Northeast Times

Honoring a fallen friend

Johnny Kihm’s bud­dies from Present­a­tion BVM Ele­ment­ary School were dev­ast­ated when he died in Afgh­anistan and wanted to hon­or him in some way.

U.S. Army Pfc. Kihm at­ten­ded Present­a­tion from first through eighth grades, gradu­at­ing in 2005.

“He was a very nice boy, al­ways smil­ing and happy. He had very sup­port­ive par­ents,” said prin­cip­al Nancy Scharnikow.

Kihm, who lived on the 900 block of Tyson Ave., at­ten­ded Car­din­al Dougherty High School, gradu­at­ing in 2009. He joined the Army in early 2010.

“Every­body was proud of him,” said friend Tom O’Neill. “He was such a great kid and had such a great set of val­ues and mor­als.”

Kihm was serving in Afgh­anistan when he was killed in April.

“It broke my heart,” said Kev­in Don­nelly, who at­ten­ded Present­a­tion and Dougherty with the fallen sol­dier. “I was very close with him. I was proud of him. He was a good lead­er. That’s why he joined the mil­it­ary.”

O’Neill, Don­nelly and fel­low ’05 Present­a­tion gradu­ates Mi­chael Dick­son and Jordan Mal­pass looked for a way to hon­or his memory.

Car­din­al Dougherty closed in 2010, so the 20-year-olds de­cided to plant a dog­wood tree out­side Present­a­tion.

John and Ceil Kihm have re­mained close with the four­some and liked the idea, as did Present­a­tion.

Last week, the young men dug a hole and planted the tree dur­ing a ce­re­mony at­ten­ded by the Kihm fam­ily and the third- through eighth-graders at Present­a­tion, which is loc­ated in Chel­ten­ham, on the bor­der of Lawndale. Most of the 260 pu­pils live in the North­east.

In front of the tree are red, white and blue pin­wheels and a statue of an an­gel donated by teach­er Kate (McHugh) Mc­Greevey, who of­ten talked sports with Kihm and al­ways gave him a bag of pea­nuts on the open­ing day of base­ball sea­son.

The Kihms ap­pre­ci­ated the thought­ful­ness of every­one in­volved. The sol­dier’s sis­ter Meghan, grand­fath­er Jim Walsh and uncle Tom Walsh were also in at­tend­ance.

“John met all his friends here,” said Ceil Kihm, a former Present­a­tion teach­er. “This was his found­a­tion.”

The ce­re­mony was held on the af­ter­noon of Sept. 21, the In­ter­na­tion­al Day of Peace. Stu­dents planted pat­ri­ot­ic pin­wheels in the front yard of the school.

All joined in the singing of the Peace Pray­er of St. Fran­cis and God Bless Amer­ica. The Rev. Wil­li­am Har­ris­on, the church pas­tor, led the crowd in pray­er.

Dur­ing his de­ploy­ment, Kihm took part in 28 mis­sions.

“It takes a cer­tain kind of per­son to put on the uni­form,” said Mal­pass, who cred­ited his mom, Kim­ber­lee, with en­cour­aging him and his friends to do something in Kihm’s memory. “He was strong and brave and had such strong con­vic­tions.”

O’Neill, Don­nelly, Dick­son and Mal­pass all wore gray T-shirts that fea­tured a sil­hou­ette of Kihm against an Amer­ic­an flag.

The shirt reads, “Real Amer­ic­an Idols. If you don’t want to stand be­hind sol­diers, feel free to stand in front of them.”

Kihm has also been honored with a tree plant­ing at Re­sur­rec­tion of Our Lord and a cross with his name on it at the an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day event at Vet­er­ans of For­eign War Post 2819 on Mar­tins Mill Road.

The Kihm fam­ily is act­ive with the Pfc. Johnny Kihm Me­mori­al Fund, which raises money for sol­diers and their fam­il­ies.

“There are still guys over there. They need help,” said John Kihm, cit­ing their youth and the phys­ic­al and emo­tion­al chal­lenges they face.

The fam­ily is look­ing for­ward to tak­ing part in an Oct. 19 makeover at the Phil­adelphia Vet­er­ans Com­fort House in West Phil­adelphia.

The fund sells pink, white and gray T-shirts, and John Kihm wel­comes any­one who wants to pur­chase a shirt to call him at 215-771-2247.

Johnny Kihm’s friends joined his fam­ily on June 12, which would have been his 20th birth­day, for a din­ner at one of his fa­vor­ite res­taur­ants, Olive Garden.

The young men al­ways will cher­ish the memor­ies spent with their friend.

“He may be gone, but we’ll re­mem­ber him al­ways,” Dick­son said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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