Chris Kirby's last call to his wife was made at 2:05 a.m. early Tuesday morning, as floodwaters from overnight storms rose across the city. Kirby had already left a job at Christian's Tailgate on White Oak, where he'd been helping the busy restaurant with its computer system, but remained in the Heights to assist stranded motorists retrieve possessions from their cars and move stalled vehicles out of the street. By 2 a.m. he was finally on his way home.
Kirby's body was found the next day inside his own car, which had stalled near 1700 Studewood. The car was towed to the Fast Tow impound lot on Lyons, where lot workers first discovered the young father and husband while processing his vehicle. His was one of seven deaths attributed so far to the devastating flash floods earlier this week, which caused widespread destruction and led to Houston being declared a disaster area by Gov. Greg Abbot. Kirby, who was 35, left behind a wife and two young children.
Losing Kirby was the second tragic blow for his family this year; Kirby lost his grandmother in January. "His family is still reeling from the loss," says Steph Stradley, a family friend who shared a love of the Houston Texans with Kirby and frequently attended the famously friendly tailgates at Reliant Stadium with Kirby's extended family. "I'm not sure what I can say other than if you knew him, you'd like him."
"Chris was such a hilarious, fun person that it is hard to fathom that he is dead," says Stradley of the man who ran his own IT company, helping bars and restaurants around the Heights with their computer and point-of-sale systems. "He loved to help people out and fixed my computers more times than I can count."
Just as helping others was a defining role in Kirby's life, friends hope that others will come forward to help Kirby's wife and children, with several benefits already planned in an effort to defray Kirby's funeral expenses and his family's future costs. A Gofundme account has been set up as a memorial fund, and has already raised $24,585 of its $30,000 goal. This Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Christian's Tailgate will host a crawfish boil at the White Oak location where he worked, serving all-you-can-eat crawfish for $25 with all proceeds going to benefit Kirby's family. "We would like to make this an annual event in a continuous effort to provide support for his wife and two young daughters," wrote Christian's Tailgate on its Facebook page. "We appreciate all of your support during this difficult time."
Meanwhile, friends are already organizing another benefit to take place next Friday, June 5 at the Galway Hooker from 7 to 11 p.m. and are currently looking for donations and items to be auctioned off. "We are looking for help, support and sponsorship," wrote organizer Megan Gwillim. "Our goal is to raise as much as we can for Chris's wife, little girls and funeral expenses. Please come and be a part of a great cause for an amazing man, wonderful father, and loyal friend." Those interested in donating can call the Galway Hooker at 832-434-1290.
Late last night, Kirby's wife, Hanna, took to Facebook for a brief missive acknowledging those who've shown their support so far. "Thank you all for all your kind words," she wrote. "My heart is breaking and all the love shown for my amazing husband helps me keep going."