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Philip Peter Kirst

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Philip Peter Kirst In Memoriam
April 29, 1923 - June 27, 2015 Philip Peter Kirst, age 92, died at Serenity House hospice in Santa Barbara, CA on Sat., June 27, 2015 from congestive heart failure. A 3rd generation Californian, Phil was born in La Ca¿ada. His parents were Burt John Kirst (1889-1955) & Gertrude Frances Lemieux Kirst (1891-1981), she of French Canadian extraction. His grandfather Nicholas Kirst emigrated from Wisconsin to SoCal in mid-19th c., where he met his wife, Pauline. They eventually purchased part of the old Rancho de La Ca¿ada around 1901. Phil was born on Gould Ave., not long after the road was cut in front of the family's Spanish Colonial-style home built in 1923. Phil's father Burt had commissioned the house from Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980), a graduate of USC & the first certified African-American architect west of the Mississippi. Phil's children were also born when the family lived on Gould Ave., but his childhood home was demolished by the 210 Foothill Freeway. Phil attended La Ca¿ada School & John Muir High School in Pasadena. He entered the Univ. of SoCal in 1942, & enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps. He was elected to Trojan Squires (honorary men's organization), Trojan Knights (becoming First Knight, or president), & in that role oversaw the creation & execution of moving card stunts at USC football games, which in those pre-computer days were created by hand on hundreds of sheets of graph paper. He served on the USC Student Council, & was president of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma (Delta Eta Chapter). As an architecture major, Phil enjoyed lectures given by various teachers, including noted modernist architect Richard Neutra (1892-1970), but decided to focus on bus. admin. as he found drafting tedious. Phil's studies were interrupted when he received his NROTC commission in Jan., 1945. He shipped out to the Philippines, where with the rank of Ensign at age 22, Phil skippered the USS LCT-1239 (Landing Craft Tank of the Mk6 class) & her crew. Phil's 119-foot ship was part of the Service Force, Seventh Fleet, which won the Navy Unit Commendation for opening Manila harbor. Contemporary news accounts noted that "The unit operated under continuous enemy attack¿rendered invaluable service¿in repairing, refloating and salvaging many vital service and combatant ships¿Within a period of 3 months¿this gallant unit completed the emergency clearing of Manila harbor, raising, removing or disposing of over 350 vessels together with large quantities of Japanese underwater ordnance to open the port fully to Allied use. All personnel attached to and serving with the unit [which included Phil and his crew]¿are authorized to wear the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon." Phil remained in the Philippines until July, 1946, then returned to USC to complete his senior year. At his Kappa Sigma fraternity house, Phil remembered visits by Olympic runner & war hero Louis Zamperini (1917-2014), who recounted to his fellow Kappa Sig frat bros many of the experiences that were later documented in Laura Hillebrand's book "Unbroken." Phil was elected to the Skull & Dagger Society, a USC honor society founded in 1913 for notable graduating seniors. The identities of Skull & Dagger members are kept secret, & Phil remained a Skull and Dagger member in good standing right up to his death. Phil graduated from USC in 1947, with a B.A. in Business Administration & a minor in Architecture. Phil then founded the Philip P. Kirst Company, Builders & Developers. Phil designed & built hundreds of houses throughout SoCal, & was greatly influenced by architect Cliff May (1908-1989), with whom he later became acquainted when they both were members of the men's riding groups El Viaje de Portol¿ in Orange County & Los Caballeros, which holds an annual ride on Catalina Island. Phil later specialized in shopping centers & industrial projects. As he was starting his building business, Phil began dating Colleen Phipps, also a USC graduate who had been just as active on campus as he had. They married in November 1947 at Mission Santa Barbara, & celebrated their wedding with a luncheon afterward at the Miramar Hotel in Montecito. After honeymooning in San Francisco, the newlyweds settled into domestic life in La Ca¿ada. Having quickly outgrown their first house, his family moved into the second house Phil built for them on Gould Ave., the same street where he was born when the area was his parent's ranch. Their life revolved around family, friends & faith. Phil & Colleen were founders of the new parish of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church in La Ca¿ada. As their home was on a large parcel adjacent to trails, Phil built a barn and ring so the family could always keep horses at home. Horseback riding was a large part of the family's recreation, with post-Mass horseback rides a near-weekly Sunday tradition, & they were active members of Flintridge Riding Club. But they also loved Santa Barbara, buying property there in 1960, the same year they began enjoying summer vacations in a beach house on Padaro Lane in Carpinteria. They moved to Montecito full-time in 1975. Phil was an active member of Knowlwood Tennis Club & Birnam Wood Golf Club, where he played golf until he was 90. A lifelong horseman, Phil rode weekly until he was nearly 90. In addition to the above-mentioned men's riding groups, Phil was also a member of Rancheros Visitadores (Gringos Camp), Santa Barbara Trail Riders, Los Rancheros Pobres, and was president of Montecito Trails Foundation. Phil & Colleen continued their involvement with USC throughout their lives, starting in 1950 when they began serving on the Reunion of the 40s Committee. They later served many years on the board of the Half Century Trojans. A longtime member of the USC Presidential Associates, in 2000 Phil was made a recipient of the Widney Alumni House Award. In 2007, both Phil & Colleen were presented with the USC Distinguished Service Award. They are benefactors of the USC Norris Cancer Center, & established the Philip P. Kirst & Colleen Kirst Endowed Scholarship, which grants scholarships to USC undergraduate students who fall into the "middle class" category, thereby disqualifying them for low-income aid. For many years Phil enjoyed his 50-yard-line football seats in L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Known for his handsome good looks & love of travel, Phil will be missed by his loving wife of nearly 68 years, Colleen Kirst. He is also survived by their children Peter J. Kirst (Jodi) of Lovell, WY, Christine Gerhardt (Ron) of La Verne, CA, Anne Sedgwick (Jonathan) of Coeur d'Alene, ID, & Lynn P. Kirst of Montecito, CA, his sister Elizabeth (Betty) Kirst Miller of Palm Desert, CA, as well as 6 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, numerous nieces, nephews & friends. Phil was predeceased by his daughter Nancy Carol Kirst (1950-2011), son-in-law (Lynn's husband) Lynn Robert Matteson, Ph.D. (1939-2015), his parents, & his brothers Bert L. "Buddy" Kirst (1917-1923), Robert N. "Bob" Kirst (1921-1989) and Clifford E. "Cliff" Kirst (1924-2011). Phil's funeral Mass will be held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 1300 E. Valley Rd, Montecito on Sat., July 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. The celebrant will be The Most Reverend Peter Forsyth Christensen, Bishop of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, godson of Phil & Colleen Kirst. Private interment will be on a later date at Santa Barbara Cemetery.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from July 4 to July 5, 2015
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