Kirk Lindsey couldn't be missed when he walked into a room.
He was just too tall, too big, and his voice was too deep to ignore.
Lindsey used that baritone to mentor students at Beyer High School, manage his own trucking company and champion the San Joaquin Valley's needs across a spectrum of state commissions and lobbying groups.
Lindsey, 62, died Wednesday after a fight with cancer.
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His colleagues on the California Transportation Commission learned of his death Thursday in the midst of a two-day meeting. Lindsey was the commission's senior member, having served on the board since 2000.
"It was a pretty quiet, somber meeting," said Transportation Commissioner Jim Earp.
"We were all thinking of this guy whose heart was as big as he was. We're really going to miss him."
Earp's comments echoed in Modesto, where Lindsey's friends mourned a man they felt could squeeze more into a day than they could fit into a week.
"We're all given 24 hours; some of us just use it far more wisely than others. He didn't waste time," said Jan Marie Ennenga, executive director of the Manufacturers Council of the Central Valley, who knew Lindsey for more than 20 years.
In 1972, Lindsey launched Brite Transport System, an agricultural trucking firm, in Riverbank.
Running a company could keep anyone busy, but Lindsey found time to coach Beyer swimming and water polo teams for 20 years, a commitment that friends said he valued more than his work in business and government.
"He's a first-class person and coach; what a great role model," said Beyer Athletic Director Paul Cornwell.
Lindsey also held leadership posts at one time or another in the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, Stanislaus Partners in Education, California Workforce Investment Board and the California Trucking Association.
"Whatever Kirk said he would do, he would get done," said Paul Van Konynenburg, a friend of Lindsey's who worked with him on last year's unsuccessful campaign to pass a local transportation tax.
"He was a great ally," Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour said. "He fought for this region in a big way."
State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Gov. Schwarzenegger marked his death Thursday with statements of condolence to Lindsey's wife, Cyndi, and his four daughters.
"As a fourth generation Californian, Kirk took enormous pride in the Central Valley. His commitment to public service and tireless efforts to stimulate the economy, improve transportation and expand education opportunities will leave a lasting legacy," Cogdill said.
"Maria and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Kirk Lindsey. His commitment to improving transportation infrastructure in California was admirable, and I appreciate his extraordinary service to my administration," Schwarzenegger said.
Some of Lindsey's friends remembered being intimidated by that deep voice when they first met him.
"He was this big fellow with this deep, gruff voice," recalled Kathy Halsey, who worked with Lindsey at the chamber of commerce. "He just seemed to know everybody. I was almost afraid to speak in front of him because he was just larger than life.
"I soon learned that Kirk Lindsey was a man who was warm, generous, honest, never afraid to ask the hard questions and never afraid to take on an issue," she said.
Halsey came to think of Lindsey as a mentor who had a great deal to teach others.
"Go after those things and be a part of the solution and make it better. I think that's what Kirk would want people to do. How he kept everything together, I'll never know."
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2366.