Gregory I. Kirkwood, 67, Air Force pilot, insurer

January 04, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

Gregory I. Kirkwood used to be one of the biggest targets over Vietnam. He flew the mammoth C-130, transporting men and machinery as ammunition flew around him.

Mr. Kirkwood never shied away. He had joined the Air Force at 16, and he wanted to serve his country. When he retired from the military with the rank of major, he continued to serve his community, volunteering for political causes and candidates on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Kirkwood died Saturday of heart failure at Memorial Hospital at Easton. He was 67.

He was raised in Catonsville and attended Mount St. Joseph High School. Before he graduated, he joined the Air Force. He earned his diploma while in the service.

Mr. Kirkwood became a pilot, and was stationed at Manston Air Base in England during the Korean War. In 1952, he met Grace Knott, a nurse from County Kent. The two would be married for 47 years.

"He was well liked and a happy person from the first day I met him," Mrs. Kirkwood said yesterday.

The couple had a son in England, then moved to the United States. Mr. Kirkwood spent most of his military career at Dover Air Force Base, except for his service in Vietnam.

His missions were exceptionally risky because C-130s are big, slow and clumsy aircraft. They were vital for transporting troops and supplies, and Mr. Kirkwood often flew over enemy lines to resupply troops.

"He would come in under fighter escort," recalled his sister, Kathryn Kirkwood Kostinsky of Baltimore. "That was the only way he had to protect himself."

For his efforts, Mr. Kirkwood was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

His accomplishments were not limited to flying. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration at Delaware State University and a master's degree in business management from Central Michigan University.

Mr. Kirkwood retired from the Air Force in 1970 with a heart condition. He owned and operated the Galaxy Insurance agency in Dover, Del., for 15 years before moving to the Eastern Shore.

He volunteered with the Republican Party and ran for an officer's slot with the local Republican Central Committee.

"He was very active and very interested in making a difference however he could," his wife said.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Moore Funeral Home, 12 S. Second St. in Denton.

In addition to his wife and sister, Mr. Kirkwood is survived by two sons, Gregory I. Kirkwood Jr. and Harry Kirkwood, both of Easton; three daughters, Katherine Fearon of Clayton, Del., Valerie Moore of Dover, Del., and Jennifer Cole of Denton, Caroline County. He is also survived by 10 grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and numerous nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 1/04/99

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