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Congressman Mark Kirk's father dies of pulmonary fibrosis
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Francis Gabriel Kirk, right, with his son, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park. The elder Kirk died Monday.

 

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Published: 2/7/2008 12:09 AM

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No one can say Francis Gabriel Kirk wasn't versatile.

Pilot, pig farmer, computer designer, sculptor, author and Army and Navy veteran were among the hats that Kirk, best known as Frank, donned in his life.

Mr. Kirk, 74, died Monday of pulmonary fibrosis while surrounded by his family in his Kenilworth house.

"He had a wide range of interests," said one of his sons, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk of Highland Park.

One of his great joys was flying. He'd fly his Cessna Skyhawk 7035A from what now is called Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling.

Frank Kirk was just 17 when he earned a pilot's license. That led him to the Navy, which let him go because of astigmatism.

"Dad joined the Navy to fly," Mark Kirk said.

Mr. Kirk grew up in downstate Sullivan as part of the Harshmanite religious group, the congressman said, Farming was part of the Harshmanite lifestyle.

But Mr. Kirk didn't remain on the Sullivan farm, eventually working at Illinois Bell, Bell Laboratories, AT&T and Vitrocesit SpA. Mark Kirk recalled how his father showed him futuristic gadgets such as picture telephones at an Illinois Bell Christmas party in 1967.

Mr. Kirk also excelled as an author, as evidenced by his 1973 tome "Total System Development for Information Systems." His work was lauded with a "Book of the Month" award for scientific publications.

Animals were another one of his passions. He had turtles, horses, pigs, cats, hamsters and a lots of beagles, the latest duo being Homer and Nellie Mae.

Frank Kirk's survivors include his wife of 30 years, Beverly, and eight children: Mark Kirk, Robin Kirk, Kristen Miller, Gretchen Miller, Melissa Hutchison, Eric Miller, Kyra Miller and Maya Kirk. Frank Kirk also had eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is pending.