Friends and family remember Beth Kirby as a curious person who loved food, writing, fashion and photography and as a person who was constantly looking for answers and her next adventure. Her sister-in-law Ruth Kirby became aware of that passion to learn and for food shortly after the two met nearly 14 years ago when Kirby embarked on a mission to figure out how to make her grandmother's biscuits.
"She learned how to make the biscuit and how to photograph the biscuit and then she wrote about it and people loved it because it was true," Ruth Kirby said in a telephone interview.
"Making biscuits are hard because of the differences in humidity and how often you touch the flour, but when she cared about something, she had to know everything. If she didn't care, it didn't exist."
Beth Kirby took her passions and began sharing her writing, cooking and photography skills online more than a decade ago and would eventually launch the popular Local Milk blog. In addition to her passions, she was also willing to share some of the challenges in her life, and all of those things helped her connect with followers. When she died March 29 at the age of 38, she had more than 600,000 online followers. Her cause of death has not been made public.
Ruth Kirby said her sister-in-law was a special person that people wanted to know and "get a piece of," but that she didn't let everyone into her circle. She was contantly on the go, traveling the world talking to readers of her blog, doing workshops or cooking demonstrations, or trying some new cuisine.
But, Ruth said, she always came back to Chattanooga to be with family and friends.
"Beth is was magnificent," she said. "Everybody wanted a piece of Beth and I always felt like I got a frontseat pass to who Beth is. She always came home for holidays and even though she might have been in Tokyo or wherever, when she came back, it was us, the Kirby family.
"We would watch her go be Beth and then she would come home and it was like no distance or time had passed. It was home. It was perfect."
Kirby will be remembered beginning at Thursday night at Cherry Street Tavern during an event that will include live music and a display of art and photographs done or inspired by the online influencer. Helping to organize the Thursday event is Eric Peterson, Kirby's first husband and another person who saw Kirby as a lifelong best friend.
"She was absolutely my best friend, but a lot of people felt they knew her," he said in a telephone interview.
The two met when Peterson was 14 and attending a Tori Amos concert with his sister.
"I had a crush on her," he said of Kirby.
The two reconnected in 2007 and eventually married for a short time.
"We were too young, but she has always been family and special," he said.
"She was very dynamic and captivating and the center of attention in any room she was in."
Peterson said Kirby could always make him laugh.
"She did not have a filter, and was one of the funniest people ever."
Peterson's band, King Heard, will be joined by The Bohannons and James Leg during the celebration on Thursday starting at 9 p.m. Proceeds from the event will go to local art nonprofit Art 120, Peterson said.
Tiffany Mitchell first met Beth Kirby in late 2013 or early 2014 at an event in Nashville. Both were working on their careers as food stylists and photographers and were building their online presences, though Mitchell freely admits that Kirby was further along in hers with a popular blog that had fans from around the world checking out her recipes, photographs and posts about her travels and struggles with personal issues.
"I was intimidated by her, to be honest, and I thought she didn't like me," Mitchell said via phone of their first meeting. "I mean, I got it, I was a fan and she was working and all. But then, there was this other event and when I went in she saw me and she was like, 'TIFFANY.' We had this connection. This friendship."
On Monday, Mitchell was on the phone remembering her friend and inspiration as she traveled out west in an RV with her husband, Steve Forrest, and their baby, Noah Forrest, when it hit her that she would no longer be able to talk with her friend.
"I haven't really processed that she is gone. We've gone weeks without talking before, so this isn't new, but I realize now I can't call her anymore. There is a a huge hole."
Kirby leaves behind her husband, Matthew Ludwikowski, and daughter, Eulalie, mother, Becky Kirby, brother, Robert Kirby, sister-in-law, Ruth Kirby and a large number of people who felt a deep connection to her.
"She was my sister," Mitchell said. "There was no judgement either way. I could tell her my deepest darkest thoughts. It was a friendship I may never have again. We laughed so hard at the most ridiculous things."