Ernest “Ernie” Parker Kirkham

1954-2019

Ernest “Ernie” Parker Kirkham, 64, of College Station passed away on Saturday, July 20, 2019. A descendant of early Texas settlers, he was born on August 9, 1954 in Galveston, TX to Emmett Oran Kirkham and Edna Pearl Thomas Kirkham and was raised in LaMarque. He was a graduate of LaMarque High School, Class of ’72. Ernie earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology in 1977 and his Master”s Degree in Physical Education in 1981 from Texas A&M University. Ernie was appointed in 1981 as MS Physical Education Associate Instructional Professor, Health and Kinesiology Undergraduate Faculty, where he taught until his retirement in 2018. He was an International Gymnastics Federation Brevet Judge from 1989-1996. Brevet meaning the highest rank to be held. He joined the USPA in 1992 and was a Static Line Jump Master and Instructor, and was a certified Parachute Rigger. He was the Director of Officials and Head Judge in the 1993 World Championships in Freestyle Skydiving and Skysurfing in Spain.

Ernie was kind, humble, and selfless. He valued people and made every effort to place the needs of others before himself. Ernie was an inspiring mentor and friend who will be missed by all knew him.

His professional experience included:
1984 to 2018 Coordinator of Developmental Activities for Physical Education Activity Program, Texas A&M University
1987 – 2018 Senior Lecturer, Department of Health and Kinesiology,
Texas A&M University
1981 – 1987 Lecturer, Department of Health and Physical Education,
Texas A&M University
1983 – 1991 Gymnastics Coach, Texas A&M Gymnastics Team
1980 – 1981 Graduate Assistant – Teaching, Department of Health and Physical Education, Texas A&M University
1979 – 1983 Gymnastics Coach and Instructor, Texas School of Physical
Fitness, College Station, Texas
1975 Teaching Assistant in Mathematics, College of the Mainland, Texas City, Texas
1973 Teaching Assistant in Physics and Math, College of the Mainland, Texas City, Texas

Industrial
1977 – 1978 Engineer Trainee, Fisk Telephone Systems, Houston, Texas

Honors and Awards that he received throughout his tenure:
Emil Mamaliga Teaching Award – 1987
Texas Gymnastics Judges Association Judge of the Year – 1989
International Gymnastics Federation Brevet Judge – 1989 to 1996
Gymnastics Association of Texas Honor Award – 1989
Gymnastics Association of Texas Merit Award – 1990
Director of Officials and Head Judge – World Championships of Freestyle Skydiving and
Skysurfing – 1993
Kinesiology Division Teaching Award – 2003, 2011
Texas Gymnastics Judges Association J.O. Coach of the Year-2013
Gymnastics Association of Texas, Collegiate Honor Award-2014

Ernie is survived by his Sister, Junette Kirkham Woller and husband, William Henry Woller; Brother, Emmett Oran Kirkham, Jr.; Sister, Jacquelin “Jackie” Kirkham (Hipes) and husband, Mark Hipes; Nieces and Nephews, William Kirk Woller and wife, Vanesa Sanabria,  Thomas Roy Woller and wife, Lanita O’Quinn Woller, David Lloyd Woller and wife, Tonya Woller, Scott Andrew Kirkham and wife, Laura Benton Kirkham, Sheri Denise Stomberg and husband, Jonathan Stomberg, Stuart Michael Kirkham and wife, Tiffany Ann Kirkham, and Jacquelin Joye “JJ” Hipes; Great-Nieces and Great-Nephews, Dayla Rain Woller, Rylan Blaze Woller, Amber Noel Hill and husband, Stephen Hill, Haley Warren and husband, Matthew Warren, Taylor Elizabeth Stokke, Sabryna Nicole Searle, Emily Elizabeth Kirkham, and Matthew Michael Kirkham; Great-great nieces and nephews, Braeden Alexander Mauzy, Neely Louise Hill, Lylah Grace Minor, and Grayson Ace Minor.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 pm Monday, July 29th with the Celebration of Life to follow at 6 PM in the Bluebonnet Chapel of Callaway-Jones Funeral Center officiated by Certified Celebrant Dawn Lee Wakefield. The graveside service will be held 11 am Tuesday, July 30th at Forest Park East Cemetery, 21620 Gulf Fwy, Webster, TX 77598.

Express condolences at CallawayJones.com

Condolences

  1. I am truly sorry to hear of Ernie’s passing. He was an important mentor in my life as a a gymnast and as a friend at Texas A&M in the 80’s, as well as the thousands of students lives who had the privilege of being taught or coached by him. Ernie was a very kind, patient and caring coach; he will be truly missed.

  2. This is such sad news. Ernie was a member of the Aggies Over Texas Skydiving community during
    the 80s and 90s. He earned our respect in the sky and on the ground. He was a trusted member of our group. He was quiet and somewhat hard to get to know on a deeper level but he was one of us and we loved him.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about Ernie’s passing. I don’t think I can put into words how much he meant to me as a coach and a mentor during my time on the Texas A&M Gymnastics team. He had a way of pushing people to put forth their best effort by making them believe in what they were capable of. He helped me find my love for the sport again and find confidence in myself. He was wise, funny, and selfless in his pursuit to teach and coach others. Please let me know the details for the service, as I know myself and many others would love the opportunity to commemorate someone who means so much to us. He is loved and will be dearly missed.

  4. I am so sorry to hear of Ernie’s passing. He was so kind and compassionate. Ernie was a role model and mentor to me throughout my high school and college gymnastics experience. He was whole heartedly invested in his athletes, he treated us like friends and we knew that he truly cared about us. Enough can’t be said to show how deeply he has impacted us in the gymnastics community. He will be fondly remembered and deeply missed. I would love to attend the service to show my respect and honor his life.

  5. I am so saddened to hear of Ernie’s passing. It is hard to express how much a coach can help you in a sport and in life. Ernie helped me work through some tough decisions in and out of the gym. I can attribute his caring, humble, and dedicated demeanor to many wins for the TAMU gymnastics team. He also picked us up after some difficult losses. He inspired me to work harder. He made me excited to be in the gym, when I had started to take that time for granted. He helped me stay positive as I battled one of my worst injuries. He helped me realize I can have a life outside of gymnastics. I cannot think of TAMU gymnastics without thinking of Ernie. I am honored to have known him. Rest In Peace coach and friend.

  6. Ernie taught me how to do gymnastics from scratch in 2014 when I met him. I would just drop by his office and talk to him for a hours when I was free. Even when he was busy, he had a way of making time for you and making you feel important. I always hoped he considered me a friend like I did him.
    He was the best teacher I have ever had, and I always wanted to learn more from him. I just wish I had even more time with him.
    My condolences to his family, he is missed dearly.

  7. Rest in peace Ernie.
    I still remember the day we met first time at his gym class at Texas A&M in 1984.
    His weird expression on his face still makes me smile when I told my name is H.
    (Real name is Eiichi but pronunciation in Japanese is similar to that of alphabet H)
    I joined his gymnastic team which made my college life fulfilling and priceless.
    I visited CS last fall in more than 30 years and had lunch with Ernie.
    I didn’t have any doubt of seeing him again in near future.
    You were too young to go.

  8. Ernie was a teacher first and biomechanist at heart.

    Often, students would pour into my class each week discussing their biomechanics homework and how they were preparing for upcoming tests in his class. Ernie’s structured – systematic approach to teaching gave his students the “know how” to be successful. Ernie was a champion of direct, explicit instruction, as he knew it served as a foundation for higher order thinking. He believed in the potential of every student. His students knew they had the tools to be successful, whether it was learning a new gymnastics technique or solving a biomechanics problem. Ernie’s students had the confidence to tackle some of the hardest classes at TAMU and do well in them.

    Ernie was a master teacher and a selfless servant. I joked with him on a couple of occasions that he was a saint; although, he was too humble to let that continue for long.

    Ernie was my mentor. I knew I could ask him any question and not be judged. If I encountered a professional roadblock and needed help problem solving, Ernie was the first person I turned to. Professionally, he gave me the same tools and confidence that he gave his students. He was selfless on so many levels. If you knew Ernie, you wanted to be a better person.

  9. Ernie was the kind of person that you meet and immediately wish you had met sooner. He was extremely smart, witty, funny, fatherly, incredibly kind, and passionate. He had a profound impact on my life as a friend, mentor, and coach and I am so thankful to have known him. There aren’t enough words to accurately describe Ernie and never will be. He will always hold the number one spot on my “most interesting persons” list. He is greatly loved and will be truly missed.

    Please be sure to share details regarding the service. I and so many others would love the opportunity to pay our respects and celebrate Ernie’s life.

  10. My heart is broken to hear of the passing of Ernie. I cannot think about my time as on Aggie or as a gymnast without immediately thinking of Ernie. He was the best gymnastics coach I have ever had. He saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself. He encouraged me to keep improving in gymnastics and he would lift me up and make me laugh on my hardest days. Coaches are so much more than that… Texas A&M gymnastics was my home away from home which made Ernie my “dad away from dad”. He encouraged you to be better. Better as a gymnast. Better as a student. Better as a person. He would constantly make me laugh with his dry humor and wit but when it came to the serious matters in life, he was there to listen and help. For someone who gave his life to his students and his gymnasts and asked for nothing in return, I owe so much of who I am today to him. He was one of the most amazing men I have ever met.

  11. I know Ernie as my uncle, 4 years my senior. He was the older brother I didn’t have. When my family (including my mother, being his sister) visited him in the LaMarque area I, as the oldest, usually slept in his room in the top bunk.

    We would talk about all things, play wargames, go through his collection of WWII surplus equipment, and he was keen on playing army in the yards with my younger brothers. It was a common event to see him head out the door for a run as part of his training regimen. I remember a spelunking expedition we did together, and that helped me overcome a fear of the dark and small places.

    I admired his athleticism, humor, intelligence, and discipline (I saw how he, for example, had put the periodic chart on his wall so that he could stare at it to learn it in any lapse moment).

    He strived for balance, studying the sciences, and practicing sports disciplines, particularly running and gymnastics. Seeing him put a pull up bar in the hallway and hit 20 everytime he walked down it showed me how to integrate training into daily life.

    I saw qualities in myself that I wanted to develop that mirrored his, and in that he was a great inspiration. He was a private individual and because of that I probably did not spend the time I should have as an adult seeking more time sharing experiences together, and for that I am sad.

    I am glad for knowing him as closely as I did, and am happy for all of those who he was able to positively influence over his life.

    • Dearest Kirk:

      Thank you so very much for the lovely message you posted. I, too, wish there had been the opportunity to spend more time with Ernie, and with all of you also. I never have really felt like an “aunt” to you but more of an “displaced sister!” as we are only 6 years +/- apart! He was a very private person but we are discovering that all of us meant a great deal to him.

  12. Ernie was a man of great intelligence who poured his passion and tremendous heart into everything he did. I knew him through gymnastics and found, in Ernie, a man who brought out the best in everyone he knew. When he judged at meets, I would encourage my guys to talk to Ernie after the meet, not to question judging, but to learn why he loved the sport and the gymnasts so much. Knowing Ernie made you a better person. It certainly did that for me.

    Ernie, you will be greatly missed, much more than you ever realized. May you have eternal peace.

  13. Ernie made a huge impact on many of us on the gymnastics team in the mid 80’s. He gave of his time and was a great friend and mentor and pushing each of us to challenge ourselves. He shared his passion of the sport and encouraged me to judge/coach for many years. He has been taken too soon. Prayers to his family and friends dealing with his loss

  14. Ernie was such a great guy. He impacted my life in high school then in college. Was a great friend, mentor and coach in gymnastics and life.

  15. I knew Ernie for 40 years. He was a man of deep reflection in faith and devotion to TAMU. He loved teaching and coaching in the Aggie spirit. His contributions will be carried on in that spirit thru the hundreds of students, friends, and colleagues that he touched. God Bless Ernie.

  16. Ernie was our coach of the Texas Tumblers from 1979-1981. He was a scholar and athlete and someone for The Narcissus Squad to look up to at a formative time. He was also a stud who could do more pull ups than any of us young bucks. We’ll miss you Ernie.

  17. Ernie was a great mentor and friend to many of us on the A&M gymnastics team. Ernie has impacted us all in many ways. We are so lucky to have had him in our lives. Ernie will truly be missed.

  18. Ernie was always kind and geniune. He was truly one of the good guys. I will always remember his willingness to help in any way. Whether with a judging question, routine construction or specific physical training idea. Always helpful to me. I know the gymnastics world will greatly miss him, but after reading some of the other tributes, many other areas of his life also have a huge hole in them after his passing. Rest in Peace Ernie, you were loved and will be missed.

  19. I still can’t believe this!!!!! Ernie is a very kind person. When I was a student, he was always very nice to me and gave me an opportunity to teach PEAP classes. Without him, I can’t become faculty in the U.S. This means a lot to an international student!

  20. Our very sincere sympathy to the family. May God grant you grace, peace and comfort during this time.

  21. Please accept our sincere sympathy in the passing of Ernie. He was a great friend and great help to someone just starting teaching in the PEAP Dept. May He give you strength and support during this most difficult time.

  22. I started my gymnastics coaching at TAMU, Ernie was one of my mentors. We would sit around for hours and just talk about gymnastics. Ernie was one of those very special people that God puts in someones life to make a difference.

  23. So sad to hear of Ernie’s passing. He was one of the first instructors I met when I joined the Kinesiology faculty at A&M in the fall of 1988.. I was impressed by his friendliness and professional demeanor and enjoyed our interactions over the years.

    He left a lasting legacy and will be missed by his PEAP colleagues, many students and friends garnered over the years. I am sorry I am not able to attend Ernie’s service and express my condolences in person.

  24. Ernie, you taught us all way more than just new sports skills; your life lessons will be passed on to everyone else we encounter: be humble, helpful, self-sacrificing, and a shoulder that others can always lean on. And, most importantly, do it all with a keen sense of humor. Thank you for teaching us more than you ever knew.

  25. Ernie, was a great coach and teacher. I remember his leadership with our gymnastics team in the 80’s. Without his leadership this program would not have survived. He made a tremendous difference in the lives of many students and has a lasting impact on our lives.

  26. Ernie had such an impact on my life at A&M and my life after A&M. He made me feel confident in my gymnastics, in the classroom, and in myself. He believed in me and rooted for me whether it was for a biomechanics exam (that he wrote), or applying for physical therapy school (even though he wasn’t a fan of physical therapists), or when I told him I was going to marry a former a&m gymnastics team member. I remember it would always make my day when I would crack a joke or do something absurd at practice and he belly laughed. Even if I was in a bad mood that day or had a long day, his sarcasm and dry (and sometimes cynical) sense of humor never failed to make me laugh. I truly believe it was because of Ernie that I got my first job out of college and got into physical therapy school. He did so much for me, and I could not thank him enough. Most people who did not have the privilege to get to know Ernie missed out on his kindness, selflessness, humor, compassion, and his down to earth, one of a kind personality. He will truly be missed.

  27. Ernie had a sincere and humble way about him. He could always be counted on. Ernie lived for people and when I knew him, gymnastics. He would give his help to anyone who asked. In the gym if you needed a spot, coach, devil’s advocate, moral support or just someone to shoot the breeze Ernie was always there. Its painful to think of his passing, but I know he left behind a wonderful legacy. And I know that everyone who has ever met Ernie is much better for it.

  28. My Coach, My Mentor, My Good Friend. Only a selfless guy like Ernie would insist that I use his Pontiac Firebird “Knight Rider” car for Senior Prom instead driving my “bucket of bolts”. His generosity and friendship knew no bounds. He constantly pushed me to achieve my full potential in gymnastics. Despite my best efforts, he refused to let me sell myself short. Thank you Ernie!

  29. My story is different I am a parent of a student and gymnast of Ernie’s. My daughter was always talking about Ernie on how funny he was how he was always there for her and encouraging her. If there was any issues in her life he was there to listen and give advise. He was very special to her he was her friend and she loved him, like someone else said a dad away from dad. I had the privilege of meeting Ernie and letting him know how much I appreciated the kindness and care he showed my daughter which I see from what everyone is writing he did with so many. He will be truly missed but we will see him again someday.

  30. I was very saddened to hear of Ernie’s passing. Ernie was a former student and long-time faculty member in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M. He not only made a tremendous impact on his students he taught and athletes he coached, but also served as an outstanding faculty member, mentor, and friend to many within the department. His classes were always in demand and overfilled because he was passionate about his teaching, he cared about the success of his students, and he taught in an understandable manner so students could apply science to practice. He leaves a legacy that has impacted thousands of lives and will be greatly missed but not forgotten. My prayers and condolences are his family and friends. Be strong in Him!

  31. Dearest Judy,

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby brother. Praying for God’s healing power during this time of sadness for you and your whole family.

  32. Jackie – Praying for you and your loved ones on the loss of your dear brother. What an accomplished man! Not just the awards and career, but the character of a wonderful person…caring, kind, and encouraging to so many. He obviously had a great positive impact on those that were privileged to know him. He is gone from this world way too soon. May God bless you all with comfort through your grief.

  33. I can not explain how much my heart is hurting since I heard what happened to one of my favorite people. My heart truly feels like it is broken… this man was the reason I became interested in judging men’s gymnastics and helped me find another way to love the sport after I got hurt. He made every meet more exciting to me. I always looked around to see if he was there at a meet and would always give him the biggest hugs and embarrass the heck out of him whenever they would call his name to introduce him. He used to tell me I was the daughter he never wanted and was stuck with. He was truly like a father to me. He always brought me little gifts when he knew I would be at a meet. I loved listening to him talk about his life and all the things he has done and all his little adventures. Knowing he will never be at another meet again and if I ever judge he will never see that day… breaks my heart. This is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to try to wrap my mind around. I don’t want to believe that I am living in a world with him no longer in it, because this world is truly worse without him in it. He impacted so many lives and was one of the sweetest people I have ever met… I am happy you are no longer in pain and are watching over us all. I want to live my life so that you can look down and be proud of your “unwanted” child and be proud of the women I am becoming lol I love you and you will forever have a special place in my heart. You always saw the best in people and saw what they could be. I aspire to be even half the person you were. All my love. I will put on a smile everyday and try to live a life as full yours was. Rest In Peace Ernie. You will be missed.

  34. Ernie was one of my first gymnastics coaches at Texas School of Physical Fitness. He was kind, knowledgeable, friendly, funny, & a great coach. I remember riding in the “trunk” area of his firebird to a gymnastics meet in Bryan when I was around 9-10. I think there were about 6 of us in the car (long before seatbelt laws). I later had him as an instructor at a camp at Texas A&M. I have very fond memories of him and am very sad to hear of his passing. My condolences to his family.

  35. The extent of my grief and loss is limitless, overwhelming and indescribable. Ernie was and is my “baby brother”, my “partner in crime” while growing up in LaMarque, and for a few of our adult years. Sadly, our lives and choices took separate paths so much so that to some extent we grew apart. While we kept in touch somewhat, we weren’t close like before. I realized, however, after Ernie died that in his own way I still meant something special to him. In his house I found every card and letter I’ve ever sent him, the Bible I gave him for Christmas in 1960, my framed picture on his chest of drawers as well as other items from our childhood or that I had given him. He even had gotten me a bench from G. Rollie White before it was demolished as he knew how special it was to me and “gung-ho” I am (my nickname is Supermaggie)! I remember his enthusiasm when he called to tell me about it! I have no doubt Ernie cared for me and hope he knew how much he meant to me. He was always in my heart and mind: he still is and always will be. But, sadly just as he distanced himself from family in life I realize he’s made sure that the distance continues and remains following his death. No matter what, I will always love you, Ernie. We’re the ones that are flesh and blood. I would do anything for you. God bless you, Ernie. Rest in peace. I’m glad you are resting next to Mother and Daddy. Until we meet again. I answer Muster Silver Taps for you – HERE. Love, Jackie

  36. My brother Ernie was born two days after my 15th birthday.
    I bathed him, diapered him, fed him, carried him, and, as time went on,
    chased him. Being still was never in his play book.
    One incident I particularly remember was when I was asked by a friend if I would go out with her brother who was stationed at Ellington Air Force Base. I agreed and when he came to pick me up, sat in the living room to visit a bit.
    Things were going well when Ernie, near age two, came streaking by in his birthday suit. Mother called out to grab him as she was trying to give him a bath.
    So, as he passed by again, I scooped him up and said “It’s time for your bath,” to which he replied, “I don’t want one.” I asked why and, looking me straight in the eye in all seriousness, he said, “I’m an airplane, I might rust.” Rust or not he finally got his bath.
    Shortly after his third birthday, I left for college.
    A few weeks before his fourth birthday, he was ring bearer at my wedding.
    The photographer had been the family photographer since I was about a year old. One of the photos he took is my favorite wedding photo. It’s a picture of Ernie in his navy suit, white shirt, and tie standing in front of the wedding cake and, carefully with his little finger, scooping out a bit of frosting to taste.
    The parents were upset, but I told them not to mind, he was just being Ernie.
    One of my favorite poems makes me think of him. It’s High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air…
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark or even eagle flew —
    And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

  37. Ran track with Ernie at La Marque High school. Great respect for him and he was always a leader. I would like the family to know that you are constantly in my prayers.

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