Joe Fest keeping teacher’s memory alive

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 8, 2013

DOBSON — As a portrait of the late Joe Kirkman peered from a stage Saturday afternoon at Fisher River Park while a band performed, a gap was bridged between the past and present.

The sounds reached listeners who were touched by the educator during his lifetime — friends and others — and those still benefiting today from his legacy as a Surry County teacher for 32 years.

Kirkman died of cancer in 2005, but Joe Fest, a musical fundraiser now in its seventh year, is keeping his memory alive in a big way. Not only are the annual performances by rock bands a major component of the event, since Kirkman also was a drummer for various groups, it also raises money to provide scholarships to those now seeking a similar career in the classroom.

Two of those students attended Joe Fest Saturday, when pleasant sunny weather drew in people from around the area to enjoy music and fellowship in a wooded setting.

Lindsay Ray of Pinnacle says the assistance she has reaped from Joe Fest proceeds as a two-time scholarship recipient has played a key role in her ability to achieve a college education.

“Well, it’s really helped me get through school,” said Ray, a 2010 graduate of East Surry High School who is now enrolled at Appalachian State University, where she is majoring in elementary education.

“I would not be able to go to school without scholarships,” added Ray, who praised Joe Fest for making a difference in that regard. “Every little bit helps.”

Jenna Woodie, another Pinnacle resident and the most recent Joe Fest scholarship recipient who is a freshman at Surry Community College, said along with the financial aid she is inspired by Kirkman’s educational career.

Many of his former students say Kirkman not only taught academic subjects, but instilled in them many life lessons during his years at Franklin Elementary and Pilot Mountain Middle schools.

“It’s something to look forward to — you can aspire to be like him,” Woodie said.

Saturday’s concert event was free, with those attending encouraged to make tax-free donations to the Joseph Roy Kirkman Foundation. Funds also were raised through 50-50 cash drawings, door prizes, a silent auction and a quilt raffle.

“It gives me a warm feeling knowing that people care about each other and about the future,” Trinette Kirkman said Saturday of the support Joe Fest has received over the years. She launched the festival in her husband’s memory and to provide a way to help others become teachers.

As a career educator herself, she added during Saturday’s event that most everyone has a favorite teacher who made a lasting impression on them.

“I think Joe Kirkman was that for a lot of students.”

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