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Chuck was born at home on March 30, 1933, in Summerfield, Kansas, to Raymond and Bernice (Bea) Kirby. In 1936, they moved to the Seattle suburbs in the Lake City neighborhood to escape the Dustbowl and the Great Depression. Chuck always had a strong work ethic, and he especially found joy and satisfaction in working with his hands. At the tender age of 13, Chuck worked part-time in a garden nursery. In 1946, his sister, Susan was born. In 1948, he attended Lincoln High School, then Roosevelt High School. In 1950, his family moved to Tacoma, where he attended and graduated from Stadium High School in 1951.
He spent his freshman year of college at the University of Puget Sound where he was a member of the ski team, then transferred to the University of Washington in 1953. During his time at UW, Chuck held various jobs, including having a route selling candles and as a deckhand on a sailboat.
In 1956, Chuck was drafted into the Army and sent to Japan, working in the map service. After his discharge from the Army in 1958, he returned to UW, graduating with a degree in Industrial Design. In 1959, he was hired by Washington Steel Products in the design department.
From 1960-1962, Chuck was a partner in Allied Building Components, and opened a branch office in Japan during that same period. Chuck returned to Tacoma and met the love of his life, Ann Swanes, in June 1962. Theirs was a whirlwind romance, and they married just 5 months later on November 25th, 1962. They would have celebrated 61 years of marriage this November. Chuck and Ann bought and remodeled an old cottage together with scrap materials discarded from Tacoma factories. He was always mindful of the environment and found uses for almost anything that others may have thrown away. “Renew, re-use and recycle” was something he was passionate about as long as we can remember, long before it became a trendy phrase in our society.
In 1964, Chuck and Ann welcomed their first daughter, Jennifer, followed by Diane in 1966, then Laura in 1968. That same year, Chuck and a partner started N.W. Design Products in his garage and began producing and selling dog houses, storage buildings, and children’s furniture. This eventually grew into BigToys, the company known for their log play equipment found at school playgrounds, parks and homes.
Faith became central to Chuck and Ann’s life in 1972, when they gave their lives to Christ. From that time forward they committed to faithfully attending church and living lives honoring to God to the best of their abilities.In 1989, Chuck fought and beat colon cancer. We believe he felt that God used that trial for
good in his life, as he was made aware of the fragility of life and became more focused on how
he could best serve the Lord. At this juncture, Chuck decided to sell his company and focus
more fully on service and his family.
Chuck had a very active lifestyle up until his illness. Aside from maintaining his property and
garden, he enjoyed walking, roller blading, skiing, and biking.
Chuck will be remembered for how he cared for people, especially those who might be
struggling. He served in ways big and small at church, including as the Local Missions
Coordinator, often playing handyman in various capacities, and helping church members out in
many ways. He and Ann would go on long walks, keeping an eye out for people who they felt
just needed a smile or an encouraging conversation. He tutored for many years and his heart
was moved by these kids, most of whom had tough home lives. It was during this time that he
was made aware of some of the inequity in our community and decided he wanted to be a part
of the solution. He employed many kids over the years and came alongside them to give them
encouragement, direction and friendship. Chuck cared for the environment as well, and many
in our family remember him teaching about water conservation, protecting streams, rivers and
forest land so that future generations could enjoy God’s creation.
Chuck’s life verse was Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the
Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” If you
knew Chuck, you could see that he walked this verse out in his daily life.
We miss you, Dad, and think of you often, especially as we look around your beloved property,
Valley Haven. We can smile at your memory because you were an incredible husband, father,
grandfather (Gumper), great-grandfather, and all-around man of God who left a legacy for not
just his family, but countless others who knew him. We are rejoicing that he is in his heavenly
home, and because of Jesus, we get to see him again one day.
Chuck is survived by his wife of almost 61 years, Ann, their daughter, Jennifer and her sons Ian
and Seth, daughter Diane (Karl), and their daughters Julia (Josh, and son Bo), Anna (Noah, and
daughter Rebekah), and daughter Laura (Eric) and their son Reese (Alison and son Wesley and
daughter Elzie), son Chad (Dani and son Elijah), and daughters Emily (Jake), and Amanda
Chuck’s Celebration of Life will be on Saturday, October 21st at 1 p.m. at Believer’s Fellowship in
Gig Harbor. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Chuck's name to Peace Lutheran Community Center in Tacoma WA.