George Kirk Bishop, 15, struggled against disabilities

October 20, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

George Kirk Bishop, a teen-ager who brought joy to his family and friends despite severe physical and mental obstacles, died Tuesday at Sinai Hospital of complications from an upper respiratory infection. The Perry Hall resident was 15.

He was 3 months' premature and weighed slightly less than 2 pounds at birth. He survived but suffered multiple handicaps, including cerebral palsy, blindness and mental retardation.

Kirk battled his afflictions as an infant and a toddler at Children's Hospital in Washington. He was there when, just a month after his second birthday, his mother, Opal Marie Vernon, was murdered in their Cheverly home.

"He was always full of life," said his sister, Shannon Vernon of Millersville. "Probably Mom had something to do with it. A piece of her was in him still fighting."

He was adopted by his maternal grandparents, Jean and Willie Bishop, who moved to Perry Hall in 1994 when Kirk was accepted into the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore. He arrived at the school in a wheelchair, but learned to walk on his own. Unlike most children who looked forward to vacations and holidays, Kirk liked being at school.

"Kirk has taught us a lot - to be patient, to laugh at his sense of humor," said teacher Margie Bacik. "We all are affected by this. He was popular with his peers."

Despite his struggle to do things others take for granted, his family said he was always good-natured.

"If he met somebody, they would fall in love with him instantly," said his sister.

His grandmother said that Kirk enjoyed having her read to him. "He loved people. He had a great will to live," she said. .

Kirk sang in musicals and in the school choir. He enjoyed listening to country music and was a big fan of the Dixie Chicks. Swimming was his main event at the Special Olympics. He was also a member of the Key Club, the Builders Club and the Boy Scouts.

Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. today at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Belair Road.

In addition to his grandparents and his sister, he is survived by a nephew and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

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