Obituary: John Kenneth Kirtley, 57, formerly of Bardstown

John Kenneth Kirtley, 57, of Louisville, formerly of Bardstown, died of natural causes on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Louisville.

The Kirtley family is sad to announce the passing of their beloved brother. He was born Aug. 8, 1964, in Bardstown to Timothy Hugh and Juanita (Cecil) Kirtley, who both preceded him in death. He was the youngest in the family.


He graduated in 1982 from Nelson County High School, and obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Louisville on May 8, 2010, after first majoring in music at Morehead University. In his youth, he won the role of “young Andrew Carnegie” in The Stephen Foster Story. At that time, he was an active member in The Stephen Foster Music Club, highlighting his life-long love of singing and music. He was also an excellent poet and writer, and was writing a novel at the time of his death. He particularly enjoyed board games, such as Risk and Monopoly, and was an avid participant in games around the family table, as well as later in life. He also delighted in discussions about his favorite TV shows, such as The Twilight Zone, Survivor, and The Amazing Race. He was a deep thinker, rigorously loyal to his principled approach to life, and would enjoy challenging anyone to a fair debate on life questions.

In adulthood, he enjoyed working as an online stock trader, was a teaching and research assistant at the University of Louisville, was news director and an on-air personality for WBRT-WOKH Radio, was assistant manager of Republic Theaters in Bardstown, and was a mathematics teacher at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown. At the time of his death he was preparing to start his new job on the production team at WDRB-TV in Louisville.

One of his great passions was to discover how people thought outside his home state of Kentucky. During his lifetime he lived in several states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Connecticut. He also lived overseas in the Republic of Moldova.

He enjoyed helping others, and served as a communicator to his far-flung siblings in times of family crisis. He gladly offered his substantial computer skills to help anyone who asked him for help. For example, he helped his brother Michael to upload his TV interviews onto YouTube, created the professional web site for his brother David, and wrote the processional music for the wedding of his sister Marian to Charlie Keesy.

On a personal level, he especially relished what he called “the golden hour”, before sunset and after sunrise, when “daylight is redder and softer” than when the sun is higher in the sky.

Here is one of the numerous haikus that he wrote:

catch me as it must
I flee like the tiger’s prey
from its ticks and tocks

For his many talents, generosity and other virtues, he will be sorely missed by those who were touched by his presence.

He is survived by his seven grieving siblings and their families, Michael Kirtley (Binh) of Paris, France, Mark Kirtley of Baker Nev., David Kirtley (Mutsumi) of Louisville, Colo., Daniel Kirtley and Stephen Kirtley (Kathy), both of Bardstown, Marian Keesy (Charlie) and Judith Lund (Mark) both of Lexington; two nieces, Ariane Kirtley and Erin Keesy; seven nephews, Tercelin Kirtley, Ryan Kirtley, Brent Kirtley, Eric Kirtley, Drew Kirtley, Zachary Keesy and Jeremy Lund; and his brother Michael’s former spouse, Aubine, who loved him dearly.

He will be buried next to his parents in a private ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022 in St. Joseph Cemetery in Bardstown. The family will hold a public Celebration of John’s Life at a date to be set later. They would welcome any expressions of sympathy in this moment of sudden heartbreak.

The Houghlin-Greenwell Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


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