Archive for July, 2014

Saying Goodbye Much Too Soon

July 1, 2014 4 comments

Bob Kinney Words & Photos (unless credited)

Nina & Jeff Hugs of Love

Nina & Jeff Hugs of Love

I first met Nina Skrhak’s brother Jeffery Edward Skrhak in the home of son Dennis Kinney and Nina at her birthday party in April 2013.

It was fun getting to know Jeffery and seeing how much love Nina and he had for each other. A favorite photograph I shot on the front porch that day had Jeffery lifting Nina into the air and twirling her around as Dennis watched with a Big Smile. Saw Jeffery only more time before he and soon-to-be spouse Macy moved to outside Dripping Springs south of Austin.

Swirls of Love

Swirls of Love

Dennis called me on Sunday June 22 to tell me Jeff had died in a head-on car crash on Route 290 – a dangerous stretch of highway southwest of Austin that has decades-old narrow lanes and a 70mph speed limit. Jeff’s tire burst and his car swerved across the no barrier centerline and collided head-on with a Honda Pilot SUV. Its driver was also killed and his wife and five-year-old daughter were in serious condition from the crash but are now recovering.

Dennis said Jeff’s funeral would be the next Saturday June 28 at the Heritage Baptist Church at 10am in Georgetown, Texas.

I got off the interstate from Austin and drove past Georgetown High School where both Jeff and Nina graduated on my way to the church. It brought back a moment in our Kinney – Bobeck – Skrhak family history when Dennis introduced Nina to his mom Pat Bobeck and me at an Austin restaurant two Christmases ago. In a moment that foretold Nina and Dennis’ life together – Used to be Texas football contender Westlake HS graduate – a band member for two years & later the “W” in his buddies’ Spirit Band – Dennis noted that Georgetown’s football stadium “was next to a cornfield.” Nina just looked at Dennis and he quickly changed the subject.

I smiled as I drove by the stadium where Jeff played football and Nina was a lead cheerleader.

Yes, I thought – Dennis was right – there is a cornfield next to the stadium and I am driving past it. It brought a smile when I badly needed one.


I delighted seeing wide-open fields with crops, cows, cattle and horses grazing in contentment.

This feeling took me back to my last home in mid-Ohio before I moved to Austin for its music in 1978. I rented a farmhouse from a dairy rancher who kept his pregnant cows at my place. He and his son farmed the 300-acres surrounding my home to grow feed for his cows. It was fun driving ten or so rural miles into the village of Granville, Ohio, every weekday where I did communications for Denison University.

I met up with Dennis and Nina for awhile at the church before they walked into the sanctuary with other family members and sat in the first three rows of pews. I was able to get into a pew behind Dennis where I could put my hand on his shoulder. Dennis was doing the same thing with Nina as she sat with parents and grandparents. Jeff in his casket rested in front of us.

The service had a family feel to it. Jeff’s pastor Craig Curry from First Baptist Church in Dripping Springs opened the service recalling how Jeff first came to his church when he moved from Georgetown to Dripping Springs. Curry spoke of Jeff’s quest to help as many people as he could every day and the iconic hugs Jeff gave out to all who needed it. Noting that Jeff had only been to his church a few times Pastor Curry said he made such an impact on him that he remembers every single time Jeff came to his church.

Heritage Baptist Church Sanctuary

Heritage Baptist Church Sanctuary

Heritage Pastor Don Ledbetter echoed Curry’s tribute to Jeff and his trademark Hug-ability. Jeff first met Heritage when Ledbetter phoned him to ask that he not go mudding with his pickup truck anymore on the church’s crop field. “Jeffery sounded shocked and embarrassed as he said ‘ohhh I didn’t know the field behind the church belonged to the church, too. I promise not to do that again,'” the pastor recalled.

Jeffery was a member of Heritage Baptist Church his whole life, as well as his parents and grandparents. He was also baptized there when he was around ten-years-old.

Bob Kinney Words & Photos (unless credited)

Jeff’s mother Jessie spoke of Jeff as he grew up – loving his younger sister Nina, playing high school football and learning how to work on cars by watching and helping his dad JR.

Dennis Kinney spoke about how he and Jeff bonded over their shared love of cars.

Nina told of Jeff always being there for her whenever she needed something and how she will never meet another person with a heart as big as his.


Jeffery’s funeral procession then headed to the gravesite a few miles away in Weir, Texas. The drive went through cornfields, pastures, newly-planted mobile home developments and past The Weir Store whose roadside sign read “In Loving Memory – Jeffery Skrhak.” A store employee later told the family that the Weir Store received an anonymous phone call asking the sign be placed where the folks in the funeral procession could easily see it as they drove by. Very heartwarming indeed, Nina.

Dennis Kinney Photo

Dennis Kinney Photo

We gathered under a large tent as the burial service began. The wide-open sky above us shifted from cloudy to sunny and back to cloudy during Words of Passage. Jeff and his casket were then carried by his eight pallbearers to his gravesite and we circled around. Jeffery’s best friends put very meaningful items atop the casket like Jeff’s football jersey. Chad put a gold cross necklace that he always wore on the casket.


Dennis Kinney Photo

Dennis Kinney Photo


Nina and Mother Jessie

Nina and Mother Jessie

Jeffery was named after his mother’s younger brother who died by drowning at the age of five. Both Jefferys died on the exact same day June 21. They are now laid to rest beside each other.

Nina & Dennis say Goodbye For Now

Nina & Dennis say Goodbye For Now

Dennis Kinney Photos of folks gathering at the Ramsey Funeral Home the night before the funeral where friends could be with Jeffery

blog jeff DJK photo 3
blog jeff DJK photo 2

Jeffery’s death took me back to when my younger brother Dennis died one day after his 20th birthday in 1971.

Something had been wrong with him for more than a few months and I often drove back home to South Bend to spend sometime with him in his hospital room.

When doctors discovered he had brain cancer, his daughter Melinda had just been born in the same hospital he was in.

Dennis got to go home for some days to be with spouse Susan and Melinda. Soon he was readmitted to the hospital and later died.

The Kinney Family had time to somewhat be prepared for Dennis’ eventual death.

The Skrhak Family did not.

My brother Dennis dancing with our Grandmother - photographer unknown

My brother Dennis dancing with our Grandmother

Ellen Burstyn’s 1980 film “Resurrection” speaks to dying. Ellen is a woman who is on a hospital operating table as doctors try to save her life from injuries received in a fatal car accident that killed her husband.

She finds herself in a dimly-lit tunnel where all her ancestors are gathered to welcome her into eternity. They are dressed in the clothes they wore while on earth.

Jeff waits for us in that tunnel. It’s gonna be a Great Hug.

Brother Dennis is there too as is my dad Robert.

I am still processing what happened at Jeff’s funeral. It helps me to write about it and share it with you.

Kitty Jump & Her Neighbors

Kitty Jump & Her Neighbors

Something happened to me two days after the funeral on Monday morning June 30 that opened a Door of Love and brought me some Peace.

Kitty Jump the cat has lived with me about three years now. Dennis brought her to me when Browny our Dog died. He and Nina got to know Kitty when she was homeless in West Campus.

Something bad must have happened to her on a bed when she was not homeless. She has never jumped up on my bed. We share a spot for loving on the floor below the couch in our living room. She comes to me – makes her Siamese sound for “Give Me Some Lovin’ ” and I gladly do.

When I woke up Monday morning she was asleep beside me on our bed.


Bob Kinney Words & Photos (unless credited)

Categories: Uncategorized