A true friend

Photo Submitted Burl White talks to Barbara Kirkland during a pep assembly, which ended up being a surprise retirement party for Kirkland. Kirkland died Saturday.

The Duncan Banner

Melissa Massie can remember when Barbara Kirkland went from Central Office to the Athletics Department of Duncan High School. Kirkland didn’t know much about certain sports and referred to a golf hole-in-one as a touchdown.

It was moments like that, which held in Massie’s mind and in the minds of many others who were touched by Kirkland and her positive attitude. Kirkland, 66, died Saturday in Duncan.

Many of her co-workers recalled Kirkland’s dedicated work ethic and her benevolent public relations skills. But most of all, they remember her as being a kind woman, who was a pleasure to be around.

“There’s nothing bad you could ever say about Barbara,” Massie said. “She a tough act to follow.”

Massie first met Kirkland about 18 years ago when Kirkland was the secretary to the superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. Last year, Massie moved to the athletic office at DHS, where Kirkland had spent many years as secretary for the office. When Kirkland retired during the summer, Massie took Kirkland’s position.

They were close, and Kirkland’s passing wasn’t easy for Massie. But like many other people at DHS, Massie has chosen to remember all the positive things about Kirkland, and there’s plenty to recall, Massie said.

“There’s so many stories to tell,” Massie said. “I’m so glad I had this time with her.”

Burl White, athletic director, said would be missed. Although she had retired, Kirkland was always someone the Athletic Department could rely on if help was needed. White said Kirkland was always just a phone call away.

“We cannot replace her,” White said. “We can put people in her place, but we cannot replace her.

“She was good at her job. A lot of this is public relations. She was good at knowing how to help people.”

Throughout her years at Central Office and in the Athletic Department, Kirkland had become a mainstay for the school district. She was known for her dependability and for her dedication to her job.

DHS Principal Gary Reed said Kirkland was someone who made the everyday operations of the school run smoothly.

“She was great,” Reed said. “She was noted for her hard work. She was easy to work with. She was known for getting the work done.

“It was done right if she had anything to do with it.”

Massie, White and Reed said health issues never deterred Kirkland for doing her job. White said many people with similar health concerns would have given up the job five years before Kirkland did.

“She wasn’t supposed to go this early,” White said. “Sixty-six is early to me. She was such a battler. This was what she loved.

“It’s a huge loss for us.”

Reed said her dedication came from her love for the job.

“She was dedicated up to the time she got really sick,” Reed said. “She was just an outstanding person.

“Good support people are where the operations of a school start.”

For many of the people who knew Kirkland, one of her primary passions was her grandchildren, Carly and Colby. Massie recalled when Kirkland’s office at DHS was decorated with photos of her grandchildren, whether photos on a shelf, background on her computer, a calendar or even a key chain on her key ring.

“We used to talk about our grandkids,” Massie said. “She had a lot more pictures of hers than I had of mine.

“Whoever you talk to will tell you she loved her grandkids.”

In the high school, there is a void that can’t be filled. Kirkland served the school district for many years and became ingrained in the Athletic Department, Massie said.

“She was there for anyone who needed to talk,” Massie said. “It’s so overwhelming for me right now.

“I miss her. This whole place is her.”

— Derrick Miller is a reporter for The Duncan Banner. He can be reached at 580-255-5354, Ext. 160, or via e-mail at derrick.miller@duncanbanner.com.

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