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Gone but never forgotten

Traffic accident takes life of young student athlete; family and community rally around his memory

By Leann Askins/Contributing Writer

This article was published February 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

kristi-kirk-stands-near-a-wall-in-her-son-pks-room-that-showcases-his-many-athletic-achievements-the-wall-remains-exactly-as-he-left-it-on-a-warm-day-in-june-2013-the-pocahontas-student-died-in-a-car-accident-prior-to-starting-his-senior-year-in-high-school

Kristi Kirk stands near a wall in her son P.K.’s room that showcases his many athletic achievements. The wall remains exactly as he left it on a warm day in June 2013. The Pocahontas student died in a car accident prior to starting his senior year in high school.

POCAHONTAS — “No excuses. No regrets.” The simple motto is being used by high school athletes across Arkansas to remember the accomplishments of a fellow student athlete.

P.K. Kirk of Pocahontas died June 26, 2013, in a car accident.

Kirk, a student at Pocahontas High School, played and excelled at many sports, but football was his greatest passion, and he hoped to pursue it in his future.

Students are remembering how Kirk epitomized sportsmanship, touched many lives and died much too soon. The motto wasn’t sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association. It wasn’t even really planned, but it’s taken off across The Natural State, showing up on jersey patches, wristband monograms, bracelets and necklaces.

The community’s love and respect for Kirk can be seen, in ways big and small, echoing across football stadiums, high school gymnasiums and crowded hallways — all for one young Randolph County man.

Kirk, at only 18 years old, had already formed friendships with athletes throughout the state, and it’s through those relationships that his legacy will continue.

As she raised her son, P.K., and daughters, Kylee and MiKayla, Kristi Kirk knew that experiences and memories would be a priority in their upbringing. Thanks to that philosophy, Kristi is able to say her family has lived with no excuses and no regrets. And she couldn’t be more grateful, as tragedy shook her family twice in less than two years.

Sad summer days

The Arkansas State Police officer who was called to P.K.’s wreck on Arkansas 115, south of Imboden, described what he found as “the perfect storm,” Kristi said.

P.K. had encountered a wet road on a curve. He hydroplaned and crashed into a UPS truck.

At the time of his death, P.K. had just turned 18 and was preparing to enter his senior year at Pocahontas High School. He was planning a future that would, hopefully, include a football scholarship to college.

Kristi was once again reminded that plans can change in the blink of an eye and that the most unexpected circumstances can occur.

Tragedy had already struck the Kirk family in August 2011, when Kristi’s husband, Philander Kirk, was in a “freak accident” at work. As he was walking through an area with gravel and railroad ties, Philander slipped, hitting his chin on a railroad tie and leaving him instantly paralyzed.

Philander was rushed to the hospital, and doctors tried to stabilize him, to allow for much-needed surgery. He died a few days later.

“P.K.’s last two years was spent missing his dad,” Kristi said.

But in spite of that, P.K. was dedicated to living his life to the fullest, and Kristi said she became more determined than ever to make sure her children had good memories that would last a lifetime.

Short but meaningful

Experiencing so much loss in such a short period of time may have jaded others, but Kristi has taken the tragedies as a challenge to make life better for those whom her son loved.

She has made it a personal goal to continue the kindness and enthusiasm her son exuded. She described her son as someone who never met a stranger.

“He really had a vibrant personality,” she said. “He just thought everybody was his friend.”

At a young age, P.K. would introduce himself to others to get to know them, to share in their lives. He was also motivated and dedicated — qualities he tried to pass along to others.

Kristi said her son worked to be a leader, always doing his best at “pumping up” those around him. He would send out text messages on game days to increase everyone’s excitement, and Kristi has now taken over that responsibility.

“I told the boys I would be there for them — and P.K.,” she said, explaining her continued involvement with the teams for which her son played.

Throughout the school year, she has attended football and basketball games and cheered on the Redskins.

Family of football

It was at P.K.’s funeral that his uncles challenged P.K.’s teammates to make their lives count, to make no excuses and have no regrets.

“They just felt that’s how he lived his life,” Kristi explained.

His uncles understand the importance of putting forth a player’s best efforts.

Willie Davis was a pro football player, having played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans.

Tyree Davis spent time as a Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers player, along with holding positions on international teams.

Just before his death, P.K. spent time in Houston with his uncles, training and preparing for the upcoming football season. They always encouraged him and helped to bring out his natural talents. They had really stepped in to help after the death of P.K.’s father.

During P.K.’s funeral, his uncles recalled P.K.’s excitement as a kid when he got his first football equipment. It was obvious that he was well on his way to a lifetime of sports.

Community

Kristi said that through all of the heartbreak of the past few years, she has continued to feel blessed by her community.

In addition to those who loved P.K. showing their support of the family, Kristi said, it has been touching to see individuals she doesn’t know wearing P.K.’s jersey number or the slogan, “No Excuses. No Regrets.”

“To me, it shows the heart of this community,” she said. “This is what communities are meant to be about.”

Scholarships have been started in P.K.’s name, and students in Pocahontas and other areas of the state have held fundraisers during the past several months to provide monetary support for the scholarships. The Kirk family has also been donating money they have received to the scholarships.

Kristi noted that her family will make a point to reach out to others during times of loss.

“That’s what this community has done,” she said. “They have stood beside us.”

Looking to the future

While Kristi will never see her son graduate from high school or play college football, she is grateful for all of the memories of his time on Earth.

“I’m so grateful, as his mom, that I can look back and know he had no regrets,” she said. “Even though his life was way too short, it was a great life.”

P.K. had talked about earning a degree in a field that involved sports or working with athletes — perhaps physical therapy.

It’s difficult for Kristi, knowing that she won’t see P.K. become a dad, something she always thought he would be amazing at because of his love of kids.

It’s also difficult to see her children go through so much loss. P.K. always looked out for his younger sisters, making sure they were associated with people he deemed appropriate and protecting them as best he could.

“For these two girls, I’m just brokenhearted for them as their mother,” Kristi said.

She noted that it helps that others have so many happy memories of her son, and she’s glad others have made a point of sharing those memories and stories with her over the past several months. She added that she hopes her son’s life will continue to impact others, helping them to truly appreciate life and live life to the fullest.

“I hope this ‘No Excuses. No Regrets.’ keeps going,” she said.

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