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A `lesson' in community involvement

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Many students in the Snoqualmie Valley School District have had Dick or Kris Kirby

as their teacher. In fact, several generations of local families have

attended their classes.

Between them, the Kirbys have taught here for 51 years

— she for 17, he for 34. And the Valley residents who have not

taken their classes know and appreciate the couple for their

community involvement and their passion for antiques.

"I see that they've made a big contribution to the

Snoqualmie community, in a positive way," said Rick Krona, vice

president of the Snoqualmie Valley School District board. Krona was

in Dick's seventh-grade science class in 1967, where he

dissected frogs.

"They have dedicated their lives to our school system,

and both of them at different levels have offered different skills

and opportunities for our kids," Krona said. "And both are

well-respected by their peers."

The Kirbys' roots to the Valley run deep. Kris is a Valley

native whose Norwegian family came to the Carnation area

two generations before her.

After spending his first 12 years of life in Nebraska, Dick

and his family also moved to Carnation. The two were friends in

the same graduating class at Tolt High School, in Carnation,

formerly known as Tolt, but married years later without ever having

dated in school.

As a young couple, Dick taught school on weekdays

and spent weekends and summers working for the Forest Service

in fire prevention, while Kris stayed home to raise their children.

It didn't matter that the couple wasn't wealthy; they were rich

in family.

"It was worth it," Kris said. "We've got great kids we

love dearly."

After their children were raised, Kris went to work for

the Snoqualmie Valley School District and has been there ever since.

She has taught fifth-graders, middle-school students, and this year

she teaches first-graders at Sno-qualmie Elementary.

Dick taught at Snoqualmie Middle School for 24 years,

and has been at Chief Kanim for 10. He continued to work for the

Forest Service until a few years ago.

Throughout the years, Dick has coached

middle-school sports, including eighth-grade boys' junior-varsity

basketball and eighth-grade girls' varsity basketball. He currently coaches

volleyball and baseball.

Besides their jobs, which can easily fill up a week, the

Kirbys make a point to be involved in the community. Dick is in

his fourth year as a Snoqualmie City Council member, is the chair

of the council's Planning and Parks Committee, and is the liaison

between the council and the Planning Commission.

"He's the calming voice. He brings a sense of balance to

the council," Snoqualmie Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said. Dick is

also on the flood task force for Snoqualmie and is a board

member for the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society.

"In everyone's life, a time comes for them to volunteer

for something, and this is Dick's time," Fletcher added. "He's

always been very civic-minded and community-oriented, and

he's just trying to make the community he lives in better."

Kris also performs her share of community service. She's

currently on the Snoqualmie Valley Library Board, in which she

has participated for a decade, and holds a spot on the

Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society Board, of which she is co-president

this year with Susan Sherman.

In past years, Kris was involved with the Snoqualmie

Education Association; the local education union. The

accomplishment she feels most proud of with the association is helping to

negotiate the concept of shared decision making between

teachers, the school board and school administration.

And if all their community work wasn't enough, the

Kirbys spend additional time on their business, called The

Farmer's Daughter Antiques. They have a display case and booth set up

in Gilman Village in Issaquah for the business, and they go to four

antique shows each year to sell their wares, which Dick calls

"primitive country antiques."

The Kirbys also have a passion for antiques at home.

Their Snoqualmie residence is full of Norwegian country pieces,

including spinning wheels, hand-painted grandfather clocks

and unique and sturdy wood cupboards.

Aside from their antique collecting, school and

community work, what many don't know is their sense of family and

the people it encompasses. For the Kirbys, family has a

broader meaning than the traditional 2.5 children and a few in-laws.

"A family is someone who you care for — that's just the

way it is," Kris said.

The couple's family is made up of daughter Kristen, 25,

son Jeremy, 22, foster child Michael, 40, and his two daughters,

Dick's daughter, Elisa, and an assortment of parents and

extended family. The Kirbys are also co-guardians for a deceased

friend's three developmentally challenged adult children, and

consider them part of the family, as well. The couple feels that

spending time with family is important.

"We feel blessed because we have our parents nearby and

want to be a part of their lives, and our children nearby so we can be

a part of their lives, too," Kris said. "We just feel lucky, really lucky."

Valley Portraits is a monthly feature that takes a look at

people who contribute to the community. To suggest someone for an

article, call Michelle Gisi at (425) 888-2311 or e-mail

editor1@valley-record.com.

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