior season, he continued playing tennis into his sixties.

After graduating from high school, Mike attended the University of Nebraska. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity where he cultivated many life-long friendships. He studied business and journalism and worked for a time at the local Lincoln newspaper. While attending college, he married Norma Diedrichs, also of North Platte. Mike did a summer internship in Boston, where his brother Jim lived, and discovered that he enjoyed east coast living.

He was drafted and served in the Vietnam War as a combat field medic from 1969 – 71. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Like many veterans of that war, he had mixed feelings about this service and came out of the experience with both physical and emotional scars, but, ultimately, he was proud of his service and the people he served with.

Soon after moving to Delmar, NY, Michael and Norma bought a home on Adams Place and had two boys, Jason and Spencer. Though they divorced in the early 80’s, Michael shared custody of his children and remained a dedicated and involved father. He met his second wife, Sally Lawrence, and moved into her historic farmhouse in Averill Park, NY where he lived for the rest of his life. Mike was a devoted husband to Sally. They were married 33 years.

In the early 70’s, Mike founded Kirkman 3hree Advertising Agency with his brother, Jim. He soon became the sole proprietor of the company, which remained in business for almost 40 years. The advertising agency evolved with the times, and in later years its primary business was the publication of programs for Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

He was an active community member and supporter of the arts, and he served on the boards of the Albany Symphony Orchestra and Hospitality House. He and Sally enjoyed attending the many seasonal cultural programs that upstate New York and Western Massachusetts had to offer, from modern dance and theater, to opera and ballet.

As his kids grew up, the highlights of their times together included regular winter ski trips and summer camping trips. The ski trips involved lots of lessons and navigating the perilous blue-iced slopes of the NE – high anxiety. Summer trips involved exploring the Adirondacks, Maine and Canada, canoeing, fishing, lobster, and learning about history and the natural world. Many evenings were spent playing cards and enjoying family.

A lover of plants and animals, Mike became an accomplished gardener at his home in Averill Park, and the home gradually transformed into a tropical green house. He enjoyed the discovery and cultivation of exotic plants, a hobby which he had learned from his mother. He and Sally rescued many dogs from the animal shelter. They would name them after alcoholic beverages, and they were devoted to their care.

After decades of armchair traveling, in his later years, Mike became an actual world traveler. He made several trips to the far east, to Mexico, and to Turkey, and loved the planning and learning that these trips involved. At the time of his death, he was in the process of planning a grand trip along the Silk Road, which he had been looking forward to for years.
His family misses him dearly, but we are proud to have known him and grateful for everything he has done for us, and we will think of him fondly for the rest of our lives.