Arts, education community mourn loss

Published 3:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2016

Eloise Kirk’s death on Thursday left hearts deeply saddened and a void in the educational and arts communities that cannot be filled.

Mary Hobdy, a longtime friend of Kirk, said there were no words to express the sorrow that she felt.

“Eloise was the sweetest, the nicest and the most caring person in the world,” Hobdy said. “I have known her for eight years. Now, she was outspoken. She said what she was thinking but she liked people and she was always giving. Eloise loved to give and she looked for ways to give. She always said that it’s better to give than to receive and she was always giving. I will miss her always.”

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Kirk was almost a fixture at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy. In fact, she was the backbone of the center, said Vicki Pritchett, center executive director.

“Eloise served on the center’s board of directors from the beginning,” Pritchett said. “She cared deeply about our mission, not just about the enrichment value of the arts but also about the educational value. As a former educator, Eloise knew the value of the arts in the classroom. Our Art Bridges teacher workshop was her idea. She knew that if classroom teachers understood the value of the arts in education, then the arts would continue to influence lives in a positive way through their students.”

Kirk was an educator first. She taught at the lab school at Troy State Teachers College. Her influence was widespread through the “student teachers” that she taught, who in turn, went to teach in classrooms across the area and beyond, Pritchett said.

“Eloise worked with the Pike County School System’s Indian Education program and also worked with the State Department of Education. She was intelligent and hardworking. She drew on her experience in education to write grants for the Johnson Center.

“We owe her a great debt of gratitude for the work she did in furthering the arts in Troy and Pike County. Eloise was a giver and she will continue to give. Her influence will be felt for many years to come.”

Kirk was not only an educator and arts advocate, she was a dear friend to many.

“Eloise was full of information about so many subjects,” said Wiley White. “She was enlightening and entertaining. But most of all, she was a devoted friend. Once she liked you and respected you, you had a friend forever.”

White said Kirk was a smart and strong individual.

“Once Eloise got on track, she knew where she was going and you could not stop her,” White said. “I appreciated her drive and her strength. I could not have had a better friend. Troy could not have had a better friend.”

Kirk was a devoted and active member of First Baptist Church of Troy for 50 years. She loved her church, her family and her Lord, Pritchett said.

“She missed her husband, John, so much. They’re together now but we miss them both.”