Francis Kirking

Francis Kirking was born on December 12, 1942 in Cashton, Wisconsin. He was the oldest of eight children. His parents, Mr. And Mrs. Lester Kirking, raised cattle and tobacco on a farm near Cashton. Francis attended Wisconsin State College and the University of Wisconsin from 1960 to 1963, working 30 hours a week to finance his education.

In 1964, Francis joined the Peace Corps and in March of that year he was sent to Iran. He was an agricultural extension worker assigned to Gilan Province offering technical advice to farmers in the Farahnaz area.

On June 23, 1965, Francis drowned in the Caspian Sea while attempting to save an 18 year old Iranian friend. Witnesses saw Kirking plunge into the Caspian near Bandar Faranaz, a port city in Iran’s First Province near the city of Resht. Kirking responded to cries for help from Abbas Karimi of Shiraz. Their bodies were later recovered. The people of Faranaz mourned Kirking’s death by marching through the streets carrying black banners and whispering prayers.  A memorial service was held at the Iran-America Society Cultural Center in Tehran on June 27, 1965.

Francis had planned to return to Wisconsin following his Peace Corps service to further his university education. In addition to his parents, he was survived by four brothers and three sisters.

– Text and photos provided by Peace Corps Iran Association

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3 Responses to Francis Kirking

  1. Bruce Kirking October 7, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    My parents, LeVerne and Jean Kirking(Francie Kirking’s uncle and aunt), both died recently. We kids are going through our farmhouse, in Lodi WI, that has been in the family over 125 years. This past July 4th weekend I was going through mom and dad’s farm bills from July 1965. There among them I found what is, I believe, Francie’s last letter to them dated May 16, 1965! What a neat thing to find! Why mom kept bills from 1965 is beyond me but I’m glad I found cousin Francie’s letter!! Francie worked for my parents one summer and I have fond memories of him that summer!!!

    • Kevin Kirking October 27, 2017 at 1:14 am #

      I remember meeting Francis while he was visiting my grandparents, Henry and Cornelia Kirking in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This visit was just prior to his leaving for Iran with the Peace Corps. I recall him as a very gregarious and fine young man. I was shocked and saddened to hear of his death.

    • Stanley M Slaven October 4, 2020 at 2:10 pm #

      He was 6 months ahead of me to get to Bandar Pahlavi, and became my best friend. We did lots of things together, and he introduced me to many of he people he already had befriended in that area. We lived together for quite a few months, until we were split up and moved to villages. The result of those months together, in a strange place, with a new language, we became very close friends. Myself and all the other PCVs in Guilan were on the beach that night he was recovered, a time indelible on my brain. He was my best friend, and his loss was staggering. I was 21 then.

      With Frank I met a lot of people, both American and Iranian. I still have friends from those families he introduced me to, 55 years later. So he had a lot of impact on my life. I will never forget him. He was a great guy.

      Stan Slaven

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