Friends Rally Round Joe Kitchen Whose Daughter Died in Fortuna Hit and Run Accident
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.“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.” 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…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.
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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