An accident Saturday evening in a grass seed warehouse killed a former Oregon State Police trooper at the farm he worked with his brother east of Albany.
A young family member found Kirk Burkholder, 38, trapped in a forklift mast and used Burkholder’s cellphone to summon help, said Kent Burkholder, Kirk's brother.
Burkholder was unloading a 2,000-pound bag of sheep feed into a hopper when the accident occurred at around 6 p.m.
Albany Fire Department and Linn County Sheriff’s personnel responded to the farm on Fry Road, where Burkholder was pronounced dead.
Burkholder, a lifelong Albany resident, spent more than eight years with Oregon State Police as a senior trooper in the Fish and Wildlife Division, working primarily in Linn and Benton counties.
“He was a pleasure to work with,” said Oregon State Police Sgt. James Halsey. “He always had a great and positive attitude.”
Burkholder left the State Police to return to the family farm after a bout with cancer left his father, Weldon, unable to work, Kent Burkholder said.
“We all hated to see him go,” Halsey said, “but we all supported him because it was the right thing to do to go to the farm.”
Halsey, who was the trooper who trained Burkholder, said the men remained friends after Burkholder left the force.
When Burkholder’s father died less than two years ago, Kirk took a larger role in the day-to-day operations on the grass seed farm, while also raising sheep and working a balancing business with his brother, Kent.
The Burkholder brother’s' harmonic balancing business serviced farm equipment throughout the valley, Kent Burkholder said.
“We had a conversation a couple weeks ago about how we complemented each outer nicely,” said Kent Burkholder. “We really enjoyed working together being on the same team.”
Kirk Burkholder's aunt Nancy Aerni remembered him as a man who “carried a smile wherever he went along with a helping hand.”
Aerni recalled a time when Burkholder, an avid hunter, was chased up a tree by a badger during an archery hunt in eastern Oregon.
Aerni added that he was “quick-witted, quick to give a big hug and an 'I love you.'"
“He was a loving guy,” Kent Burkholder said of his brother. “He cared a lot about my kids and his kids … he always had time for the kids.”
As news spread Saturday evening, farmers, friends and members of his church family gathered for hours at the family farm.
“it’s a nice tribute, knowing people care,” Kent Burkholder said. "It's kind of humbling, how many people care when tough times happen.”
“I feel fortunate to have had him as a brother for almost 39 years,” said Kent.
Recently Kirk Burkholder spent hours remodeling an old farmhouse using construction skills he learned after graduating from Santiam Christian High School. The Kirk Burkholder family was set to move into that home in the summer.
Kirk Burkholder leaves behind his wife, Amanda, and three children, 3, 5, 7.