Obituary photo of Rev.+C.+Michael Kuner, Topeka-KS
In Loving Memory of

Rev. C. Michael Kuner

1951 - 2022
Obituary photo of Rev.+C.+Michael Kuner, Topeka-KS
In Loving Memory of

Rev. C. Michael Kuner

1951 - 2022

Services & Gatherings

Services & Gatherings

Visitation:
Friday, May 13, 2022 from 10:30am to 11:00am
First Presbyterian Church, 817 SW Harrison St., Topeka, KS
Memorial Service:
Friday, May 13, 2022 at 11:00am
First Presbyterian Church, 817 SW Harrison St., Topeka, KS
The Rev. C. Michael Kuner died on May 8, 2022, at home in Topeka, Kan., with Jenny – his wife of 37 years, the mother of his children and the music in his life – at his bedside. The chapter in Mike’s “book of love” may have closed, but only after he touched the lives of countless people in his 70 years as a servant of God. A husband, father, grandfather, friend and pastor, Rev. Kuner will be remembered for his compassion, humor, tolerance, open mind, open door, forgiving nature, gift for storytelling, and unconditional acceptance of each person he met as a unique expression of the Divine.

Born November 28, 1951, in San Diego, California, Charles Michael Kuner was the son of Joe Frank and Verna Irene Landis Kuner. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from San Diego State University in 1974, majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology. In June of 1977, he was awarded a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Christian Education from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, followed by doctoral work at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

After serving churches in Valparaiso, Ogden Dunes, and Kouts, Indiana, Rev. Kuner was Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Topeka, Kansas, for 11 years, before becoming Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. During his 12 years of ministry there, the Covenant congregation grew in faith and size, raising funds for the renovation and expansion of the church facility.

In 2005, Mike embarked on a new path that would put his unique gifts to work guiding and supporting congregations faced with the challenges inherent in searching for a new full-time pastor. He served in a series of interim pastorates at First Presbyterian Church in Topeka (2005-2008); Westminster Presbyterian Church in Topeka (2008-2010); and Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, Arkansas (2010-2013). In October 2013, Mike became the stated supply pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Topeka, before serving as the Interim Executive of the Presbytery of Southern Kansas from 2016-2017. Following his return to Topeka from Wichita, his status as “honorably retired” was recognized by the Presbytery of Northern Kansas, and in the same presbytery meeting he accepted the call as part-time pastor of Wakarusa Presbyterian Church. He liked to joke about failing at retirement in about a two-hour period of time.

As a member of the clergy, Mike was committed to the order and inspiration the Church provides. Inside the church and outside its walls, Mike’s voice never changed. He understood that all people are messy, complex, struggling, and he went to those suffering the most. He looked for them. He reminded them that they belong. In recent months, Mike gifted many friends and family members with a book that summarized and simplified the essence of his belief: “If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk” by Christian pastor and author John Pavlovitz. As Mike did, the author advocates for living life with empathy and acceptance as ‘honest and stumbling disciples trying to find the truest truth and live it.’

Throughout his years of ministry, Mike served in numerous leadership positions, locally and nationally. He was active in many local civic organizations, serving on the boards of directors of the Porter County Indiana Mental Health Association, the Topeka Youth Project, the Topeka Festival Singers, Topeka South Rotary, VIDA Ministry to the Hispanic community, Cornerstone of Topeka (for which he served as President from 2020 until his death), and others. He was an active Rotarian, being a charter member of the Topeka South Rotary Club. He served as the club’s fourth president and chair of the Topeka South Rotary Foundation. In his community efforts, Mike most enjoyed his many correspondences with almost a dozen different pen pals and the monthly Rotary Lunch Bunch program at Avondale West Elementary School. In 2008, he was invited to join the Topeka Jayhawker Club, ultimately serving as Treasurer, Secretary and Vice President, and relishing the conversation and presentation of papers for discussion.

Previously married to, and later divorced from, Judith Jenkinson, Mike wed Jennifer Slemmons of Topeka on May 11, 1985. A classically trained and talented singer, Jenny shared Mike’s passion for music, theater, community and family. Their lives were graced by the births of Ellen Claire Kuner in 1989 and Emma Catherine Kuner in 1991 and further blessed with three grandchildren: Lucy Starr, Jack Matthew Kale and Charlie Ellis, children of Emma and her husband, Tanner Rohr. As important as his work and other community activities were to Rev. Kuner, his family was always foremost in his mind and heart.

He enjoyed playing golf and tennis. For fun, he especially loved the writing of Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Buckley. Mike became an avid home winemaker, producing his own label, The Preacher’s Cellar. Often traveling back to Oklahoma to help his friend Dr. Gary Strebel during picking season at Strebel Creek, he would pick grapes for his own wines at vineyards in central Oklahoma to augment those he purchased and had shipped from California. Back home, he appreciated his family’s indulgence while the kitchen was taken over by bottles, fermentation tanks, assorted equipment, and the smell of fermenting grapes.

Mike used a quote attributed to Albert Schweitzer, the theologian, organist, musicologist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician as part of his email signature: “The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.” The indelible traces of love left behind by Mike Kuner in the lives of so many will multiply love in the world like sweet grapes on an unending vine.

A visitation will be held at 10:30 a.m., followed by a memorial service at 11:00 a.m., on Friday, May 13, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church, 817 Harrison St., Topeka, Kansas 66612.

The family requests that those who wish to express sympathy consider making a donation to the Presbyterian church of your choice, or to Cornerstone of Topeka, Inc., which combats homelessness and provides affordable housing in Topeka. Contributions in Mike’s name can be sent to 1195 SW Buchanan, Suite 103 Topeka, KS 66604 and allocated to a special Cornerstone project that will be called the Kuner Home.

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Services & Gatherings

Services & Gatherings

Visitation:
Friday, May 13, 2022 from 10:30am to 11:00am
First Presbyterian Church, 817 SW Harrison St., Topeka, KS
Memorial Service:
Friday, May 13, 2022 at 11:00am
First Presbyterian Church, 817 SW Harrison St., Topeka, KS

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