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Kunkel remembered as champion for Cancer Services

For more than 50 years Dr. Bill Kunkel worked tirelessly to make sure Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana stayed true to its mission.

Despite that dedication, he’d be the last person to act like it was a big deal.

“Bill didn’t call attention to himself,” said Diane May, president and CEO of Cancer Services.

She said Kunkel, who died Tuesday at 89, made sure he was active with the board without being heavy-handed with Cancer Services’ operations.

“I could feel his commitment to the organization. ... Bill was as supportive as any board member can be,” May said.

A dentist, he also championed the group’s work in other circles of life, including with his brethren in the medical field.

“I know there were times when he found it necessary to carry the cancer services message to some of his peers in the medical community,” May said.

His efforts were recognized with an award with his namesake in 2010 – the William A. Kunkel III Champion of Hope Award – but in an interview at the time the best reason he could come up with for why he got it was that the award committee must have run out of other options.

Longtime friend Don Bewkes is not surprised in the least at Kunkel’s reaction.

“Very seldom did you get Bill to talk about himself,” Bewkes said.

Bewkes knew Kunkel for about 30 years, but in a much different capacity than May – that of an in-law.

Bewkes’ daughter married Kunkel’s son, Bill Kunkel IV, and as such Bewkes came to know the Kunkels well.

“I considered Bill to be one of the truest examples of the greatest generation,” the 84-year-old Bewkes said.

Aside from the regular in-law interactions, Bewkes and his wife became good friends with the Kunkels and traveled together often with them.

Kunkel’s admirable values show through in their grandchildren, he said.

Aside from his devotion to his family and Cancer Services, he had one other well-known passion, golfing, and at times it would cross over into his other walks of life.

“He didn’t wave a flag and call attention to himself, with the exception of showing up in his golf clothes to board meetings occasionally,” May said.