Friends Rally Round Joe Kitchen Whose Daughter Died in Fortuna Hit and Run Accident

Joe Kitchen, Hit and Run Fortuna

Some of the many people who helped remodel Joe Kitchen’s home all wearing t-shirts with Kiya’s photo emblazoned on the front. [Photo by Afton Anderson]

Just one short month ago, Joe Kitchen’s life changed forever. A car driven by a hit and run driver struck his teenage daughter, Kiya, and her friend, Faith Tsarnas, as they skateboarded along Eel River Drive near Fortuna. Faith died on the scene and Kiya was airlifted to a hospital where she was pronounced deceased the next morning.

The tragedy touched the community. Strangers wept. But Kiya’s father had to deal with his own grief and that of his son as well as deal with the resulting legal turmoil that ensued as the California Highway Patrol declared the vehicle responsible for the two girls’ deaths was found at the home of his ex-wife.

His friends worried about him and his son and decided to help. “Joe had started a remodel and never got a chance to finish it,” explained Shaun McNaughton, a Southern Humboldt resident. Joe spent time with his children instead, said Shaun. “He never missed a sporting event with his son or daughter.”

Shaun and other friends decided to finish Joe’s house so that he and his son would have a new beginning there. “We started talking about it when we were at Joe’s house right after [Kiya’s death,]” said Shaun. “We called and it turned out we knew a bit of everybody–tilers and rock masons and carpenters. Lots of local businesses helped.”

But first how to surprise Joe and his son?

With the help of Joe’s girlfriend and two quiet retreats gifted by close pals, the friends managed to get the grieving father and his son away from the turmoil without them knowing the plan. “We sent them on a fishing trip,” Shaun said. “Then other friends sent them on a fishing trip for a couple days.”

And for the six days the hurting family were having some healing time together, the friends scrambled to finish siding, build a rock fireplace hearth, put on a roof, put in new floors, add a new front porch, paint, remove brush and refurnish the house down to new bed linens.

kitchen's kitchen

Joe Kitchen’s new kitchen. [Photo by Afton Anderson]

“Everybody put in their time,” Shaun said. “They came after work when they had spare time. They did it at lunch.” Shaun tried to name all the businesses that donated, “Wycoffs, Dazeys Building Supply, Parkinson’s was big, Blue Star Gas, Furniture Design in Eureka. Sure as shit I’m forgetting somebody….Just Rent It donated the equipment. It is hard to remember everybody. I just ran around like a chicken with my head cut off.”

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The new hearth in the heart of the remodeled home. [Photo by Afton Anderson]

Joe’s girlfriend kept the crew apprised of when he’d be home. So with everything shipshape (okay, maybe a few corners were still unfinished but it was really close) the friends laid out a BBQ to feed everyone and greet the returning father and son. The smoke billowed from the grills and someone got the wicked idea of making Joe think his home was on fire. (It’s a country humor thing not everyone gets it but Joe did.)

The Weott Volunteer Fire Department’s crew pulled an engine in front of his driveway and jumped into their turnouts (fire clothing) to greet him. When he arrived, Joe thought his home was going up in flames but as he came around the fire engine, he saw the crowd of friends assembled to greet him. He roared at the joke and hugged a nearby buddy. For a moment he just saw the people who loved him, then he saw what they had done to his home…

Joe Kitchen

Joe Kitchen marveling at the community that reached out to help finish his home. [Photo by Marina Cheney]

Below is a video showing the moment Joe Kitchen walked around the fire engine.

Later, as he was shown around his remodeled home, one friend, Afton Anderson, and her four-year-old daughter videoed his first walkthough.

There were tears.

“Why is this making everyone cry,” the little girl asks.

“‘Cause it’s a happy cry,” Afton answered.

Sorrow likely rode in those tears. Of course, the remodeled home didn’t come close to replacing the hole left by Kiya but it helped stitch together the unraveling fabric of life and surrounded the family with love.

Kiya Kitchen

Kiya Kitchen

Note: If you would like to donate to the Kiya Kitchen Skate Park Fund, go to any Redwood Capital Bank and let the teller know. They’ll be glad to help you.

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39 comments

  • Awesome love! Let the healing begin……

  • How nice. Grief and sadness can be the impetus to do great things and Joe is lucky to have such good friends.

  • That’s an amazing gift to a grieving family. Much love and respect to all the people that put that together for him.
    I’m so sorry for your loss

  • WOW! Good job everybody. I hope the next thing that can be fixed is his heart. Take note people, this is what friends do.

  • You guys are awesome! May you be blessed with goodness and health.
    “PALS” for sure.
    All the best.

  • This is such a wonderful thing for friends and family to do for Mr. Kitchen. Restores my faith in community and humanity. Our thoughts and prayers are with you sir as you and your family continue to mourn your daughter. Live your life to the fullest. She would want that.

  • A Real Ma Grower

    Beautiful!

  • We need more stories like this!
    Thanks Kym….

  • So awesome! I am so sorry for his loss but am so grateful that he has good friends, family and community support.
    This is what a loving community does!

  • Humanity and friends came through. Warms my heart.

  • Beautiful does not even begin to describe the kindness that everyone showed to Joe and son. Definitely a tear jerker.

  • I do not know anyone in this story, but I teared just the same.

    Beautiful.

  • I cried when I watched this!!! What great friends & what a great community we live in! God bless you all💕

  • So awesome made me cry. ♡ good job Afton and friends and community ♡

  • I cried! The world needs more people like this in it! Mr. Kitchen I am so sorry for your loss, sending my respects to you and yours!!

  • Country folk helping country folk! I tradition, sadly, that is lost in most of our society today.

    Thank you for continuing this time honored tradition!!

    • AMEN!!!
      Friendly Fortuna is country through and through…Our God is Good, but Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour…however God always wins and prevails in the end,,,!!!

  • Love generates love. Great, great work.

  • There is so much energy around this tragic hit and run; I’m proud to live in a community with people who know to use that energy to do something positive. This really makes me cry, in a good way.

  • 💗💗💗💗💗

  • Hope there is justice in this case .

  • Some people cut a wide swath in life, Joe must be one of those people. You can’t help but cry for him, but you also can’t help but feel incredible joy for a man who has such great friends. Kudos all around.

  • Way to set a great example!!! My hope for the future is that this becomes the norm everywhere again.
    This is the humboldt I know and luv, where people help each other in significant ways, and community becomes your family.
    Let’s remember through all the crap going on, things like this are happening quietly everyday here on many levels.
    Let’s set the example as much as possible, sometimes folks just need to be reminded.

    Many blessings to the family, and may the near future bring resolution and completion and healing. RIP

  • Blessings to all his good friends, neighbors, and folks who cared! This is Humboldt’s Finest.

  • Fantastic support and love – let the healing begin for the whole community <3

  • Sniffle, and a big smile !

  • What an amazing gift. To give the gift of your time and your talents to those who are grieving is the best way to help them heal and show that they have shoulders to lean on. God bless all who helped this family.

  • I think that is the kindest story I have heard in a long time. As a mother my son was killed by a drunk driver hit and run people do the nicest things for their community there is kind people still left in the world god bless you all your have kind souls.

  • Beautiful! 💞

  • Thanks to everyone that contributed, and thanks Kym for making it possible for us to read about it.

  • Way cool of Joe’s friends to actually show their support for him and his son. They walked the walk!!

  • Bless all your hearts.love goes along way.once again Humboldt shows how amazing our folks are!!!

  • Poster formerly known as Matt

    Incredible story. Absolutely fantastic. Makes me proud to live in an area with people like that.

    On a side note, is anyone ever going to be arrested?!

  • Wow! What a wonderful thing for these people to do. What kind, caring and loving friends.

    This is what community is about. Pulling together to help a friend or neighbor in grief or need. Giving because you can without getting or expecting anything in return. Showing support, committing yourself in some way and trying to make a very painful time in some else’s life a little better.

    My hats off to those true “community members” that were involved in this project. I applaud you. Your generosity and acts of kindness should serve as an outstanding example to all about how we (as a society) should act towards each other everyday and especially in a crisis.

    People everywhere need to take a good long look at the true character and unselfish actions these individuals have gifted to a grieving father and his family. This is what true, caring friends look like. This is what a strong, tight-knit community looks like. This is how we as a society should act towards each other everyday.

    May the Kitchen family come to a place of peace and heeling during this difficult time. Your halfway there with friends like this that obviously have your back and have true caring in their hearts.

  • Beautiful and touching. A new beginning , happy to see laughter and love through this families unbelievable loss.
    Any word on the family of the other teenager, Faith.

  • Fantastic story! I would love one of those TShirts.

  • Pingback: Joseph Kitchen; Love In Time of Tragedy | Umbrella of Suspicion

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