Kind, humble, funny, musically talented
Nicknamed by his friends as the “White Jimi Hendrix” because of his talent on the guitar, Kyle’s musical interests were varied. They included newer musicians, but also early blues greats like Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, all of whom Kyle was able to see live. Kyle fell in love with Bisbee, Arizona, home of the music festival Blues in Bisbee and one of his favorite comedians, Doug Stanhope.
It was during one of several visits to Bisbee that Kyle had one of the most meaningful experiences of his brief life.
At their accommodations in Bisbee, he and his mom shared a balcony with the suite next to them. The people next door talked with Kyle as he played his guitar. His mom, Susan, said, “I could tell they were musicians.” The wife of one man said to her, “He has no idea who he is playing with. My husband, Curly Smith, is the drummer for Boston and the other man, David, played with Sammy Hagar and Stevie Ray Vaughan.” Susan said, “It was the most magical evening.” They encouraged Kyle to get out and play more, and he did.
People were blown away by Kyle’s talent. He knew he was good, but was humble about it. Susan said, “He broadened my world with music.” Kyle talked about eventually moving to Bisbee, having a home, and starting a family. He said he wanted his home to be known as “the happy one that always had music.”
When Kyle was passionate about something, he would immerse himself in it wholeheartedly. He was an accomplished carpenter and worked for a year on an organic farm after completing a course on regenerative farming. When he took produce to market or gave school tours of the farm, his usual introverted and shy demeanor gave way to an enthusiastic and confident extrovert because he was doing something he loved.
As an only child of a single parent, Kyle and his mom were close. A fond memory his mother holds is of Kyle’s retro, hippyish, flower-child themed 14th birthday. Everyone wore tie dye, had flowers in their hair and played Twister. His mother said, “It was so fun watching them. It was before any of them started using substances and they were so free, happy, and fun-loving.”
Kyle had stretches of sobriety, up to two years, then relapses. “People don’t understand how strong one needs to be to overcome substance use,” his mom stated. “They are not weak, they are not quitters, they are warriors.” The hardest part for her was being scared all the time and figuring out how to help. “It is an insidious disease. We need to get over the stigma and the idea that addiction is a personal failing,” Susan said. “I know people think this will never happen in their family, but it does. It is so widespread that every parent should have Narcan as part of their medicine cabinet.”
“Kyle was multi-dimensional and interesting,” Susan said. “I miss talking with him. I was so blessed to have him for my son.” Susan has Kyle’s beloved dog, Sammy, and takes her to the park by the farm where Kyle used to work. “Kyle would be proud of my efforts to help others to save their children,” Susan said, “But he would also tell me to do some things for myself and not let it consume my entire life.”
Kyle’s mother, Susan Shipp, provided the information for this narrative.
August 20, 1986-December 19, 2019
Age 33-Lived with the disease of addiction 15 years.