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