Robert Albert "Bob" Kirkpatrick

Utah Tennis Legend

Bob Kirkpatrick, BYH Class of 1948
Bob Kirkpatrick, BYH Class of 1948

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1948

Though the last decade of his life was difficult, Bob Kirkpatrick was known and loved for his love of others and his passion for sports — especially tennis.

Kirkpatrick died in July 2016, just one month after he and his wife, Marilyn, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. With his passing went a small sliver of more than 80 years of Provo history.

Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Provo, just across the street from the Brigham Young Academy Education Building — the building that is now part of the Provo City Library at Academy Square.

He attended elementary school there, continuing all the way through high school, until he graduated from Brigham Young High School in 1948. He then went on to graduate from Brigham Young University in 1954.

“He’s one of the few that never went to another school. He started at the Brigham Young University Training School in kindergarten, with four other boys. Those same boys graduated college together on the same day from BYU,” Marilyn said.

Bob never really ventured beyond Provo, except when he served in the US Army 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean War.

His wife recalls that his tennis coach at BYU was worried about the team getting drafted for the war, so he convinced them to enlist in the Utah National Guard — in hopes that they’d be the last to get deployed.

“But they were the ones who went first,” Marilyn said.

While in Korea, Bob earned the Bronze Star Medal and the Presidential Citation Medal. He didn’t talk about it much, so his wife and two sons were never quite sure what exactly he earned the medals for, but they know it had to do with his combat service in the Heartbreak Ridge Sector there.

Kirkpatrick Bronze Star
Kirkpatrick Bronze Star
Korea Presidential Citation
Korea Presidential Citation

What they do know is, although he made it back physically unscathed, the war had left its mark on him internally.

“I remember he loved holidays. But not July 4th,” Marilyn said. “He’d wake up with a start when they’d shoot off those cannons in the morning.

"He was in a foxhole in Korea, and the fireworks reminded him of the mortar shells that flew over his head, just waiting for them to explode.”

Bob loved nature and being active outside, but his oldest son, Ross, remembers that as a young boy, he had to rely on Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to get his camping experience. Camping in a tent made his father nauseated because it brought back too many war memories.

Now that there is a name for it, Marilyn says she knows her husband suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But that didn’t stop him from enjoying life. He had a successful career in the insurance industry, and had a large group of close friends.

He and Marilyn Ross met and married after his war service. Though they lived across the street from each other before the war, they didn’t know each other because of the six-year age difference between them.

Then, while he was at BYU, Marilyn was attending Utah State University in Logan. During the war, though, their mothers became friends.

“My mom always said, ‘You went away to school just to marry the boy across the street, literally,” Marilyn said with a laugh.

Ross remembers sharing a love of fishing with his dad growing up. He fondly recalls long days spent out on Strawberry Reservoir, rod in hand and dad by his side.

The family also remembers his devotion to the Provo Community Church. The Kirkpatricks attended services there through their entire marriage, and Bob was a treasurer there for many years. The changes they’ve seen there, and in Provo as a whole, could fill a book.

Bob tried to get his two sons into his other love — tennis. From a very young age, Kirkpatrick played tennis competitively, earning titles and awards through college.

Throughout his career and later life, he regularly played with a core group of BYU buddies. Marilyn said she took lessons and played with him once — but that was enough.

“I wanted the ball to come to me. I didn’t want to chase it,” she joked.

His passion for tennis also skipped over his two sons — they both opted for skiing, and became quite skilled in that sport themselves.

Bob also loved golf and regularly played both sports well into his late 60s, until Parkinson’s disease took those from him. It was a hard trial for both he and Marilyn — for him, because he lived such an active lifestyle, and for her, as she had to watch as that diminished.

Bob was the type of person who walked four miles every day, rain or shine. His favorite route was around the East Lawn Cemetery. He was such a fixture there that the owner once joked to Marilyn that her husband was the mayor of East Lawn.

For Marilyn, caring for her husband during those last years was a lot of work. They had to move recently from their Provo home they had lived in for 50 years because neither of them could care for the yard anymore. Throughout his 15-year struggle with Parkinson’s, he had many good days, and many bad.

As it progresses, Parkinson’s changes its victims, and Marilyn remembers reminding her sons to hold on to who their father was before the disease.

But through it all, he held onto his love of his family and friends and sunshine and the outdoors. Marilyn recalled many times when he was content to sit outside with their dog, Romeo, by his side.

As she sits in their home, surrounded by memories of her outgoing, enthusiastic husband, Marilyn is comforted by friends and loved ones.

“After a friend heard of his death, she called me up and said, ‘You know he’s up there in heaven already playing tennis, or trying to get a game together,’” she said with a laugh.

Karissa Neely, Provo Daily Herald, November 16, 2016

Bob Kirkpatrick & wife, Marilyn, 2003 BYH reunion

In Memoriam ~ Bob Kirkpatrick

Robert Albert "Bob" Kirkpatrick was born on February 3, 1930, in Provo, Utah, the son of Albert Kirkpatrick and Violet Charter Kirkpatrick.

Bob began his schooling at the BYU Training School, continuing his education there until he graduated from BYU High School in the Class of 1948.

While in high school, he lettered in basketball and tennis, winning the State Tennis Singles title in both 1947 and 1948.

During the Korean War, Bob served in the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Presidential Citation Medal for having been in combat at the Heartbreak Ridge Sector. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Master Sergeant.

Returning to Provo, Bob continued his education at Brigham Young University, playing on the tennis team for four years, graduating in 1954.

Bob joined his father in the insurance business. With the degree of a Charter Life Underwriter, he became a national leader for the Equitable Life Assurance Company for many years.

In 1956, Bob married Marilyn Ross. They are the parents of two sons.

Bob felt his best enjoying the sunshine, fishing and playing tennis or golf. He looked forward to his weekly time spent with his breakfast buddies. Bob was a member of the Provo Community Church. He was a charter member of the Riverside Country Club, he belonged to the Elks Lodge and the Provo Rotary Club.

On July 25, 2016, Robert Albert Kirkpatrick passed away. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and both sons, Ross Kirkpatrick of Provo, Utah, and Scott Kirkpatrick of Sandy, Utah.

In memory of his father, Albert Kirkpatrick, Bob had requested that contributions be made to Shriner’s Hospital for Children, 1275 E. Fairfax Rd., Salt Lake City, Utah 84103.

A remembrance honoring Bob, followed by full Military Rites, was held on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at East Lawn Memorial Hills, 4800 North 650 East, Provo, Utah.

Provo Daily Herald, July 31, 2016

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