Usually when I’m writing about a person I know, the story comes easily. But sometimes, it’s more difficult to write about someone I know, especially when I have a lot of respect for the subject. That was the case this week when I wrote about the retirement of Southwick Police Sgt. Kirk Sanders.
I started the story multiple times. There were so many ways to write it – it could simply be straight forward and concentrate on his police work – but it needed to be about him as a person. It needed to include his children; his son Kyle who worked alongside him as a fellow police officer, his daughter Kim who inherited Kirk’s artistic talents and his daughter Jessie who followed in Kirk’s footsteps and works with children. It also needed to include the love story between Kirk and his beloved late wife Sue, without whom he is sometimes a bit lost.
You see, to tell all those stories is to tell Kirk’s story. And I’m not sure I did him justice. I hope that perhaps I am doing so now.
Before I met Kirk, I met his mom. As a young reporter at The Westfield Evening News in 1995 my beat did not include Southwick, but I would occasionally have to go to Town Hall for something. My good friend Martha Sanders (no relation) covered the town at the time and I distinctly remember her taking me there one day to meet Judy Sanders. Judy was sweet and sassy. I enjoyed chatting with her and we struck up a friendly relationship, as she did with Martha. We even went to a movie together once. When I met Kirk, it was for a story about something police related. I assume it had to do with D.A.R.E. since Kirk headed that program for many of his 40 years as a Southwick police officer. And he reminded me of his mother.
It was fitting that when I interviewed him last Friday on his last day of work, he mentioned that his grandfather – a police officer – and both parents had influenced him as a police officer; his father for his work ethic and his mother on how to treat people.
Anyone who knew Kirk would say he inherited the best of his parents’ attributes. Police Chief Kevin Bishop joked that he needed at least two additional officers to do what Kirk did. And Sgt. Brad Fisk said in the 22 years he has been with the department he has never heard one bad word said about Kirk — not even from someone having a run-in with law enforcement.
Now that says a lot.
Kirk will be missed, but he will continue to serve the town, especially its youngest residents, in his retirement career as a van driver for the schools. That seems a perfect fit for the man who has dedicated his life to his family, his community and the children of Southwick.
Happy retirement, Kirk! I’ll see you around town.