In Memoriam – Michael H. Kirkpatrick
Mike Kirkpatrick was described as “a peacemaker,” “a consensus builder” and “a sweet soul” by some of those who knew the former Chief Executive Officer of Community Medical Centers. Mr. Kirkpatrick passed away in July at the age of 77. He served as CEO from 1977 to 2011, with a brief return in 2013.
“I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Mike over many years,” CEO Christine Noguera said. “I valued his smile, warmth and dedication to CMC. He was always one of the most gracious and welcoming people I have had the honor to work with.”
Known to staff members as “Mr. K,” Mr. Kirkpatrick oversaw the remarkable growth of CMC from a group of volunteers caring for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to an established non-profit caring for thousands of individuals and families in need.
“In the early beginnings, a couple of docs from the medical society and some public health nurses and social workers jumped in their cars and went out to the ditch banks in Linden and started rendering services there, on the ditch banks right out of the back,” he recalled in a 2018 interview. That year, CMC presented him with the founding CEO award as it celebrated 50 years of caring for the community.
One of Mr. Kirkpatrick’s proudest moments came 10 years ago when CMC was preparing to open its Gleason House clinic in downtown Stockton serving the homeless.
“Almost a decade of perseverance … finally made the project (financially) feasible,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said as Gleason House’s opening approached.
While Mr. Kirkpatrick accomplished a great deal as CEO, his colleagues remember him fondly because of who he was as a person.
Esparto Health Educator Laura Chavez: “He cared not only for the farmworker population but for all the underserved we serve. But he had a special place for the farmworker community.”
Director of Environmental Safety David Lopez: “His message was basically to take care of one another and always show your heart.”
Channel Center Manager Becky Knodt: “Mike was my boss, my mentor, my friend. I have nothing but wonderful memories. I texted him three or four weeks ago. We were planning on getting together, but life happens.”
Purchasing Coordinator Irma Covarrubias and Case Manager Angie Segura reflected on Mr. Kirkpatrick’s brief return to CMC when the organization was going through hard times in 2013.
“It truly was like Dad came to help and protect us, and I felt safe,” Angie recalled. “A dark day became a day full of sunshine and hope.”
Irma added, “I gave him a big hug and he gave me a tight hug, too, and assured me everything would be OK. It was like Mr. K had returned to rescue his CMC children. He will be missed.”
Mr. K had a humorous side, too.
Retired CMC Dixon Center Manager Minerva Arellano remembered a time when Mr. Kirkpatrick’s car was stolen. Sometime later, the car thief drove past the California Street site, and Mr. Kirkpatrick gave chase, fruitlessly. “We started calling him Rambo,” Minerva recalled.
Others recalled the fake spiders he kept in his desk that he’d toss at staff members to startle them; his chaotic, paper-strewn desk; his cooking; and the Hawaiiaan shirts he’d sport at casual gatherings.
Mr. Kirkpatrick was a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in political science. He had a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco, and served with the Peace Corps in Latin America. During his long career with medical organizations, Mr. Kirkpatrick served a stint as board president for the California Primary Care Association. He will be greatly missed by friends, colleagues, and his CMC family.