David Kirkham

Obituary of David Kirkham

Lincolnville resident David Holmquist Kirkham passed away peacefully at home in Lincolnville on April 10, 2020 next to his wife Kristi Kirkham and with his cat on his lap. Born in October 1942 to Dr. Dunham and Elsie Kirkham in Hot Springs, Akansas, Dave grew up the eldest son of an Army family and spent much of his youth in both upstate New York and Togus, ME where Dunham ran the VA hospital. Dave's life-long interest in woodworking began at a young age, sharing many projects with his father that included restoring two canoes they purchased from the local girl scout troop in exchange for maps of local trails. From 1953-1955 the family lived on Majuro, the largest of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific where Dunham was stationed as a community health officer. Most of his schooling involved swimming and spearfishing in the coral reefs, splitting coconuts with a machete, and translating his comics books into the local dialect for his friends. After graduating from Beloit College with a degree in Geology, Dave went on to graduate school studies at Johns Hopkins. He earned a master's degree in geophysics and spent the next 7 years working as a researcher. He published numerous academic papers, some in the American Journal of Science, including titles such as "Theoretical Prediction of the Thermodynamic Behavior of Aqueous Electrolytes at High Pressures and Temperatures." By the mid-seventies, Dave tired of academic life in California and decided to return with Kristi and his two eldest sons to the island of Vinalhaven, where his mother Elsie was born and had retired with his father. In the summer of 1977 Dave and Kristi bought a yellow school bus and outfitted it for a month-long family cross-country trip from California to Maine, complete with a sofa, easy chairs, an upright piano and a large family-sized bed. Soon after, following in his parents' footsteps once more, Kristi and David were married in the local hardware store. Dave spent the next two decades on Vinalhaven working many jobs that included carpentry, building and repairing wooden boats, scallop diving, and long haul trucking. Two more children, son Morgan and daughter Elizabeth soon entered the picture. Remembering this time, Dave's eldest son Christopher recounts he and Nikolai being awoken at 4:30 in the morning and rowing out past Sheep Island in the pea pod boat Dave had built himself to check on halibut trawls before school. "I don't remember catching many halibut honestly, but it sure was a fun thing to do with your dad." After being hired as the school shop teacher, Dave worked with a generation of island students sharing his passion for fine craftsmanship. They repaired churches, built boats, and worked on endless individual projects throughout the academic year. Summers saw him enjoying time with his family and helping any friend that needed advice or a hand with something they might be building. Towards the end of his teaching days, Dave began work on a full-scale stand up bass fiddle. Working from books on violin construction that were written in foreign languages he did not speak, Dave used the pictures and his innate skill to craft what many consider his masterpiece, a gorgeous bass fiddle that he spent the remainder of his years playing in various bands on and off the island. Retiring to the mainland after 25 years of island life, Dave and Kristi found great joy in hiking, canoeing, and maintaining large vegetable gardens. He remained a highly engaged father, grandfather, and friend, always helping with various remodeling projects and caring for his young grandchildren. Dave was an active member of a mid-coast men's group, active in King David's Lodge #62, and played bass in the local polka band King Pirogi with his son Morgan up until the final weeks of his life. Recounting their years together, Dave's sister Tinkey remembers "we just drifted along shoulder to shoulder whether we were together or not. He did all kinds of great things for us, he was fun and he was good looking and I loved being around him and saying 'this was my brother.'" Dave is survived by his wife Kristina, three sons Christopher, Nikolai and Morgan, daughter Elizabeth, grandchildren Alice, Eliot, Jack, Nadia, and Henry, sister Katharine (Tinkey) Turner, nieces Alison Turner, Erica Turner, Kirsten Turner and nephew Shadrach Smith. He is predeceased by his sister Margaret Rose Kirkham. While the Kirkham family is devastated by his loss, we also know Dave's spirit lives on with us and in all the objects he helped create throughout his life. We would love to hear from anyone who built things with Dave, so if any of his friends or old students would post a picture of any projects using the hashtag #builtwithDaveVh on instagram or other social media platform and give a little description it really would mean so much to our family. A celebration of his life will be announced once we are able to gather together.
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