|Pride of Obion County recognized for history of generous contributions |
|Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012 9:07 pm |
| By GLENDA CAUDLE |
Special Features Editor
“If anyone ever deserved this honor, he does,” said Jim Rippy of his “friend-since-first-grade,” Robert Kirkland. He made the comment at Wednesday’s CornFest 2012 Pride of Obion County luncheon.
Rippy, a 2001 recipient of the honor, noted the many child- and youth-focused programs Kirkland supports in his hometown of Union City and in Obion County, including Promethean Project, free travel abroad for high school juniors, Distinguished Speakers Program, Union City Rotary Club Scholarship program and Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Tennessee.
He pointed out that all of Kirkland’s contributions have been to the benefit of Obion Countians, including business decisions which provided multiple jobs in the past for area residents working for CBK. That company, doing business around the world, was one the honoree founded and co-owned until recently with his cousin, Carl Kirkland of Jackson, who is a former Union City resident.
Of even more interest for the future is the Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation’s support for Discovery Park of America, an education-focused family entertainment venue set to open in the summer of 2013 on Everett Boulevard on Union City’s northwest side. The 50-acre park and Discovery Center anchor were Kirkland’s dream and he has consistently praised the efforts of the 250 local citizens who volunteered to help him see it to reality. Most employees already involved in the project are Obion Countians and the project will most likely involve 75-100 when it opens. Experts project that it will attract thousands of visitors a year and provide impressive returns in taxes and the possibility of spin-off businesses.
Rippy pointed out this is one of the largest single investments in the county he can recall.
Kirkland expressed his appreciation for those who influenced him in the past and those who have been involved in the DPA effort Wednesday when he addressed the full-room crowd of well-wishers. That group included several family and friends from out of town who had gathered for the occasion. His comments were interspersed with his usual wry humor and his tendency to poke fun at himself, with the deadpan assistance of his wife, Jenny.
He called attention to a principle he said has intrigued him since he first heard of it as a high school student, noting that he had become more intensely acquainted with it as he read the work of famed author Ayn Rand a few years later. The principle has to do with being “selfish” in one’s interests. To the enormous benefit of Obion County, Kirkland’s selfishness has always played itself out in ways that have benefited those around him, it was noted by several in the crowd.
Kirkland also recalled many amusing incidents from his school days and added a few more serious notes. One of those was the reading of a journal comment, written in a 1960’s notebook that he said he had rediscovered recently. In it, a youthful Kirkland looked ahead and expressed hopes for the life journey he felt he was just starting.
“My life has finally begun and I hope when I get to be 65, I won’t look back and ask, ‘What did I do with it?’”
Obion Countians answered that question for him Wednesday: “You blessed us.”
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle @ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 9.13.12