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Chappaqua's Dirks, Train Crash Victim, Remembered As Brilliant, Humble

Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks.
Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks.
Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
At right is David Shaw, founder of D.E. Shaw Research and hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co., leaving Robert Dirks' funeral in Mount Kisco. Dirks, a Valhalla train-crash victim, worked at Shaw's research company.
At right is David Shaw, founder of D.E. Shaw Research and hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co., leaving Robert Dirks' funeral in Mount Kisco. Dirks, a Valhalla train-crash victim, worked at Shaw's research company. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks.
Attendees leave Mount Kisco's Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home after the service for train-crash victim Robert Dirks. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Chappaqua resident Robert Dirks, who was among the victims of the Feb. 3 train crash in Valhalla , was remembered at a packed service held on Sunday at Cassidy-Flynn Funeral Home in Mount Kisco.

It was the final memorial service held for the five Westchester residents among the six killed in the tragedy. A Danbury, Conn., resident also was killed.

Family, friends and colleagues shared an array of memories they had for Robert Dirks, who grew up in Spokane, Wash. and was skilled in science and math.

From the various anecdotes came a history of Robert Dirks, a 36 year old who worked at D.E. Shaw Research, as someone who was brilliant and humble. He was remembered for his intellectual achievements and for helping others.

William Dirks, his brother, described him as "very caring and very intelligent," as well as humble.

He also recalled that his sibling had a "self drive," describing a time when he was in sixth grade and had taken an interest in competitive math. Even though he was too young to compete, William Dirks recalled that his brother went through various math problems.

When his brother was in high school, William Dirks remembered, he helped to build its math team. He also recalled their shared social experiences, which included basketball and bonfires.

William Dirks also remembered his last meeting with his brother, which was in Chappaqua for Thanksgiving. There, they walked around a body of water with Robert Dirks' kids, Owen and Phoebe, along with William Dirks' fiance.

"I loved Robert very much."

Father Michael Dirks noted his "welcoming nature" and his ability to listen to others. He went on to read memories from people who knew his son.

Several extended family members from Seattle spoke and offered their memories.

Uncle Martin Dirks called his nephew "very special" and recalled a skiing trip they took to Idaho when he was a kid and how he introduced him to bridge, a game that became a notable interest of his. Martin Dirks also called his nephew a "good athlete" and a "talented musician."

A trio of Robert Dirks' cousins from the Seattle area - Greg, Brian and John - offered remarks as well.

"Robert, rest in peace," Greg Dirks said.

Robert Dirks' many pursuits were acknowledged by speakers. Aside from his interest in bridge, he was remembered for playing basketball, chess and the bassoon.

David Shaw, founder of D.E. Shaw Research, called his departed colleague "completely brilliant" and a "remarkable guy." Shaw also noted that he was a mentor to several people.

Shaw also predicted that his work, over the years, will save people's lives.

Niles Pierce, who was Robert Dirks' PhD advisor when he was a graduate student at CalTech, remembered their history together, including his scientific work and his basketball prowess; referring to the latter, he was called "sneaky good."

An online fundraiser has also been set up to assist Robert Dirks' wife, Christine with expenses. To date it has raised more than $100,000 , with 90 days remaining for the initiative.

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