HAYS CORBETT KIRBY, noted aviator and Houston native son, died on December 13 in a single-car accident in Wyoming. He was 66.Mr. Kirby was born in Houston on February 3, 1943. He attended Lamar High School and then Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he met General Joe Foss, his friend and mentor for his military career. Mr. Kirby served in the United States Air Force and distinguished himself flying F100s, F104s, F16s, and F105s. Mr Kirby assisted in accomplishing the largest aircraft modernization effort in the Guard and Reserve history. His knowledge of fighter weapon systems and his influence inside the Washington beltway, as well as his connections in the Pentagon, were essential to the success of this effort. From 1997-2000 he worked on a team to field critical weapons systems that made the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard ready, reliable, and relevant when 911 occurred, the same systems and aircraft that were some of the first aircraft to lead forces into IRAQ in 2003. He was an exceptional aviator and flew fighters for the Air Force Reserves' famous 301st Fighter Wing "the SPADS". Mr. Kirby was also awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his assistance to the USMC during the Haitian political crisis in 1997. He received an appointment to the Pentagon, and retired a Lt. Colonel having won the Airman's Medal in 1995.As an innovative and successful entrepreneur, Mr. Kirby had real estate investments in both Arizona and Montana.Mr. Kirby grew up in Houston, the city his great grandfather, John Henry Kirby, so loved and helped shape and build. His father John Henry Kirby II continued that tradition as he founded K and G Oil Tool Company. Growing up in Houston, Mr. Kirby began his love of flying in Piper Cub airplanes with his brother, John Henry.Mr Kirby traveled the world as an avid huntsman and conservationist, but was devoted to the Montana mountains in which he lived where in 1988 he helped battle the Yellowstone wildfires. Ever the patriot, he also played a strategic role in the Ross Perot for President campaign in 1992.Mr. Kirby was preceded in death by brother, John Henry Kirby III in August of this year and his parents John Henry Kirby II and Haysel Corbett Kirby. He is survived by his three children, Andrea Kirby Prawdzik of Austin, Texas, James Stuart Kirby of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Robert Hays Kirby of Longview, Texas, his grandchildren Cameron Michael and Madeleine Skye Prawdzik of Austin,his nephew, John Henry Kirby IV and his sister-in-law, Jo Ann Chandler Kirby both of Houston, Texas. A memorial service will be held in Dallas, Texas, at Highland Park Presbyterian Church on Saturday, December 19th at 2:00 pm with Pastor Ron Scates.
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Published in Houston Chronicle on Dec. 17, 2009