Vandergrift policeman remembered for honesty, love of family
Robert Kirkland is remembered as a faithful police officer and family man.Kirkland, 44, of Vandergrift and for many years Lower Burrell, died Friday in Allegheny General Hospital where he was taken after becoming ill.
He was a police officer in Vandergrift for 21 years.
He was a son, husband and father who understood honor and responsibility, fellow officers said.
In 2008, when a part-time officer’s infant daughter needed surgery, Kirkland organized a fundraiser.
When the name of Lower Burrell Patrolman Derrick Kotecki was added to the wall at the national police museum in 2012, Kirkland and his family were there with other Alle-Kiski Valley officers.
He was a part of the Attorney General’s drug task force and was active with the Lower Burrell volunteer fire company and emergency services.
Vandergrift municipal flags are flying at half-mast in honor of Kirkland.
Mayor Barbara Turiak said the borough was stunned by the death . “We are a family and the family will truly miss him,” she said.
“He was always truthful and you could always count on him,” Vandergrift Sgt. Anthony DePanicis said.
“I am broken hearted. I remember the day he started. I spent a lot of time with him. He was very close to his family. He was the most honest officer I have ever met.”
Kirkland preferred watching his sons play sports rather than any professional games, DePanicis said.He said Kirkland was a responsible man who earned his own way. Kirkland started part-time for the Vandergrift department. “He worked part-time for a tool and die company until he was hired full-time,” DePanicis added.
Officers from neighboring police departments said they knew and liked Kirkland.
“The members of the Lower Burrell Police Department were saddened to hear about the passing of Officer Kirkland. He was a well liked and respected member of the local law enforcement community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones,” Chief Tim Weitzel said.
Allegheny Township police Sgt. Dan Uncapher also worked with Kirkland.“He was an all-around good person. He was a good officer and very much a family man. He is missed.”
Kirkland is survived by his parents, James and Patricia Kirkland of Lower Burrell, wife, Vicki Lyn Margita Kirkland, two sons, Connor and Cooper Kirkland at home, brother James (Karrie) Kirkland of Norwalk, Ohio, sister Nancy (Joseph) Bielata of New Kensington, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Friends will be received Monday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Rusiewicz of Lower Burrell Funeral Home, 3124 Leechburg Road.
A funeral service will be held there Tuesday at 11 a.m. by the Rev. Harold Mele. Burial will be private.
The FOP Lodge 39 will conduct services at 6 p.m. Monday in the funeral home.