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Thomas Joseph Kirk

September 11, 1943 November 24, 2019
Thomas Joseph Kirk
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Obituary for Thomas Joseph Kirk

Paragould, AR- Thomas J. “Tom” Kirk died at his home early Sunday morning, November 24, 2019, surrounded by his family and friends.

Tom was born on September 11, 1943, to the late Earl E. and Matilene Kirk. He was the third of four children born to Mr. and Mrs. Kirk, who had established a legacy of community service that their son continued.

He is survived by his wife, Theresa, of the home; his son, David Kirk, and his wife, Michelle, of McKinney, Texas; his daughter, Jodie Horton, and her husband, John, of Paragould; and his daughter, Kristin Ann Kirk of the home.

He is also survived by his grandchildren, Nicholas, Claire, Jonathan, Cameron and Maria Kirk; Caleb, Timothy, Luke, Seth, Julia and Andrey Dills; and Kirkley Ann Garner of the home.

He is also survived by his sister, Gloria Merrill, and her husband, Clint , of Forrest City; his sister, Donna Brazil and her husband, Charles, of Paragould; and his sister Sara Donaldson and her husband, Chris, of Paragould.

After graduating from Paragould High School in 1961, Tom attended Hendrix College before transferring to the University of Arkansas, where he received a B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 1966 and a M.S. in Industrial Engineering in 1967. While in Fayetteville, he was an active member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

While a student, he worked as an industrial engineer at Emerson Electric in Paragould and for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He also was an instructor in the Industrial Engineering department at the U of A.

Tom returned to Paragould in 1967 and joined his father in business as Vice-President of Earl Kirk, Inc. In 1976, he became President of Kirk Equipment Company, the franchisee of the John Deere Dealership in Paragould.

In 1981 he acquired a General Motors franchise and became the President of Tom Kirk Chevrolet-Olds, Inc., a position he held for almost 30 years before he sold the business in 2010.

During the “Chevy-Olds” days Tom hosted a daily radio show, “The Morning Report,” on KDXY in Paragould, with his co-hosts, Trey Stafford and Brian “Big O” Osborn. The show was community radio at its best, always promoting local civic and charitable events, and with call-in reports from SEC tournaments, national political conventions, Presidential Inaugurals, and even from reporters abroad.

While he was negotiating his departure from the automobile business in 2010, he was also engineering a major merger of seven family-owned John Deere dealerships in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri, some of which had been in operation for over 60 years. The end product was Legacy Equipment, LLC., and Tom served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Financial Officer of the company.

He has been involved in farming and commercial real estate development with his wife, Theresa, through Kirk and Kirk Properties, LLC.
He was also the youngest person to ever serve on the board of directors of Security Bank.

But it was in the arena of community service and economic development that he made his biggest marks in his home of Paragould. His activities and awards are almost too numerous mention.

Tom served as President of the Paragould-Greene County Chamber of Commerce in 2007, and served for years as Chairman of the chamber’s Transportation Committee. He served on and chaired the Chamber’s Industrial Committee. He was one of the founders of the Paragould Economic Development Corporation and served as an officer and board member until his death.

Tom was appointed by Governor Mike Beebe to two terms on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and served as its Chair. He hosted multiple meetings of the AEDC in Paragould, including receptions at his and Theresa’s home.

Tom also served as Chairman of both the Mid-South Farm Equipment Association and the Arkansas Auto Dealers Association, and on the boards of multiple other regional economic and transportation organizations.

For over 30 years he served on the board of what is now the Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, and served as the AMMC chairman during the hospital’s major expansion in the early 2000's.

The Paragould-Greene Chamber of Commerce honored Tom with its Member of the Year award in 1994, and then in 2010 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tom served as President of the Paragould Rotary Club in 1993, and was a multiple Paul Harris Fellow, Rotarian of the Year, Rotary Citizen of the Year, and Rotary Life Time Achievement awardee. He received a special citation from Rotary International after he chaired a “Preserve Planet Earth” project that successfully planted over 17,000 trees locally. He certainly personified the Rotary Motto of “Service Above Self.”

Tom’s business acumen and community service received national attention when Time Magazine named him as one their Top Ten Finalists for
their 1997 Quality Dealer Award for business and community service. Time called the award “the most prestigious award a new car dealer can receive.”

Tom was a life-time member of the First United Methodist Church, serving his church as a member of its Administrative Board, as a Trustee, as Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, as Chair of the Building Committee during one of the church’s major expansions, and in other positions of leadership.

In addition to his family, his friends, and his church, Tom had two other passions-his Arkansas Razorbacks and politics.

Tom was on a first name basis with the legendary Coach Frank Broyles, and a personal friend of Coach Nolan Richardson. Coach Richardson even brought his 1994 NCAA Championship team to Paragould for a reception at Tom Kirk Chevy-Olds. He traveled to both home and away football games, and basketball games at Bud Walton Arena, even in the not so successful years.

His alma mater’s College of Engineering honored him by inducting him into the Arkansas Academy of Industrial Engineering.

Tom and Theresa opened their home for numerous candidates for state and local offices, and sponsored receptions for Governors, Congressmen and Congresswomen, U.S. Senators, and even a President of the United States.

And as a former pilot, he especially enjoyed his flight on Air Force One.

Tom believed in living life to its fullest, and accomplished that goal. He was truly a “larger than life” character who shunned the limelight, but enjoyed seeing others in it.

And despite all of the time he spent running successful businesses and helping other through his service to his community, his family was never neglected. If his children had football games, dance recitals, cheer competitions, Nutcracker performances, or other activities, Tom was there to offer his personal encouragement.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, November 30, at 2 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, with Rev. Dane Womack and Rev. Chase Burns presiding. Tom will be eulogized by his son, David.

After the celebration, the family will receive guests at the FUMC Paragould’s new Fellowship Hall. Heath Funeral Home will coordinate arrangements.

The family wishes to acknowledge their thanks and appreciation for the care given Tom by his friend and primary care physician, Dr. Albert Fonticiello, and by the nurses and staff at AMMC.

For memorials, please consider the Building Fund at First United Methodist Church, 404 W. Main Street, Paragould, AR, or the charity of your choice.


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Previous Events

Memorial Service

Saturday

30

Nov

2:00 PM 11/30/2019 2:00:00 PM - 3:00 PM 11/30/2019 3:00:00 PM
First United Methodist Church of Paragould

404 W. Main Street
Paragould, AR 72450

First United Methodist Church of Paragould
404 W. Main Street Paragould 72450 AR
United States

Memorial Contribution

LeBonheur Children's Hospital

848 Adams Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103

First United Methodist Church Building Fund

Paragould, AR 72450
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