Deceased March 16, 2015

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50th Reunion Book Entry


In Memory

John B. Kunz—naval aviator, businessmen and devoted community leader—died on March 16 in his hometown of Huntingdon, Pa., at the age of 83.

John prepared for Amherst at Loomis Institute in Windsor, Conn. On campus, he was president of Chi Psi and a key member of the wrestling team.

After graduation John became a naval jet pilot, training for atomic weapons missions, serving on the supercarrier USS Forestall and experiencing a near-death event. John was flying in formation when another plane touched his, throwing him off-course and putting him in danger. John managed to eject and land safely in a farm field.

Subsequently, John earned an M.B.A. from Harvard, was recalled for naval service, worked two years in technical sales for a chemical company and returned to Huntingdon in 1962 to begin a 36-year management stint with the family business, a specialty printing and binding company founded by his grandfather. He was president for his last eight years with the firm.

John was involved in many community activities, but his main contribution was leading the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, described by his widow, Mary, as “central to his life” in Huntingdon. John took special interest in recruiting young doctors to ensure continual excellence in a small-city health facility. John was vice president of the board of trustees for five years and chairman for 16. Mary said John “worked tirelessly to build bridges and strengthen relationships among hospital constituencies.”

Fraternity brother Reid Spencer ’53 recalled that John had a wry sense of humor: “He always had something funny to say. He was an upbeat guy.”

Besides Mary, John is survived by a son, David; his wife, Susan; and two granddaughters.

George Gates ’53

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50th Reunion

To Jim Ahearn from Mary Kunz.... 53 John Kunz.jpg

The man I live with is punctual and conscientious to a fault. He is, however, constitutionally unable to talk or write about himself. So, to ensure some domestic tranquility -and in appreciation of your brave efforts to compile a 50th reunion booklet for Amherst '53 -I send along, as surrogate, some reflections.

Central and sustaining is our marriage of 43 years: two people from similar backgrounds, yet with distinctly different styles and temperaments. John ventures into the world of cyberspace, and I avoid it entirely. We tackle projects together, and immediately disagree on how to proceed. John is kind, however, and slow to anger. Not once has he taken off his wedding ring. We walk together, share our reading, follow the news, the market, and ACC basketball. We enjoy and work through each season. We do not play golf.

John grew up in a big, high-maintenance country home, and the work ethic was instilled early. (He is an excellent washer of windows.) As a boy, John raised dogs, rabbits and chickens, and hunted with his father. Although most of his adult life has been enmeshed in the business world, John is happiest out­ of-doors, in nature, working, walking, and welcoming every glimpse of bird or animal. His Chemistry/Biology major at Amherst was a natural, and next time around he plans to be a vet. Or a physician...

After college, John served in the Navy. I think his life has been most deeply defined by the searing experiences of a Naval Aviator: Dying jet aircraft, training for atomic weapons missions, carrier landings, his own near-fatal bailout, and the violent deaths of several young squadron pilots, including his roommate.

Peter, our first-born son, also died young. He came home from his freshman year at Amherst, and was killed instantly in a car crash several weeks later. He was 19. The following spring, we made the long trip to Amherst to gather up Peter's personal belongings and talk with his friends. It was a shattering journey.

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