Kevin Douglas Printz
His Story

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Kevin was born in Hamilton, Montana August 15, 1963.  He was a healthy, bright baby and a joy to his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.

In early 1964 we moved to Missoula, Montana and later in the year we moved to Superior, Montana.  In September of 1965 we moved to Eureka, California where we stayed for a couple of years.  Kevin grew to be a bright, outgoing, adventuresome child.  We spent a lot of time at the ocean and in the mountains.  Kevin enjoyed his early childhood and we enjoyed watching him grow.  I bought my first motorcycle, a 1964 Suzuki 250 while we were in Eureka and Kevin got his first taste of motorcycle riding - he loved it.

In 1968 we moved to the Los Angeles area and bought a 5 bedroom house in West Covina.  When Kevin was about 5, his mother and I separated for about a year - Kevin and I continued on in West Covina.  During this time my parents, Sandi & Jon, and Jay moved to Southern California and since Kevin and I had plenty of room, everyone moved in with us until they could establish their own housing.  During this time, Kevin began his lifelong friendship with his cousin, Jon.  They had a lot in common in those days and turned to each other for support.  I also believe it was during this time that Kevin and his Grandmother Eva became extremely close and were to remain that way for the rest of Kevin's life.  During the critical time Kevin's mom wasn't around and I was busy working and buried in my own personal problems - his Grandma was there when Kevin needed her.

As Kevin became older, it became obvious that he had many gifts.  He seemed to be good at everything he tried.  It took almost no training to teach him how to throw a ball.  Give him a bicycle and he immediately rode like a veteran.  Kevin's best friend, Carl, was an avid baseball player.  Although Kevin had never been interested in playing baseball, he went out for the Little League team to be with Carl.  In his first year he made the All Star Team for the San Gabriel Valley as a second baseman.  The San Gabriel Valley had a population of over a million people.

When Kevin was 7 or 8 we bought him a tote-gote, basically a lawn mower engine on two wheels.  It looked something like a motor scooter, he sat on it with his feet in front of the engine rather than straddling it like a motorcycle.  It had about 8" diameter wheels with no suspension.  I don't know what I was thinking when I bought this piece of junk for him.  I had a Suzuki 80 street bike with no fenders and Kevin and I spend many Saturday and Sunday afternoons at an off-road vehicle park in the Pomona area.  As usual, Kevin excelled on this machine and was soon climbing hills with the best of them - to everyone's astonishment.  Experienced riders would stop to watch him ride.  After 6 months or so, I finally broke down and bought him a real motorcycle - a Yamaha 60.  He got very good and was soon one of the best riders in the park.

When Kevin was 10 we moved to the Sacramento area and somehow Kevin's motorcycle disappeared, I assume we sold it somewhere along the line, but I can't remember when or to whom.  I also can't remember why we both seemed to lose interest in off-road motorcycling.  All I can think of is that we soon joined a circle of friends that enjoyed river rafting and bowling and we seemed to spend almost all our free time at these activities.  After seeing Kevin's renewed interest in motocross riding in the last few years of his life, I really regret not encouraging and supporting him more when he was a child - who knows, maybe he'd have become a world class rider.  Oh, well, hindsight is always 20/20.

Our first home in the Sacramento area was in the Orangevale area, about 25 miles east of Sacramento, where we lived for a year or so.  Kevin attended school at Pershing Elementary where he made a few good friends.  (4/30/99 - I put an "In Memorium" notice in the local newspapers to observe the first anniversary of Kevin's death.  His best friend from those days, Gil, saw the notice - he wasn't aware that Kevin had died.  He took the trouble to track me down and we talked on the phone yesterday.  We shared a few stories and he promised to come over with some of his photos of Kevin. )  In late 1974 we bought a home in the Rosemont area about 10 miles east of Sacramento.  There were few children in our new neighborhood and Kevin had only a couple of friends within walking distance.  Kevin attended school at Rosemont Elementary, Albert Einstein Middle, and Hiram Johnson High.  He and I shared a lot of interests.  We both took guitar lessons for several years during his early teens.  I went to an adult education class and Kevin took private lessons from the same instructor.  Kevin was very good.  I remember practicing religiously 1 hour every day - no matter how hard I practiced, I always felt inadequate on lesson night.  Kevin, on the other hand, seemed to practice very little - on class night, however, he was always able to play his lesson flawlessly.   Our instructor was so impressed with Kevin's ability and style that one evening he asked Kevin to play for the adult education class.  Kevin practiced for weeks getting ready.  He was so worried that he would screw up and embarrass me and the teacher.  He needn't have worried.  He had a flawless performance and the adults were generous with their appreciation.  Several of them took him aside to have him explain some of the intricacies and he thrived under the attention.  This was one of the first times I realized how much courage Kevin had.  He was scared to death of performing in front of 35 people, but he sucked it up, and turned in an excellent effort.

Another interest we shared was model airplanes.  We spent many, many hours putting together airplanes made of balsam wood and paper.  Our planes were gliders, some of them with rubber band motors for launch.  Kevin was a patient craftsman and he spent a lot of time making sure things were right.  As a result, his planes always flew much better than mine - much to my dismay.  Other modeling also interested Kevin.  Our back yard had a big pile of dirt in it - eventually I planned to use it to level the yard.  Kevin used this pile of dirt to build a network of roads, complete with cars, railroads, and miscellaneous buildings.  He strung some wires over the area and placed some model fighter planes in positions to look as if they were strafing things.  We both had a lot of fun with this.  I got out my camera and we spent days setting things up and taking pictures to make it look like a real situation.  I stumbled on to some of these photos after the funeral - I'll dig them up and include them later.

In late 1975 Kevin's mother and I again split up - this time for good.  Kevin and I continued on in the Rosemont house leading a bachelor type existence.  Our social circle disintegrated, as is often the case in divorce, and Kevin and I were pretty much left on our own.  I had previously done a lot of bowling and Kevin showed some interest in the sport so we both took it up with a vengeance - I bowled several nights a week in various leagues, Kevin bowled on Saturday mornings, and I began traveling all over Northern California to bowl in various tournaments.  Kevin tagged along with me and kept score for me and I tagged along with him and kept score for him and coached his team.  In the process, Kevin became close to many of my bowling friends.  During those years we met Bob Brown and his wife Donna.  They both bowled and had two boys that also bowled.   We all became very close over the years.  Linda and I continue to be close friends with Bob and Donna to this day.  Donna wrote a tribute that was read at Kevin's funeral.

A year or so after the divorce, my brother Merrill decided to pursue a master's degree and since Kevin and I had room, he moved in with us while he attended California State University as Sacramento (CSUS).  He proved to be a important influence in Kevin's life - they shared a lot of interests and soon became close friends.  Their mutual interests included movies - I believe they saw Saturday Night Fever 15 or 20 times.

Also in this time frame, Kevin started a metal working shop in junior high school which began his lifelong interest in welding and metal fabrication.  His fascination with metal working showed him the value of reading.  To this point, any reading he did was under threat of punishment.  When he realized that knowledge of welding and metal working could be gained simply from reading, he seemed to always be reading.  He purchased, with his own money, the Welder's Handbook, a thousand page book that cost him about $25, a lot of money in those days.  His mother purchased a arc welder for his birthday and I had the electrical service to the house beefed up to handle the load.  Our garage then became Kevin's shop and he spent a lot of time out there practicing his technique.

During this time I had a 400 cc Honda motorcycle that Kevin and I took for rides once in a while.  It was a small motorcycle and not suited to riding double or going long distances.  On one of our vacation trips to Montana, his uncle Ken was showing off his new KZ1000 motorcycle - it was beautiful.  When we got back home I promptly began looking for a bigger bike for myself - I wound up with a 1977 Honda 750.  Kevin and I put many miles on that motorcycle.  In 1978 we spent a month driving around the west and had many adventures.  When Kevin became old enough to drive, I taught him to ride this motorcycle.  We spend many Saturdays and Sundays at the empty parking lots of McClellan Air Force base practicing, starting, stopping, and turning.  As usual, Kevin became very good in a very short time.  When he got his driver's license, I bought a 1979 Suzuki 850 and Kevin inherited the Honda 750.  Needless to say, we did a lot of riding together.  Shortly after he began driving, I met Linda, and in the following years, the three of us rode all over Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.  Kevin eventually sold the Honda 750 to his cousin Jon and purchased the KZ1000 that had originally sparked his interest in street riding from his uncle Jay who had purchased it from his uncle Ken.  When Kevin got out of the Navy in 1998, he, Linda, and I made our last motorcycle trip together to Montana.  After that, Kevin became preoccupied with his career and his new family, and the KZ1000 sat outside his house under a canvass.  He'd always felt a little guilty for letting the bike deteriorate and a couple of years ago, he began a project of getting it back on the road in better shape than ever.  He pulled the engine and took it to a shop to be rebuilt.  He disassembled the rest of the bike to the last bolt in preparation for painting.  A couple of months before he died he asked to store those parts in my garage while they were painting his house.  When he died, the parts were still here.  I am now in the process of completing his project and hope to be riding the KZ1000 by the end of the summer. (Feb 5, 2002 - The KZ1000 is back on the road. Click Here for some photos.)

A couple of years after Kevin's mother and I split, I met a woman named Mary and we went together for a couple of years.  Kevin and she really took to each other.  Sometimes I think they had a closer relationship than she and I.  She was truly interested in Kevin and his life and took a lot of time to share those interests.  She worked at McClellan Air Force Base and knew several pilots.  She introduced Kevin to some of those pilots and arranged for him to fly some of the flight simulators on the base.  She filled a big gap in Kevin's life.  Mary,  I feel a little guilty that I haven't made an effort to locate you to let you know about Kevin's death.  Kevin thought a lot of you.

Sometime in 1982, my brother Paul separated from his wife.  While he was deciding what to do with his life, he moved in with us.  By this time, Merrill had earned his masters degree and had left to pursue his interests.  After a few months, Paul's sons, Dan, Rodney, and Rob also came to live with us.  As you might expect, ours was a busy household - also quite male.  Paul also took an interest in Kevin and spent a lot of time encouraging his talents.  Paul  was then working out on weights (he had all of us working out) and he designed a weight lifting machine.  He described the machine to Kevin and Kevin went to work building it.  This was Kevin's first major project and he learned a lot working with his uncle Paul.  The machine is currently still in use by Dan.  Paul, you had a lot to do with how Kevin turned out - He really admired you.

Kevin was kind of a loner in high school.  He seemed to content to hang out with me and my friends.  We bowled a lot, played guitar, went on motorcycle trips, built and flew model planes, and Kevin, of course did a lot of welding.  During these days, Kevin thought a lot about what he might do for a living but he really didn't have a clear vision.  In his senior year of high school he had an accident at home that brought out the fire department.  He was very impressed with the firefighters, and although he never said as much, I think this planted the seed that eventually took root to make him a fireman.

After he got out of high school, Kevin was a little at odds about how to embark on life.  He spoke about his uncles Merrill and Paul and how they had made careers out of knowledge obtained in the military.  I encouraged him in this line of thinking and he talked to some recruiters.  He eventually decided on the Navy since they had better career opportunities for welders.  The only drawback was that he would have to wait a year for an opening in their schools.  During this time, I told him of my plans to marry Linda.  He wasn't happy about her moving into our household and informed me that he'd be moving out.  He had a little money put away, and he moved to Montana to stay with his Grandma and Grandpa Printz.  Here he renewed his close ties to his Grandma Eva and renewed his deep friendship with his cousin, Jon.

In 1984, Kevin left for the Navy.  His basic training was in San Diego.  After basic, he was made a Hull Maintenance Technician and sent to school.  One of these schools was held at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.  While he was there we got to see a lot of him on weekends.  At this school, he was exposed to a lot of fire fighting, since this would be one of his primary functions when on board a ship.  He loved it and this is when he first started talking about wanting to be a fireman.  His first duty assignment was at the Submarine Repair Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where he repaired and refurbished submarines.  There was a lot of pressure to minimize the down time for the  submarines and get them back out to sea as quickly as possible.  Kevin worked many long hard days while he was there.  Kevin received at least one written commendation for extraordinary effort while at SubBase.  In 1985, Linda and I went to Hawaii to visit him for a week and had a real good visit.  After a couple of years at SubBase Repair, he was assigned to the Fast Frigate, U.S.S. Robert E. Peary, FF 1073.  They went on a year-long cruise that included duty in the Persian Gulf during the first "Gulf Crisis".  It was quite tense. The USS Stark was hit by two Exocet missles fired by an Iraqi jet pilot shortly before the U.S.S Peary arrived.  37 Sailors lost their lives.  He was in the Gulf for months and I spent many a sleepless night worrying about him.  Like all such experiences, however, if survived, this one gave Kevin a lot of time to reflect on what he wanted out of life and when the cruise was over, he know exactly what he was going to do.  Kevin made several life-long friends while he was in the Navy - Debbie is still in contact with at least one of them.

In the spring of 1988, Kevin was discharged from the Navy and came home.  The first thing he did was rebuild the KZ1000 Kawasaki, he had the engine rebuilt and hopped up, he took it apart to the last bolt and cleaned and painted everything.  When it was finished, it looked sharp, ready for a trip to Montana.  In July, Kevin, Linda, and I made the motorcycle trip to Montana and he visited with everyone up there.  When we got back to California, Kevin began his quest to become a fireman.  He took EMT classes, he bought text books, he researched, he made phone calls, wrote letters, anything he could think of to learn more about firefighting or to get a lead for a job.  Times were kind of tough then, county governments were strapped for money and I know how tough it was to get hired by a fire department.  You'd read in the paper where a fire department had 2 openings and 500 people would apply.  I was worried that Kevin would get discouraged, but he was sure he'd get on eventually and his spirits remained high.  One day, in late summer, Kevin came home ecstatic.  He had landed a job as a resident firefighter with the Lotus Fire Department, a small town near Coloma, north of Placerville.  The only drawback was that it was a volunteer position, there was no pay - only room and board (I'm not sure about the board).  Kevin was there for about a year - he worked at anything he could to keep going - he was even a waiter in a local cafe for a short time.  It was during this time in Lotus that Kevin met Debbie.  They soon were inseparable, then married.  While he was there he continued to study and learn his trade.  In January, 1990, he was accepted into the Sacramento County Fire Protection District's Academy - I'll never forget the day he told me the news.  He was so happy and I couldn't have been more proud.  He graduated with the academy with flying colors and immediately began working for the Sacramento County Fire Protection District as a resident firefighter.  Although he worked full time, this wasn't a permanent civil service job and it only paid about half what a full-time firefighter made.  For the next couple of years he and Debbie and eventually Kyle struggled to make ends meet - Kevin worked other jobs, driving a propane truck, welding, anything to generate more income.  The settled in Diamond Springs and bought a small house.  In 1992, he was hired full-time, got a nice raise, and he and Debbie and Kyle were in tall cotton.  In the next few years, budget problems with the State, County, and Fire Protection District gave them a few anxious moments, but the job held up and Kevin remained a firefighter until he died.  Kevin and Debbie talked often about having another child and on December 29, 1995 Forrest was born.  It looked like his family was ready to begin living happily ever after.

Kevin kept up his welding skills to augment his income a little. He also took on projects for his friends and was always looking for additional projects.  I often received as gifts items he had created out of metal, a stand for my punching bag, a motorcycle stand, weight stands, custom tools.  I'll treasure these items for as long as I live.  Every time I use one of them, I think of him.  He eventually would up with quite a shop in his garage - he had all the latest equipment and tools and kept up with all the latest techniques.  One of Kevin's dreams was to have a large, modern shop, where he could take on any project.  Sometimes he was a little extravagant with his equipment but when there was a job to do, he always had the tool.

Kevin's schedule as a firefighter gave him some time to pursue his other interests.  He worked 24 hour shifts in a 9 day rotation. On, Off, On, Off, On, Off, Off, Off, Off.  For a several years on his 4 days off, he drove a propane truck in the winter, and welded truck racks in the summer.  He eventually quit the propane business, however, he continued to work at Rack-it truck rack company where he made life-long friends.

One day, Kevin invited me to his garage to look a 650 Honda Thumper he had just bought.  I was kind of surprised since he'd expressed little interest in dirt bike riding since we both quit when he was about 10.  He tried to sell me on what fun it was and encouraged me to get one.  I resisted for several years but finally bought a Honda XR250.  By this time Kevin had begun competing in various Moto Cross and Hare Scrambles races and had gone through several bikes, trying to find the right formula.  He finally settled on a 250 Yamaha.  Soon, everyone had a dirt bike - Debbie and Linda had XR100 Hondas and Kyle had a KTM 50.  We spent many a day a Prairie City off-road park together and sometimes went for rides in the woods.  I have many pleasant memories of those rides and we had many adventures.

When Forrests' problems were diagnosed as MLD in November of 1997, Kevin, of course was devastated.  At first he and Debbie tried to learn all they could about the disease but the more they found out, the more it became clear there was absolutely nothing that could be done.  Since, as a fireman, Kevin was in the business of helping people, this was particularly hard for him to accept.  He had helped so many people in his work but when one of his own children was in trouble he was helpless.  He and Debbie decided they would help Forrest live as full a life as possible in the short time he had and they did their best to expose him to as many experiences as they could.  His condition, however, deteriorated so rapidly that they only had a couple of months.  By January, he could no longer eat and had to have a feeding tube.  Also he was virtually paralyzed and soon his vision also deteriorated.  It was also obvious he was in a lot of pain and the doctors couldn't or wouldn't figure out how to keep it under control.  Either Kevin or Debbie had to be by his side virtually 24 hours a day attempting to comfort him.  When the pain became excruciating, they would rush him to the ER and the doctors would get the situation under control for a brief time.  And the cycle continued .......  This of course was very trying and stressful for both Kevin and Debbie.  Kevin seemed to take it especially hard and you could almost seem him bending under the stress.  Finally, in late April 1998,  Forrest's condition took a turn for the worse and he was rushed to the hospital in Sacramento - they didn't expect him to survive the first night.  He did, however, and for the next few days it was a waiting game to see whether he was going to pull out of it.  While he was in the hospital, Debbie felt she had to stay by his side 24 hours a day.  Kevin was carrying a heavy load - he had to keep working, make sure Kyle got to school every day, and spend as much time with Forrest as he could.  Every trip to the hospital was a 100 mile round trip.  Also, a Spaghetti Feed Fund Raiser for Forrest was scheduled that weekend and he felt obligated to do his part in getting it set up.  It was obvious he wasn't feeling well - he wasn't getting much sleep, he wasn't eating right, and the stress must have been terrible.  On the evening of April 29 we all left the hospital to head home for the evening.  Kevin said he had to remove some forms from a sidewalk they had poured that day before he could get to bed.  Later that night, he put Kyle to bed and sat down in his easy chair to watch the 10:00 p.m. news and have a beer.  Kyle became concerned after a while that his dad hadn't come to bed and came out to check.  Kevin said he'd be right in as soon as the news was over and Kyle went back to bed and went to sleep.  When Kyle got up the next morning, Kevin was still in the chair with the beer still in his hand.  Kyle tried to revive him but it was no use.  He ran to a neighbor for help and they called 911.  As best as the doctors can tell, Kevin had been fighting pneumonia for a couple of days and that evening it finally got the best of him.  Kyle advanced the notion that Kevin had gone to heaven so Forrest wouldn't be afraid.  Forrest, however, continued to hang on until the inevitable happened on August 31, 1998.  Kevin and Forrest are buried together at Green Valley Cemetery in Cameron Park, California.

It was during this time, after he had established himself as a firefighter, husband, and father, that I really began to see what a fine man he had become.  As I mentioned, he was kind of a loner in his high school days and I was constantly surprised by all the friends Kevin seemed to have.  Although I knew he had made some friends in the Navy, I wasn't really aware of the depth of these friendships.  It seemed like whenever Linda and I were invited by Kevin and Debbie to one of their social function, there was a different group of people there.  They all seemed like great people.  At first I thought they were all casual acquaintances, but as the years passed, it became obvious that he was very close to all of them.  When Forrest's condition was diagnosed, I realized that I had seen only the tip of the iceberg.  Kevin had friends from all over that were selfless in their efforts to help.  They gave of their time, money, and creative efforts to a level that was amazing.  At the Fire Department, firefighters worked his shifts so he could spend more time with Forrest.  His coworkers at Rack-it  worked a Saturday, and donated their pay to Forrest's Trust Fund - the owner of Rack-it matched the sum.  Friends helped him with such things as painting his house, and leveling his yard so he could concentrate his efforts on his family.  I read somewhere that the worth of a man can be measured by his friends.  If so, Kevin was quite a man!

Lately, I reflect on how much impact Kevin had on my life.  It seems our entire way of life owes much to his influence.  We might never have  moved to the country if not for Kevin.  It was our visits with him in Lotus that introduced Linda and me to the beauty of the foothills.  He proudly showed us around his new home country and we saw things we may never have discovered on our own.  I now spend a great deal of time with my karate training.  It was Kevin who talked me into starting that.  If not for him, I would  never have tried it.  I still have my XR200, and although I don't ride it as much as before, Kyle and I still spend many a happy day on our dirt bikes.  It seems that whatever I'm doing, Kevin is right there with me.  You're always on my mind, Kevin.

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Last Updated 2/5/2002