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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I wish I would’ve known you, Kirby Allan. Now, I will miss you.

You’ve been my neighbor since I was 14 years old. 
How is it I never knew you?
I grew up with your house just across the street from mine.  Your house held my attention, with your chickens and ducks and collection of exotic cars in the driveway. My little brother called you “Chicken man” and he did his best to keep his dog off your property.  You wore your personality on the outside of your house, with lively plants, collections of memorabilia and patriotic emblems including a 10 foot statue of liberty.
I moved away at 18 and came back for a few months my 23rd year to prepare for a mission.  I walked every day by your house as I exercised and watched your desert roses blow in the wind.  
The pink flowers grew along the borders of your yard and flourished under your care.  I noticed your car collection had grown and now you had a motor home. 
After my mission, I moved back home for a year and studied at ASU.  It was at this time we had our first conversation.  I met you in your yard while you attended to your flowers.  You talked about your health while the woman you loved stood by your side.  You two shared a great sense of humor and enjoyed each others company.  I really liked both of you.
Three years later, I fell in love with a wonderful man who proposed to me after we dated for only 4 weeks.  We lived in a little white cottage house on the wrong side of the tracks.  After almost 2 years (and one burglary), we moved our small little family back to the street I grew up on in a house we could afford.  I loved being back in the neighborhood, with its mature citrus trees, large green grass yards and friendly neighbors.  It was then I saw you again one Halloween night while trick ‘or treating.  Your house, four houses down the street from mine, was all aglow with bright white ghosts, orange pumpkins and purple spider eyes staring back at me in wispy webs.  My kids were scared of your decorated house, but my husband and I lured them up your side walk. 
You and your partner sat on the front porch amid fog smoke and sounds of cackling witches. 
You reached out to my kids, coaxing them to touch the plastic bats hanging from your front porch.  You had candy, hospitality and chickens and you made an impression on my kids.  From that day forward, they called you “Chicken Man” too. 
Occasionally I’d see you driving down the street in your white pick-up and you’d stop so we could catch up on the weather and irrigation schedules.  Your partner organized street clean-ups, planted more flowers and attended the chickens and ducks while you stayed knee-deep in Mesa politics.  I heard your ran for Mayor of Mesa and usually had the opposing view at City Town Meetings, but found it hard to believe such a quiet man could be so outspoken.
I didn’t really know you, although I enjoyed having you as a neighbor.
Your ducks had babies and their babies had babies.  They waddled around your yard, in and out of the bushes and under your overgrown trees. These ducks created a storybook scene and it made the neighborhood somewhat magical.
Halloweens were always fun, an excuse to walk up your sidewalk, past the Statue of Liberty, past your upside down American flag, inside your terraces of bougainvillea and back into the world of Kirby Allan, but of course, I didn’t even know your name.
Until you died.
I woke up Thursday June 16th at 3:00am because I heard my dog moving around in the hallway.  I asked my husband if he’d please put the dog out, when he came back in the room.
“Honey, there’s some fire trucks outside, come look.”
So, with tired eyes I walked outside with my husband and was shocked to see not one fire truck but about 20 in a carnival of red and blue flashing lights.  Floodlights glared into the neighborhood from overhead. 
“What’s going on?” my son Chandler said as he walked outside with us.
With the contradiction of pitch night and glaring light, it was eerily quiet.  There wasn’t anyone around.  We walked into the front yard and looked down the street. 
It was then I saw an outline of something in the sky.  Smoke!  It was white puffy-cloud smoke.  I watched as the wind carried it west, away from my home, I couldn’t even smell smoke when I realized a house was on fire. 
Was it my parents?  Just two house down from mine?  No, the smoke appeared to be coming from the other side of the street.  The bishop of my church?  I couldn’t tell, so my husband and I, along with my two oldest sons, walked down the street to find your house engulfed in flames.
Mammoth flames, almost 20-feet high, tinged the tops of your palm trees.  There, on a 4-story high ladder was a fire fighter directing a hose of water into your home.  We were quickly told by a concerned neighbor that you and your partner were out of town.  Knowing you were safe was a relief, but still the sheer horror of such a sight.  Watching flames escape your windows, burning through your roof and into the night sky.  Just when it appeared the fire was under control, another portion of your house would ignite.  Water was being sprayed from all angles and I wondered what does it take to finally stop a flaming beast?  Never had I seen such force, never had I seen firefighters working a house fire.  It was a strange sort of suffering.
At 4:30am, my family and I walked back to our home and made it back to bed.  I wasn’t until the next morning I found out you had died in the house fire.
And I cried.
I cried, hoping with all my might you hadn’t suffered, but I guess that’s naive.  To think death took you this way makes me angry and I have lots of questions.
It was you who made the 911 call, it was you who made sure your partner made it safely out of the house, but it was you who died just a few feet from your back door.
I wish I would’ve known you Kirby Allan. 
I wish I would’ve taken the time to hear about your life, I wish I would’ve reached out.
  In the paper, I read you were in Hollywood with Frank Sinatra and were a song writer with a #1 hit in 1952.  
Even still wrote music for the Sex and the City movies as well as other venues.  You were a WWII veteran who loved your country and as a libertarian, believed in the same conservative values I hold dear.  Some labeled you a gadfly, others called you radical; I think you just wanted to hold people accountable and make them think about their actions.
The fire fighters respectfully took down your flag and folded it into a triangle.  Despite the flames, your Statue of Liberty still stands and she looks perfect.  Your bougainvillea is almost reaching for heaven.  
I’ve seen chickens running in your backyard, hiding in their roosts under your wagon wheels and piles of limber. 
The roof of your house caved in and continues to fall still, but your children are their taking care of things, looking through stuff, trying to make sense of your blessed life that ended so suddenly in a tragic accident.
I will miss you Kirby Allan.  I’m glad you lead the type of life you did and that you stood for what you believed in.  Take care of the desert roses in heaven and know that you are loved, even by a neighbor who barely even knew you.


  1. Oh Laura, that is the sweetest and saddest thing I've ever read. Mr. Allan was lucky to have you as a neighbor, even if you weren't close friends. God Bless his soul.

  2. I read this this morning and it has been with me all day. Such a wonderfully written post! Its made me think of all those people i pass everyday and dont know anything about.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a nice tribute--I saw your mom and brother on the news the other night and wondered if you knew him.

  4. This is such a nice tribute. We will keep his family in our prayers.

  5. I saw this on the news, and you have made Mr. Allan a neighbor to us too. What a lovely post, and thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. ~~ Eileen ~~

  6. Thank you for this post. I have had four people just on this day tell me I needed to read your blog. I did, at 6 this morning, and cried my eyes out once again. I had no idea so many people knew and cared about him and us. Thank you for the beautiful post. He was amazing in many ways.
    - my father's daughter Monique Allan

  7. Such a beautifully written tribute. I did not know Mr Allan, but do know his daughter, Monique. Thank you for helping me to know a small part of Mr Allan. It is easy to see that Monique was clearly shaped by her father. My heart breaks for all of you.
    -Hope Hall

  8. Laura that was so sweet of you to write this for him. Kirby Allan is my uncle, I know him as Pete Pittman that is his real name. My Dad is a year older than him and is Kirby's older brother. We live in the Chicago land Area All of our lives. I have fond memories of going to Mesa to visit Pete when I was 10. That was forty years ago. To this day it seems that I don't really know him much, but regret not going to visit him more often. My dad looks just like him and lives in Wisconsin and yes like his brother he has chickens also. Thank-you again for writing such a sweet tribute to Kirby Allan(Pete Pittman). Jeff Pittman

  9. Jeffrey Allan Pittman Hess SonJune 26, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    I am Kirbys oldest son. That was so very beautiful and well written. My Pop was born in Arkansas with the name Sidney Allen Pittman. He was known as "Pete". He is well known among music aficionados, but your note helped everyone else, including me, know him better. Thank you.