Kilroy family carries on without Mark - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Kilroy family carries on without Mark

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Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 12:00 am

Jim Kilroy says he was a better person when his son Mark was by his side.

"When he was around, he always lifted people up. He went in the right direction, all the time. He was always a real good guy to be around," Kilroy recalls today.

His son, Mark J. Kilroy, of Santa Fe, Texas, was kidnapped in Matamoros and brutally slain at Rancho Santa Elena west of the city on March 14, 1989, during a Spring Break excursion into the Mexican border city. Drug traffickers had sacrificed him in a macabre ritual in order to protect their drug operations and themselves. Mark had turned 21 just days earlier, on March 5.

His father and mother, Helen, describe Mark as a caring person, concerned about people, someone who did not hesitate to step forward to help. They, in turn, now ask young people to do the same.

Jim and Helen Kilroy work closely with the Mark Kilroy Foundation and its mission: the prevention of substance abuse, providing about 600 youths with free educational and sport activities, counseling, concerts and summer camps.

The foundation is partially supported by proceeds from the book "Sacrifice" by Jim Kilroy and Bob Stewart. Jim said the authorized book can be obtained directly from the Mark Kilroy Foundation, P.O. Box 777, Santa Fe, Texas 77517.

Since drugs were at the root of their son's death at the hands of drug traffickers, they take every opportunity to counsel against substance abuse. Concerned residents started the foundation shortly after Mark's death.

"We were still in shock and not really over our grieving, and as things progressed, it developed into a nice organization that gets lots of things done," Jim Kilroy said. "Lots of people work on it."

Helen Kilroy said drug awareness is the direction in which the Lord moved them.

"It seems like, once Mark disappeared, it was almost like we were on a journey," she recalled. "In searching for him, we were being led in different ways and that's what brought us to the point that we are at now. It just seems that was what our Lord wanted us to do, that we should be saying whatever we could to help our young people not get on drugs."

Twenty years ago today, Mark was busy getting ready for his Spring Break trip to South Padre Island, as thousands of young men and women are doing right now. Both Jim and Helen Kilroy have some words of advice for them.

"There are a lot of good people, but on the edge of that crowd there are always some very evil people who will do them harm," Jim Kilroy said. "They just have to worry about protecting themselves. They can't be letting down their guard."

Helen advises young people on Spring Break to "stay in groups. They should watch out for one another and they shouldn't let themselves be separated." She also suggested they be aware of travel advisories and remember that when they leave the United States, they are in a foreign country and have to abide by and respect the rules of the country.

"A lot of people weren't even alive when this happened (to Mark), so we do talk to people about Mark's story. They (need to) realize that they have to be aware of what is going on around them, anywhere, not just in a foreign country but anywhere. There are just evil people out there," she said.

The Kilroys have moved forward with their lives, but they are always aware of what might have been.

"We really miss the future we would have had with him, but we are very thankful to have what we've got, you know," Jim Kilroy said.

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