When Cayman needed someone to “put out a fire,” Kirkland Nixon was our man. With his passing this week, Cayman has lost a stalwart citizen who embodied the steady, quiet virtues that form the backbone of our community.
Whenever he was called to duty – which he often was, even after retirement from the Cayman Islands Fire Service – he served capably and admirably. Mr. Nixon’s tenure on this earth was an embodiment of the maxim, “A life of service is a life well and greatly lived.”
“Kirkie,” as he was known in the community, was part of the generation of Caymanians whose adulthood coincided with the emergence, and explosion, of the Cayman Miracle that transformed the “islands that time forgot” into a leading global financial center. During this landmark era in Cayman’s history, Mr. Nixon served his islands and his community in countless capacities – not the least of which, as a neighbor, family member and friend.
Premier Alden McLaughlin wrote that Mr. Nixon epitomized the best of Caymanian values: “patriotism, hard work and diligence, honesty, integrity and fairness, frankness, common sense and judgment.”
Mr. Nixon kept his country safe as an upstanding civil servant, Cayman’s first chief fire officer and as a member of the National Hurricane Committee. He was a central figure in the challenging recovery after Hurricane Ivan, and helped create hurricane preparedness plans to hedge against future storms.
As chairman of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority Board, Mr. Nixon stopped a years-long practice of bestowing overly generous severance payments to retiring airport employees. He was an unflagging guardian of the public interest in his service on several government boards.
He strengthened the fabric of the community as a member of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman and through other volunteer efforts. He shared his deep appreciation of orchids and other botanical wonders – always willing to share advice about the proper care and feeding of the orchids, which he loved.
Mr. Nixon was an avid conservator of our endemic orchid species, earning an Award of Merit from the American Orchid Society and the distinction of having two hybrid species bearing his name.
Years after his retirement from the Fire Service in 2006, Mr. Nixon was called back as a strategic adviser to help repair a department that had been ravaged by understaffing and low morale in his absence.
In 2016, he was called to serve on a governor’s panel to review our islands’ search and rescue capabilities.
Even in his final days, Mr. Nixon’s thoughts turned to how he could contribute. His wife Melba told the Compass: “He wished he was young again because there was so many things he would have liked to fix in this country.”
But even from this woefully abridged list of his accomplishments, it is clear that Mr. Nixon made the most of his preciously short life here on Earth, always contributing more than his share.
The best way for us to honor Mr. Nixon and his family is to take up the ongoing work of building an ever-better country and community – inspired by those quiet virtues that characterized Mr. Nixon and the country he loved.