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Kiira danced with total abandon when it was time to dance. She had fun when it was time to have fun, and she was dependable and strong when it was time to face adversity. She was like the den mother, always ensuring everything and everyone was okay Her spirit, outlook, wisdom, humor, kindness, fairness, and authentic Kiira-ness swirled and filled every soul she touched.
"Oh how are you, you look so great, now tell me what you've been doing?"
– Kiira Jepson
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Read the Stories of Kiira's life, and the memories of those who loved her.
Kiira and I met in kindergarten when we were five years old. It was the first day of school and I was struggling with the transition away from home. I have a vivid memory of tearing up in line as our teacher spoke to us. Kiira noticed and took my hand. From that point on, she became a friend and someone I could look to for comfort. In our early years as friends, I always looked up to Kiira. When she got a pair of red bell bottom pants, I asked my mom to buy me purple bell bottoms. When Kiira got Converse High Top tennies, I asked my mom for a pair too. When Kiira decided to paint a blonde mermaid on our school mural, I decided to paint a brunette mermaid. I loved to spend the night at Kiira’s house because she had a lovely trundle bed. We would lay in the trundle bed and read comics from her massive Archie comic book collection. She would always do this thing where she would practice funny faces in front of a mirror. It was like watching Carol Burnett, it really made me laugh. In second grade, we decided we wanted to play kickball at recess. At that time, only the boys were allowed to play kickball. We went to the principal’s office and told him why we believed we should be allowed to play with the boys. Our mothers probably helped us plan this little delegation. The principal listened to us, and when we were finished, he gave us each a piece of candy and told us he’d look into the matter. A few weeks later, girls were given the right to play kickball with the boys. Kiira was always pulling me into new things. In fourth grade, she set me up with my first boyfriend. He was a very sweet kid, who as an adult took over his stepfather’s church in the Fillmore. In eighth grade, we were cheerleaders, which fortunately neither of us continued in high school. In eighth through tenth grade, Kiira, myself and several of our other friends were part of a drama group run by our middle school drama teacher, and an actor friend of hers. The group, called the Percita Players, was perfect for Kiira because it was based in improvisation, which Kiira was a natural at. We would brainstorm ideas, run them through as improv and then our adult directors would help us shape them into actual scripted vignettes. I remember this one that we were supposed to be doing about teen alcohol and drug use for a community organization. We had a phrase from an actual PSA: “Don’t take the car, you’ll kill yourself.” We loved that phrase! So Kiira does this scene as a drunken housewife. She’s putting sugar in the washing machine, and laundry detergent in the cake mix, drinking the whole time. It was really well done, and hilarious. She then goes out to her car, and we yell from backstage: “Don’t take the car, you’ll kill yourself!!” We thought it was so funny, but obviously, it wasn’t the serious message the community organization wanted about alcohol use. They didn’t use any of our vignettes, but we loved creating them.
Kiira was special. She was maybe two or three years older than me. When we were adults, the age difference was trivial. But when we were kids, it was a big deal. We always thought of Kiira as the cool teenager who paid attention to us kids. She cared about what we liked or didn't like. It seemed genuinely important to her whether we were okay or not, or whether we were enjoying ourselves or not. She was not an aloof person. One of my most fond memories of Kiira was from a party I hosted when I was 13. Kiira and her good friend Nancy Mossa came to the party, even though they were 15 or 16, and we were 13. Just by showing up, they validated the party. It was officially cool because Kiira and Nancy were there. It wasn't a typical little-kid party. It aspired to be a teenage party. It was a dance party with music, and we had a strobe light which made it feel like a dance club. Kiira and Nancy honored the party by dancing and taking it seriously, as opposed to making fun of us, which some teenagers might have done. Suddenly, one of the younger guests, Jonathan Dearman who was 12 at the time, passed out. Jonathan had diabetes, and the combination of drinking soda, loud music, and the strobe light, overcame him. Kiira instantly became the leader. She stopped the music, turned on the lights, checked on Jonathan to make sure he was breathing, and told me to get my mom. It all worked out, and Jonathan was fine. To me, that night was a microcosm of Kiira's life. She was kind to us little kids. She made us feel accepted and cool. She danced with total abandon when it was time to dance. She had fun when it was time to have fun. And she was dependable and strong when it was time to face adversity. As I think about it today, I probably had a mad crush on her. I guess you could say I had good taste.
When I was 19 and in college my friend, Kerry Yates, asked if I wanted to help him babysit some little kids of his friends. Of course, this was interesting to me because Kerry and I often found ourselves spending time babysitting our older friends' children. If Kerry and I weren't going to hear live music, this was how we envisioned dating. That first time walking into Andrea and Warner Jepson's Victorian home on Diamond St. in San Francisco resonated with me immediately: artwork and music everywhere, all the time. And this is where 4-year old Kiira and 2-year old Matty appeared running down the stairs into the entry foyer, filled with bright energy and curious stares. Always entertaining and energetic, Kiira posed insightful questions and observations which led to real conversations...with a 4-year old! Matty and Kiira were inseparable, and he usually was bouncing around at full speed with a mischievous smile on his face while Kiira was always poised and engaging. And this is how we grew to be intertwined family. 2.) in 1977 I designed and initiated (and still teach to this day) a Visual Arts curriculum at Ignatius College Prep. here in San Francisco. "S.I." is a Jesuit high school which is 167 years old and has a long tradition of an excellent drama program. Until 1989 S.I. was an all-boys school and the female roles for the theatrical productions were open to girls from various Catholic high schools in the city. I served as the scenic artist, "behind the scenes", designing and moderating the student paint crew who created all the sets for these shows. I was aware that we had a great young director (a former student of mine) who came back to his high school after college to run our drama program. I encouraged Kiira to try out for our production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and that began her time on our stage under the direction of Bartlett Sher. Kiira shown brightly in those productions and brought smarts and poise to our stage. Bart was (and obviously still is) dynamic, smart and keen to share his gifts. Kiira and the rest of that young theatre company was aware that Bart was something special and that he was imparting a love of art to their young selves that helped to form who they were to become. The adult staff in those day often gave rides home to the student cast and crew after night rehearsals. Bart and Kiira had many conversations as he dropped off students after those sessions. I know they both saw that spark of creativity in one another and enjoyed sharing ideas about the theatre and life...but Kiira did confide that she got a little tired of the sound track in those car rides with nothing but the Grateful Dead playing on Bart's car stereo! 3.) Hawaii- 1984: Andrea, Kiira, Matty, Katie and her daughter Cordelia A vacation to the "homeland" was a delightful time in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which was much later to become the home for Andrea- a place of great beauty with the embrace of Nature always close at hand...just like Andrea herself. Two teenagers, 2 women and a young girl...we were quite the group exploring the riches of that warm environment. Besides the water, mountains and museums, we enjoyed delicious food and a tourist photo session which resulted in a visual time capsule of those times in our lives...Kiira with her lion hair, Matty with a cool-breeze white Panama hat, Cordelia with flowers in her hair and Andrea and Katie deeply delighted to see our children relaxed and happy. A calm time of warm water, warm evenings and deep friendship...across the generations.
“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”
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