Oran Gould Kirkpatrick Jr., a veteran of World War II, passed away peacefully at his home in Rye, N.Y. on August 12, 2023, just shy of his 100th birthday.
He was born in Rapallo, Italy, on October 28, 1923 in the Villa Anna, where his parents, Lois (Farnsworth) and Oran Gould Kirkpatrick Sr., were studying and singing opera.
Raised in San Antonio, Texas, he was affectionately known as “Sonny”. His family opened the first Tex-Mex restaurant, The Original, on the San Antonio River in the 1880s. He was a direct descendant of Erastus “Deaf” Smith”, a hero in the Battle of San Jacinto.
In his junior year at Texas A&M, he was called into service for World War II. As a First Lieutenant, he became Company Commander of a signal heavy construction unit stationed in New Guinea, Leyte, and Luzon. He moved to the Marines to see more combat and entered Nagasaki, Japan, two days after the atomic bomb was dropped.
At the end of the war, he was able to return to Texas A&M to finish his degree in Industrial Engineering.
In 1946, he married Patricia Eintracht of Teaneck, N.J and they had four children. Mrs. Kirkpatrick died in 1977. In 1979, he married Maureen Daly Brown of Rye, N.Y.
He began his career at the George A. Hormel Company in Austin, Minn. He later joined General Foods Corporation where he worked for 37 years. During that time, he became president of Kohner Toys. Following his retirement from General Foods in 1984, he and a partner, Allan Rosen, formed Nationmark, a wholesale toy distribution company operating in the greater South and Southwest. The partners would later form Excite, a wholesale distributor of games, toys, and hobby goods based in Hong Kong.
During his many years living in Rye, Mr. Kirkpatrick donated his time to many community organizations, serving as president of the Rye Free Reading Room and the Rye United Way and being actively involved with Rye Presbyterian Church, where he was a deacon, elder, trustee, and Sunday School teacher.
He acquired a realtor’s license later in life in order to help his wife in her career as a residential real estate agent.
Mr. Kirkpatrick was a member of Apawamis Club for over fifty years, and a member of American Yacht Club.
Among his favorite things were his Tuesday golf games with the “Apawamis regulars”. He enjoyed his book clubs, bridge and tennis games, and ski weeks out west with friends.
He and his wife Maureen traveled around the world with friends and family. They created special vacations with their grandchildren to London, Italy, Alaska, and France. During the last trip to France, they stopped in Normandy where he had the honor of bestowing the wreath at a ceremony for American soldiers lost in the war.
He derived great joy from family gatherings and holiday dinners, particularly those that celebrated his birthdays and the witty ditties that accompanied them. His face would light up at the sight of a grandchild and it was common for him to ask them where life’s travels were taking them.
“Oran was a beacon of light for us and a pillar of strength to all,” said his family. “He leaves behind a life well-lived and a continued love for San Antonio. He was a man who loved and was loved.”
Mr. Kirkpatrick is survived by his children, David John Kirkpatrick of Centennial, Colo., Janice K. (Arthur) Forbes of Carbondale, Colo., Lois Marie (Timothy) Downing of Boulder, Colo., and Kathy Gail (Dr. Daniel) MacGowan, of New York, N.Y.; three stepchildren, Holly Elizabeth (William) Seymour of Glastonbury, Conn., Caroline Anne (Hernando) Acuna of Rye, and Charles Stuart Brown Jr. of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; eleven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother’s spouse, Jay Hodges, three nephews, one niece, and their families, all of whom live in Texas. He was predeceased by his sister, Lois Farnsworth Hull, and his brother, John Otis Kirkpatrick.
A Military Memorial Service will be held Saturday, September 9 at 11 a.m. at Rye Presbyterian Church.
Donations in Oran Kirkpatrick’s memory may be made to the Rye Free Reading Room or Rye Presbyterian Church .
In Memory of Oran Kirkpatrick
Some people are true treasures in the changing fortunes of time. Oran Kirkpatrick, my late father-law, will always be that person.
On August 12, late in the day, I opened the door to the sitting room-turned-bedroom in his Rye home. He died in that room a few hours earlier. He had been in his 100th year and was just two months shy of hitting triple digits.
Looking at an empty bed without sheets and no sign of him living there, I suddenly felt grief’s undertow. I took a seat in his chair with a window view to the driveway. Thriving green trees lined a rambling nearby brook. All seemingly filled with life on this sunny summer day.
Echoing in my head at first were his usual questions from this chair to me. We had many conversations in this room when I visited over the years. At the time I had worked for several governors.
“How are things going in Connecticut? Looks like you’ve got some trouble up there,” he’d say. We’d then talk about politics as he folded in his lap The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or a book this avid reader had opened.
We’d soon chat about other things. For instance, he would always ask about my estranged daughter from a previous marriage.
“Have you heard from her?” he asked at every visit over 18 years. He never dismissed the impact. My reply was always “no”. He’d give me a kind look, shaking his head in disbelief. He didn’t need to say more.
For many Father’s Days, he would invite me and other sons-in-law for a round of golf at Apawamis Club, where we had fun and got to know each other better.
He helped make many family vacations possible, some dedicated to spending time only with grandchildren and his wife Maureen. He showed us cultural appreciation through family trips to museums, theaters, and exhibitions of legendary painters.
A fan of toys and president of a toy company, he always connected with his grandchildren and later the great-grandchildren.
This man, who we called Oran, Dad, or Granddad, cemented an appreciation of family in word and deed.
He often pointed boldly to the importance of family. Family dinners most often featured him saying grace. He offered thanks to God for those who were present and remembrances of those who were absent, lived far away, or had died.
When trouble, need, or illness appeared for anyone, he brought empathy and assistance deep from within. He was a World War II veteran and had experienced his own share of personal losses.
Through his actions, he also taught us about community commitment.
He served as president of the board of the Rye Free Reading Room and the local Red Cross chapter. He helped Maureen in her real estate profession, took people to doctors’ appointments, and counted offerings at Rye Presbyterian Church. At dinner parties, whether he was the host or a guest, he loved the company of friends and new acquaintances alike.
In his last years, he was always gentle and kind to the wonderful caregivers around him and rallied often for Maureen. He taught us in the end that living life fully also means surrendering to the trappings of age with grace and dignity.
The afternoon sun now cast a long shadow into the room where I was reliving these 30 years of memories. I looked at the barren bed again. I realized at that moment what a wonderful teacher and father-in-law he had been.
So many lessons. Thanks, Oran, for all you taught me and others about the importance of family, love, commitment, and community. Most importantly, thanks for being you and a special father.Bill Seymour