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Dr. Merlin G. Kirby 1931 - 2019
Ronald E. “Ron” Schepmann

LEAWOOD — Dr. Merlin G. Kirby, 87, of Leawood, Kan., passed away Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. Visitation will be from 10-11:30 a.m. with Funeral Services at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 11, at Lenexa Baptist Church, 15320 W 87th St. Pkwy, Lenexa, KS 66219.  Burial will follow at  Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Overland Park, Kan.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions to World Medical Missions.

Dr. Kirby was born Nov. 4, 1931, in Ottawa, Kan. and spent his childhood years between Ottawa and Larned, Kan. where the Kirby family farmed in the summers. It was also during this time that the Kirby boys honed their passion for antique cars and mischief. ‘Doc’ as he was affectionately known by many knew from an early age that his primary passion would be to care for others. He completed his pre-med studies at what was then known as The Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg (Pittsburg State now) graduating in three years in 1953. Doc then attended The University of Kansas to obtain his Medical Degree graduating in 1956. He continued to study the specialty of Surgery through Residency and Fellowships as well as four years in the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon caring for some of the healthiest patients in the world - and along the way managed to hop flights all over the world from his base station in Guam. In 1968, he became board certified in General Surgery and began his Practice in Goodland, Kan. subsequently moving to Great Bend, Kan. in 1971 where he continued to serve his community for an additional 34 years, retiring to Leawood, Kan. in 2006. 

Dr. Kirby was a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, an active member during his practice years of the Kansas Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and was also a mentor to many medical students from KU School of Medicine as they completed rural medicine and surgery rotations with him in Great Bend.  

In 1959, during his residency at the University of Colorado in Denver, Merlin met his wife of 55 years Helen. They were setup on a date by a fellow resident and were joined in marriage in 1963 in Fort Morgan, Colo. In 1967, they were blessed with their daughter Susan and in 1972 blessed once again by the arrival of their son David. Family was everything to Merlin and Helen and they instilled their commitment to serving others, an unwavering belief in Jesus Christ and the value of an education to their children. Doc was known far and wide through the state of Kansas and beyond as he was a surgeon of the golden age of medicine, often traveling from dawn to dusk throughout Western Kansas to tend to his patients. Doc’s quest for continued learning kept him at the forefront of surgical techniques and procedures and the residents of Western Kansas benefited - as did Susan and David as he would often take one of them with him as he traveled to seminars and continuing education conferences nationwide.

Throughout his life Merlin’s interests were varied and included photography, acting as a gentleman farmer, pickle connesoiur and entrepreneur, skier, lover of history and nature (especially that of Kansas) and restoring and playing with antique cars. During his lifetime he restored at least 25-30 cars including Ford Model Ts and As from the early 1900s. He was a proud member of the Heart of America Model A Ford club, and the KCChuggers Model T club. He also restored the 1940 era Harley Davidson motorcycle that he and his brothers rode during high school, terrifying his mother. At the time of his passing he was determined to restore a Saxon, one of only 120 Saxon cars known to continue to exist.

Dr. Kirby was a dedicated and devout servant of the Lord God and Jesus Christ his Savior. Upon retirement he began a “second” medical practice in missionary medicine through World Medical Missions, a division of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. During this time he traveled to Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Oaxca, Mexico treating patients who otherwise would never have received care and delivering the message of Jesus. Several of these trips included his wife Helen - who often says he took to places she never could have imagined, including a memorable Thai dinner in Bangkok, Thailand and her dream trip of a safari in Kenya to see the animals.

Dr. Kirby was preceded in death by two brothers Bill and Keith and a sister Nadine. Dr. Kirby is survived by his wife of 55 years, Helen E. Kirby; two children Susan (Vincent) Horahan, Overland Park, Kan., David (Christina) Kirby, two grandchildren Alexander and Katherine Kirby, all of Overland Park, Kan.; and sister Carolyn Reed of Lawrence, Kan.; and many extended family and friends. Condolences may be expressed at:

Funeral arrangements provided by

Porter Funeral Home 

8535 Monrovia Street 

Lenexa, KS, 66215

Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune, Jan. 9, 2019