Obituary, TheChattanoogan.com, Saturday, February 6, 2021
David Kennedy Bird
Teacher, Philosopher And Musician Was Longtime St. Elmo Resident
David Kennedy Bird, 57, passed peacefully from this life on January 31, 2021 after several months of declining health. David was born in Sarasota, Florida to Paul and Helen Bird on December 30, 1963, six weeks after the assasination of President Kennedy, in whose memory he was named.
David and Helen moved to Hendersonville, NC in the early 1970s, and he graduated from Hendersonville High School in 1982. David then studied at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, where he then lived for a number of years. In the mid 1990s he moved to the St. Elmo neighborhood of Chattanooga, where he resided until this year.
David loved learning. At Covenant College, David studied Philosophy, History, English, Biblical Studies, and Psychology, but never completed a degree because he could never settle on just one as a major! David also loved sharing his excitement for learning, and encouraging others not only to learn facts, but to develop a foundation of critical thinking about what he called the Big Picture. After a few years as a private tutor, in 1996 David founded a program called St. Thomas Academy (later renamed “Foundations Collegium”), "a course of study designed for academically gifted Christian home-educated teens; it involved exploration of history and literature, music and the visual arts, philosophy and theology, Biblical studies and critical thinking, rhetoric and discipleship, and the complexities / simplicities of the Kingdom of God." Through this program, David taught and influenced dozens of young students over the course of about a decade.
David also loved music. He enthusiastically listened to many styles of music, on recordings or played live in venues large or small. He formed an alternative folk-rock band called The Substructure that had some local success, including at Riverbend and Nightfall. He especially liked to bring people together through music and provide opportunities for young artists. In the years 1995-1997 he organized a multi-day event called the Kudzu Festival to showcase music as well as visual arts, poetry and literature; with a focus on the culture of the American South.
David loved people. He could spend hours having conversations one-on-one, but also liked bringing people together for fellowship. For years, on December 14 he hosted a feast of St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Christian mystic who wrote: "Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love."
Most of all, and expressed explicitly and implicitly through his studies, teaching, music, and life, David loved Jesus Christ and saw himself as "a breath-taken lover of the Most High God, staring about at the world in dumbfounded and wide-eyed wonder." For him, that was the Big Picture and the driving force behind his endeavors.
Those who knew David will recognize that it is impossible to describe him in a short statement, if it is even possible at all. His mental capacity and love for big ideas was astounding; and yet he was very down-to-earth and never condescending. He could be a gregarious impresario but was sometimes a recluse. He spent very little on himself - other than buying books or music! David could be funny and serious at the same time. His mastery of language was impeccable and inimitable. He was a kind, gentle, caring person who never spoke harshly or had anything negative to say. He gave of himself without expecting anything in return.
In recent years, David ended his in-house classes, but focused on writing, lecturing and blogging. He was employed for several years by Walden Security, and devoted his time to caring for his mother, who had relocated to St Elmo following her retirement in 2005.
David is survived by his mother, Helen Privett Bird, of Chattanooga.
There will be a Celebration of the Life and Homegoing of David Kennedy Bird on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 4:30 p.m. The service will be held at Calvary Chapel Chattanooga, 3415 Broad St., Chattanooga, TN 37409 in the main sanctuary. Out of concern for others, especially the medically fragile, please wear masks and observe physical distancing. There should be plenty of room. A livestream is planned; details forthcoming.
A simple graveside service will take place at Forest Hills Cemetery, 4016 Tennessee Ave., Chattanooga, Tn. 37409, in St. Elmo on Friday, Feb. 12, at 1 p.m. at the side of the property close to the Post Office.
Paul Lloyd Bird
Sponsored by Ancestry