Friends, family bid farewell to Vermont's first coronavirus victim

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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It was a fitting send-off for a man who served his community he loved. Bob Kirkbride was born in Burlington, but Ludlow was home for almost 70 years. On Friday morning, his friends and family came to the Church of the Annunciation to pay their respects to the 93-year-old.

Kirkbride was involved in many organizations in town.

Just a special guy, touched your heart, warm and caring, would do anything for the Rotary Club," said Kim Lampert, a friend.

He was also on the fire department since the 1950s. Fellow firefighters stood at attention as the casket was brought into the church. Due to the pandemic, the church service per the governor's order was at 25% capacity. Those who stood outside kept six feet apart.

In March, a friend brought Kirkbride over to the VA Hospital in White River Junction when he wasn't feeling well. Bob never got better. He died a few days later.

Kirkbride is believed to be the first Vermonter to die from the coronavirus. Those who loved him, remember so much more.

Peter Kolenda is the longtime Ludlow fire chief. He tells the story of when he mentioned to Kirkbride that it was his mother's birthday. It was only two weeks before he got sick.

"The type of person Bob was, he called my mother and sang 'Happy Birthday' to her. That the type of person he was," Kolenda said.

"He was a super guy. He had a gruff veneer on the outside, but underneath, he was just a marvelous human being," said Frank Heald, the former town manager.

At the end of the Catholic Mass, a final ride in Kirkbride's beloved 1939 Ford fire truck. Traffic came to a halt in front of the fire station for a somber tribute. A set of five bells rang out to signify the town's fire call.

The folks in Ludlow don't want Kirkbride to be remembered for what the virus took, but what he gave.

"Special guy," Lampert said.

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