Special to the Reporter
In 2015, Lindsay Vander Pol (then Lake Washington High School’s activities coordinator) was reviewing an old copy of the Lake Washington High School Associate Student Body Constitution and Bylaws, originally incorporated in 1944. These documents were created during the transition from Kirkland High School to Lake Washington High School. As Vander Pol was reviewing this document, she came upon a single line item stating that varsity football jersey No. 5 was retired in 1940 in memory of Bill Kilgore.
AJ Parnell (head football coach in 2015), along with football operations director Pat Whaley, began a research study to discover who Kilgore was and why varsity football jersey No. 5 was retired in his memory. With the assistance of the Kirkland Historical Society, the Kirkland Reporter and the Lake Washington High School Library Archives, the following story was revealed:
John William Kilgore, Jr., also known as “Bill” and “Billy,” entered Kirkland High School in the fall of 1939 as a sophomore. He was a member of the Class of 1942.
Due to his exceptional athletic skills, he became the starting halfback for the Kirkland High School varsity football team, a member of the varsity basketball team and a member of the Kirkland High School Letterman Club, all in his sophomore year.
Shortly after school was let out for the summer of 1940, he suffered an acute attack of appendicitis, and tragically passed away in a Seattle hospital on July 1, 1940, at the age of 17 years old. He is interned in the Kirkland Cemetery. Ironically, nine years later, in 1949, Lake Washington High School’s stadium and football field were built right across the street from his final resting place.
No extended Kilgore family members have been located to date. However, since varsity football jersey No. 5 appears to be the very first to be retired in the combined history of Kirkland High School and Lake Washington High School, its status was changed to Legacy Football Jersey No. 5 (Bill Kilgore, Class of 1942). It joins Legacy Football Jersey No. 55 (Jake Herring, Class of 2001) and Legacy Football Jersey No. 86 (Barry Bannister, Class of 1980); to be issued annually to three deserving current Lake Washington High School football players in honor of these former Kangaroo football players.