Kirkwood, Patricia

Patricia Marie Kirkwood died on December 14, 2012 at her home in Cayuga Heights in the company of family members and close friends. She was 95.

During her long and active life, Pat, as she preferred to be called, pursued many passions. In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, she loved teaching, making and listening to music, growing flowers and vegetables, translating and editing academic works, and traveling the world with her late husband, Gordon.

She also devoted much of her formidable energy and intelligence to causes that she believed in. Most of these involved working for peace and championing the underdog. A lifelong pacifist, Mrs. Kirkwood was especially involved in opposing the war in Vietnam. She was treasurer for Tompkins County of Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign to end that war. Pat and her husband, Gordon Kirkwood, played a leading role in establishing the first group residences in Ithaca, and associated programs, for people with mental health difficulties. For the rest of their lives they continued to support such programs generously with their time and money and were honored by the Mental Health Association of Tompkins County and Lakeview Mental Health Services for their contributions. Born on August 29, 1917, she grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where her parents, Leo and Marie Frueh, owned and ran The Brooklyn-Parma News Times, a community newspaper. After graduating from Villa Angela, a Catholic girls' boarding school in Cleveland, she enrolled at Cornell University, starting a long family tradition. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year en route to earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in classics in 1938 and 1939, respectively. Even more important, Cornell was where she met a handsome young Canadian, who was also a graduate student in classics. The day she spotted Gordon Kirkwood, Pat told her roommate that she would marry him. In 1940 they were wedded, fulfilling her prophecy. Their marriage lasted for more than 66 years until Gordon's death in 2007. After Cornell, they attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where both received PhDs in classics. During World War II, the Kirkwoods lived in Ottawa, where he was a Canadian Navy Intelligence Officer. In 1946, they returned to the United States and settled in Ithaca, where he began a more than 40-year career in the Classics Department at Cornell. Although she had prepared for an academic career, Pat Kirkwood followed a more traditional path for women in that era. She was a devoted wife and an adoring mother to her sons, Michael, born in 1943, and David, in 1946. However, she was always deeply involved in other activities. She went door to door raising money for the March of Dimes, which helped fund the research that led to a vaccine against polio. She was a leader in the Children's Matinee Series, a cultural program that brought performers to Ithaca, including the folk singer Pete Seeger, who was black listed at the time for his progressive political views. A music lover, she played the piano and the recorder and sang in community choirs. In the 1960s, she took up the French horn and for many years played in the Ithaca Concert Band. Pat Kirkwood did not let her education in classics go to waste. She translated the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler's work Somnium from Latin into English for the book Kepler's Dream, published in 1965 and reprinted several times thereafter. Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov both considered Kepler's story of a trip to the moon as the first work of science fiction. In addition, she helped with the editing of her husband's books and articles on Greek and Roman literature. She was a teacher at heart with a passion for the structure and grammar of language. She taught English as a second language in a local community program for adults from other countries and also privately tutored foreign students in English. In the 1970s, Mrs. Kirkwood was appointed a lecturer in the Cornell Classics Department, where she taught beginning Latin for about a decade. She loved her job and was an enthusiastic and successful teacher, even of students who were taking Latin only to meet the language requirement for graduation. She enjoyed reminding one such former student, whom she sometimes encountered around town, that he was the worst student she had ever passed. Apparently, he had other talents since he became a successful restaurateur and then mayor of Ithaca. Throughout their marriage, Pat and Gordon Kirkwood loved to travel. They visited more than 50 countries on every continent and also went to 49 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces. As classicists, they returned over and over to the Mediterranean, spending years living in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Cyprus. After devotedly caring for her husband at home for many months before his death in 2007, Pat Kirkwood remained active into her mid-90s. She lived independently and still drove regularly around town until just months before her death. She grew tomatoes and morning glories on her back porch and continued her tireless involvement with mental health programs in Ithaca. As she outlivedher old friends, mostly Cornell faculty members and their spouses, she made many younger ones drawn from many walks of life. These included mailmen, the woman who mowed her lawn, two men who did work for her around the house, one of her first English-as-a-second-language students, her banker, and a former Peace Corps volunteer and supporter of progressive causes, who recruited her to become a partner in Buffalo Street Books. Pat Kirkwood frequently commented that she found these friends at least as interesting as the people she had known in academia. In June 2012, she was diagnosed with advanced leukemia and told by her oncologist (inaccurately, as it turned out) that she would most likely live only three to four weeks. With her characteristic courage and will power, she was determined to make the most of whatever time she had left and to spend it in the home that she and Gordon had built and cherished for 50 years. For several months, she entertained a steady stream of family, friends, and other well wishers. She downplayed her own illness, preferring to focus on her visitors' concerns. Ever the gracious host, she made sure that all her guests were provided with food and drink.

Patricia Kirkwood is survived by her sons, Michael of Ithaca, and David (and his wife, Annie) of New York City; her sister, Margaret Anne Rogers, of Fairfax County, VA; her nieces, Nancy Rogers (and husband Michael Buchler) of Tallahassee, FL, and Linda Rogers (and husband Christopher Prarie), and their children, Robert Joseph "Rojo" and David, all of Fairfax County. The family has suggested that contributions in her memory be made to Lakeview Mental Health Services, 600 Washington St., Geneva, NY 14456. Plans for a memorial gathering have not yet been completed.