Chick Kirby: Farewell to beloved Hitchin community centre stalwart
Hitchin paid an emotional farewell to a pillar of the community yesterday, at the funeral of Dennis ‘Chick’ Kirby.
Chick, who was a stalwart of Westmill Community Centre for more than three decades, died at the age of 89 on February 25, surrounded by his family.
His coffin was conveyed to the North Herts Crematorium along with his wife, former district council chairman Joan Kirby, by motorbike – in a tribute to their youthful days biking around the country together in the 1950s.
Chick lived in Hitchin all his life, and was known in recent years for his charity work selling pickled onions, Marie Curie flowers and rose buttonholes he used to make for St George’s Day.
Some of those roses cut down to size by Chick himself lay atop his coffin, which was taken for one last tour of Hitchin before the funeral – stopping outside his beloved community centre, so members of the lunch club there could say goodbye.
Chick, who was a car mechanic and driver, got involved at the community centre in 1980 and was chairman from 1983. He resigned in 2004 due to the trouble his leg caused him.
“He loved Hitchin,” Joan told the Comet.
“If anyone needed anything he was there – even when he stopped being chairman, he used to go up every week and do everything. He was determined he still wanted to contribute. He was always community-minded – he just liked helping and being with people, and a lot of people will know him from all those different things. They all loved him.”
Chick was born in Dacre Road and later moved to Sturgeon’s Way in Walsworth, where he lived until he and Joan moved to Bearton Road in 1957.
The nickname Chick – by which even by his wife knew him – came from his childhood, when he was the youngest of five children and the smallest scout in his unit.
He began work at the age of 14 at Chalkley’s Garage in Brand Street and remained in the motoring trade all his working life save only a national service stint in the army. He later worked for HA Saunders and Mann Egerton in Queen Street.
Joan recounted how Chick was so dedicated to his employers that he even went out when a lorry got stuck on the A1 on Christmas Day. He also helped out at Sam Pan, a Chinese restaurant in Brand Street.
In more recent years Chick drove for causes including Helping Hands, which provides transport for the disabled and older members of the community, and Age Concern.
The Phab Club for people with disabilities, of which Chick was particularly fond, held a minute’s silence for him on Friday.
Chick’s family said donations in his memory to Garden House Hospice Care or Marie Curie were welcome. To make a donation, contact Chenery Funeral Services at 44 Bedford Road, Hitchin, SG5 2TY, or call them on 01462 434375.