Kirk Real, Lakewood educator, civic leader and ‘everyday hero’ dies at 86 – Press Telegram
Kirk J. Real, longtime educator, community leader and volunteer who earned the title of “Everyday Hero” in the Town of Lakewood, has passed away. He was 86 years old.
Real, who lived in Lakewood even before being an incorporated town, died of a heart attack last month, the day after a successful hip replacement surgery, his nephew Jim Strange said.
âThe hip surgery went so well that doctors were stunned when he collapsed the next day,â Strange said this week. “It was just God saying it was his time.”
A public memorial service will be held for Real at 1 p.m. on December 4 at Christ Presbyterian Church, 5225 Hayter Ave., in Lakewood, where he was a church elder and played the organ and piano.
Praise and condolences poured in from community leaders over Real, who had deep roots in Lakewood, Bellflower, Artesia and Cerritos.
âKirk’s legacy will live on in the lives of the students he served,â said Tracy McSparren, superintendent of the Bellflower Unified School District.
Real began his teaching career at BUSD in 1957 and served as principal of all elementary schools in the district at the time, except for two. He was also principal of Mayfair High School. Most BUSD elementary schools are located in Lakewood.
Lakewood Mayor Jeff Wood said Real had made an impact in many ways, from his work as an educator to his years volunteering with community groups including Pathways Volunteer Hospice and Christ Presbyterian Church. Real, a native Lakewood resident who settled there in 1945, also served on city boards for 39 years, making him the longest-serving commissioner in Lakewood history.
Lakewood was a planned development that was finally completed in 1953. It was then incorporated as a town a year later.
“He has given so much to this community for so many years,” said Wood, “and in return he has been appreciated and loved by so many people.”
Don Waldie, a longtime former spokesperson for Lakewood who retired in 2011 as deputy city manager, said Real had the best attributes of a city leader, making him an invaluable adviser to the council municipal and municipal staff. “
In every way he could, Kirk gave Lakewood back the best he found in his community, âsaid Waldie. âWhen the Town of Lakewood celebrated its 45th anniversary of incorporation in 1999, Kirk was named one of Lakewood’s 45 Everyday Heroes. “
In addition to all of his schoolwork and community service, Real also found time to work part-time for almost 65 years at Knott’s Berry Farm as a clerk / cashier at the Berry Market, known for its jams and preserves. .
Real had a strong sense of loyalty and he always appreciated Knott’s because he worked there when he was young. He had asked Knott’s if he could have a 65-year-old pin when he reached that milestone later that year, but died before the pin was completed.
Real also enjoyed mentoring young people working at the Berry Market, many of whom were in college.
Matt Gullett, group principal at Tetzlaff Middle School in Cerritos, said Real mentored him when he worked at Berry Market from 2006 to 2013.
âHe helped and encouraged me as I walked through Cal State Long Beach, where I finally got my music education degree,â Gullett said. âHe did that sort of thing for everyone. He took time for all of us.
Thomas Philips, director of instrumental music and group director at Mayfair High School, was a close friend of Real. He called Real one of the most generous people he has ever known.
Once, for example, Real befriended a young man, Richard Tran, who emigrated from Vietnam and worked with Real at the Berry Market.
âTran was around 20 years old and contracted incurable cancer,â said Philips. âKirk visited him daily in the hospital and became his family, taking care of Richard. When Richard passed away, Kirk gave up one of his burial grounds at Forest Lawn in Cypress and made sure he had a proper funeral and burial. Kirk is now resting next to the man he took under his wing and helped.
Real was buried at Forest Lawn after family service.
Philips also donated enough money to the Mayfair Band Boosters to purchase seven silver sousaphones for the band.
âHe was able to enjoy the sound of seven tubas at the Mayfair events this fall,â said Philips.
Kirk J. Real was born August 21, 1935 in Phoenix, where he attended his first elementary school.
At the age of 9, he and his family moved to Southern California, first to Long Beach for a short time, then to their permanent residence in 1945 in the then unincorporated Lakewood.
Real’s dad, James Real, worked on Liberty freighters in Long Beach Harbor and then as a warden at Foster Elementary. Her mother, Hazel Real, worked in the office at Bellflower High School where she did administrative duties.
Real went to Wilson Elementary and Roosevelt Junior High (both now closed) in BUSD.
After graduating from Excelsior High School in Norwalk, he attended Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education.
He entered the United States Army and served as a chaplain’s assistant.
Then, in 1957, he began his career with BUSD as a third and fourth grade teacher at Betsy Ross. He then moved to Ernie Pyle Elementary.
He also did not run any school as a principal.
He retired from BUSD in 1996, but has remained involved, most recently as chairman of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
âKirk could also often be found on the Mayfair High campus playing the piano to accompany orchestral lessons,â McSparren said.
Waldie said Real are tireless, even recently helping to establish the city’s new multicultural festival.
âKirk’s long-standing commitment to young people and his strong beliefs influenced all of his decisions as a member of the commission,â said Waldie.
Real also had a great sense of humor.
Every morning, Philips said, Real would take the local newspaper and look to the obituary section first – to see if his name was there.
âWell I can’t see my name so I have to be alive,â Phillips recalls saying. “It will be a good day.”
In his eulogy at Real’s funeral, Philips spoke to his old friend.
âEvery day when I read the newspaper, I think of you with a smile on my face to see if I’m in it,â he said. âThen I’ll start my day trying to live a life in your memory, living to serve others.
âYou were the link between the generations,â added Phillips. âYou have brought us together. Kirk, you are truly unique.
Real is survived by his nieces Mary Elizabeth Strange and Barbara Jean Strange Parnell; nephews Tom and Jim Strange; and several great-nephews, great-nieces, great-grand-nephews and great-great-nieces.
The family suggests sending donations to the Pathways Volunteer Hospice Endowment Fund, Christ Presbyterian Church, and Cal State Long Beach College of Education.