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Law partner Wilford ‘Bill’ Kirton Jr. dies at 78

SHARE Law partner Wilford ‘Bill’ Kirton Jr. dies at 78

Wilford W. "Bill" Kirton Jr., 78, died Sunday after battling cancer.

He was a partner in the law firm of Kirton & McConkie and general counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was also known for his wit, warmth and strength of personal character.

"He was a very purposeful person," said Randy Kirton, Wilford Kirton's oldest son. "Near the end, he talked not of death but of moving forward into the next life."

Those were the kinds of qualities Wilford Kirton built after growing up and attending schools in Salt Lake City, including the University of Utah, where he took a bachelor's degree in military science and his law degree.

He was an Air Force pilot and bombardier in World War II, reaching captain while flying 31 missions over Europe and receiving the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He remained active in the Utah National Guard before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Kirton became general counsel for the LDS Church in 1964 and argued cases on the church's behalf before the Supreme Court, while serving seven church presidents. He was secretary and general counsel to the Deseret Management Corp., including the Deseret News, Deseret Gym, Deseret Book, Beneficial Development and Zions Securities Corp.

His church service included serving as high councilor, bishop, stake president, regional representative, sealer in the Salt Lake Temple and patriarch for the Salt Lake Ensign Stake. Kirton was married in 1943 to Arlene Tadje Sonntag and they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. Arlene died in 1992. In 1994, Kirton married Lois Brewster Aste. He is survived by five children and five step-children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at noon Wednesday in in Ensign 1st Ward, 589 18th Ave. Friends may call 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesday at Larkin Mortuary, 260 E. South Temple, and 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. before services Wednesday.

E-MAIL: gtwyman@desnews.com