One Family's Story
Kristen Kerckhoff and Ronald “Pat” Lindbergh were introduced while she was pursuing a nursing degree at Arizona State University. They became instant sweethearts. Before long, the two were married and, within a few years, they were raising a family together.
Kristen chose to put her nursing career on hold to stay home with their children, Meghan and Rory while Pat worked as a park ranger in the East Valley.
By the time the kids were teenagers, Pat was working as a motor patrol officer for ASU and Kristen was working at Banner Heart Hospital. With the kids older, Kristen and Pat could enjoy the kind of quality time together that they did when they first met.
“Pat always wanted to get a Corvette,” said Lindbergh. “His dream came true one recent Mother’s Day when I spotted a beautiful yellow Vette for sale. Although we promised we’d wait until we turned 50, we bought it on the spot.”
Kristen recalled how Pat liked to wave at other Corvette drivers and how he liked to show it off at local car shows. She never failed to smile when she saw him behind the wheel or when he washed it with tender loving care.
Then, last February, the unthinkable happened. Pat became seriously ill and passed away. Kristen found herself all alone with two teenagers to support. The sudden loss of a loving husband, best friend and devoted father was a devastating blow to the entire family.
When Kristen heard about the Dottie Kissinger Children’s Bereavement Camp, a camp program created nearly 10 years ago by philanthropist Dorothy “Dottie” Vale Kissinger to help families cope with the grief of losing a loved one, she thought it might help. In April, she and her children headed to Payson.
“The weekend retreat was truly invaluable for me and the kids,” said Lindbergh. “We walked away with the tools and the knowledge to cope with our loss in healthy ways. The kids were given the opportunity to express their feelings and to see how other kids were dealing with their loss. The group counseling sessions taught them valuable grief survival skills to help get through this tough time in their lives.”
While sometimes kids won’t talk to their parents, they often open up and share with other kids – especially kids going through similar experiences. For Rory and Meghan, the camp helped them realize they weren’t alone in their grief.
“To the donors, volunteers and Banner employees at the camp, I give a heartfelt ‘Thank You,’” she said. “Having a weekend dedicated to honoring Pat’s memory, acknowledging our grief, and learning how to cope with his loss was a blessing that we will never forget. I hope we can pay it forward.”