Debra Owen Guinand Kirwan died on the rise of a blue moon on Oct. 30, 2020, after a very full life that was cut too short after a more than two-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was born to William (Bill) Owen and Dorothy Kirk in Denver, Colorado, on March 21, 1959.
The family moved to Salt Lake City shortly after her father died in a terrible airplane accident when she was just three months old. She spent her childhood between Salt Lake City and Moab. Debra spent many happy days at her family’s historic cabin in the Willow Basin area of the Manti-La Sal Mountains. After graduating from Grand County High School in 1977, Debra went on to Utah State University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. A year later she received her Master’s degree.
After college, Debra moved to Australia where she worked at the Sydney Opera House. After moving back to the United States, Debra taught communications at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona.
In the 1980s, Debra was one of the first employees hired by the new airline America West. She worked the ramp, then on to the purchasing department where she found a passion for airlines and ground support equipment. With her experience, she was hired by the JLG company to sell ground support equipment to airlines worldwide and became an industry expert. Debra started her own company, Triton Technologies, LLC, and became a trusted advisor in the airline industry worldwide.
In 1996, Debra married Rudy Yates and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Later that year the love of her life was born: her son, Cameron Yates. Cameron has filled her with pride, love and a passion for life.
Debra divorced in 2013 and moved back to Arizona. In 2016, she married her college sweetheart, Kelly Kirwan, and moved to Gilbert, Arizona.
Debra — ever the overachiever — had a passion for all things outdoors: sailing, skiing, hiking, horseback riding, golf and traveling worldwide. Her love of the seas took her to islands she loved so much, while her family cabin in the La Sal Mountains gave her the opportunity to ride horses, hike and explore the mountains she loved.
Debra had the ability to make and retain friendships her whole life. She lived life large. Her knowledge, friendship, love and energy will be missed but never forgotten.
Here are just a few of the comments that friends have shared about her:
“Debbie was my Huckleberry friend,” said friend Andy Booher. “She was always up for an adventure, a misadventure, or just a change of scenery. She was the one who dared to do the first Lake Powell trip each year on my old boat. She was the one who I bumped into in a sushi restaurant on a remote island in the Caribbean, and the one that famously became known to my other friends as ‘the friend that flew to Africa for the weekend to be at your wedding.’ I'll miss that infectious laughter, mischievous nature and never-met-a-stranger charm. But most of all, I'll miss her untamed, unhindered, undeterred and unafraid spirit. I have learned so much from her.
I love you, dear one.”
Friend Ruth Brownsey of England said this to Deb: “Hey Captain, if I can be half the woman you have been, my life will be full to bursting over. We have had a wonderful friendship and I carry you in my heart always. We have amazing memories, some sad, but mostly happy and we have always been there for each other. I am so grateful for that—Deb thank you so much. The world will be a poorer place without you in it, but I know that you will still be there for me—’til we meet again.”
“It is difficult to explain a friendship of 33 years in just a paragraph or two,” said friend Aileen Fowler. “Debbie and I met while we both worked for America West Airlines. There was an ad for a room for rent on the bulletin board in our break room. I called the number and then met with Debbie. That was the beginning of one of the most special friendships in my life. Debbie has been my sounding board for almost every decision I have made in my adult life. She has celebrated joyful times with me and consoled me in life’s difficult moments. We have shared such fun and laughter. We’ve shared adventures in parenting, travel, road trips, life’s big moments and small ones. Summer trips with my kids to her family’s cabin were so much fun. I cherish the memories of going for ATV rides and hikes, sitting on the porch watching the very busy lives of hummingbirds and stargazing at night. The cabin is the scene of some of my favorite memories with Debbie. Debbie has been an inspiration to me. I admire her sense of adventure. She has always been willing to try something new, explore a new destination, or learn a new skill. She reminds me to approach life with a positive attitude even when life isn’t easy. I am so grateful for the gift of our friendship; it’s been an amazing adventure.”
“I met Debbie eight years ago on a golf course at an Islands Women’s club outing,” said friend Diana Hummel. “We were paired together and we became instant friends. I loved all the stories Debbie told of the many adventures she has had. She was definitely the most adventurous person I have ever met. Debbie was not afraid of anything or afraid of trying anything, and I admired that quality in her. Debbie had such a great sense of humor and we spent many hours laughing with each other, or at each other. We were fortunate to visit her and Kelly in Moab and experience the place where her heart is and she was the happiest. Debbie is and was an amazing friend and a strong warrior, and her passing has left an empty place in all of our hearts. God bless you, my friend.”
“Debbie was the world in a bottle,” said Sena Hauer. “She was a soul sister who crept her way into my life, for which I am forever grateful. She encouraged me to sit up straight, both literally and figuratively. She had a zest for living life to its fullest without fear or hesitation. She has been and forever will be my guide and friend.”
Debra was preceded in death by her father, William (Bill) Owen, and her stepfather, Jerry Guinand. She is survived by her husband, Kelly Kirwan; her son, Cameron Yates; her mother, Dorothy Guinand; her sister, Tracy Guinand; her dogs, Ellie and Oy; and her many cousins.
Graveside services will be held at the Grand Valley Cemetery in Moab on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. under the direction of Spanish Valley Mortuary.
In lieu of flowers, please donate in her name to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition at www.ovarian.org. The mission of the NOCC is to save lives by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer, and to improve the quality of life for survivors.
Condolences to the family may be sent at www.SpanishValleyMortuary.com.