STATESMAN – HUMANITARIAN – FRIEND
John Crain Kunkel was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1898. Few public figures of the Susquehanna Valley ever won the hearts of its people and their respect as did Congressman Kunkel. He represented them in Washington for 18 years from 1939-1951 and 1961–1966 serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Lebanon, Perry, and Juniata counties. He also won a four year term as Dauphin County Commissioner from 1952-1956, in addition to his nine terms as congressman.
John Kunkel graduated from Yale University and the Harvard School of Law. He received an honorary degree from Franklin and Marshall College, was a trustee of Wilson College, a Director of the Harrisburg Library, three times president of the Boys Club, long time director of the Harrisburg Hospital, a founder of the Harrisburg Bridge Club, and an avid supporter of the Tri-County United Way.
Congressman Kunkel was a member of the Herter Committee on the post-World War II European economic needs for the Marshall Plan. He was a leading figure in the recovery after the Olmsted Air Force Base in Middletown was closed by the United States Defense Department. He helped to establish the International Airport in Middletown and Penn State Harrisburg at the former headquarters of the Olmstead Air Force Base. Middletown, in 1965 dedicated the John C. Kunkel Elementary School, the only school ever named for a Dauphin Country congressman.
John Crain Kunkel died in 1970 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and was survived by his wife, Katherine Smoot Kunkel. Congressman Kunkel proudly identified Kitty as “wife and co-worker.” After the Congressman’s death, Mrs. Kunkel donated their home at 102 Wiconisco Street to the United Way of the Capital Region for use as their headquarters. Some of Kitty Kunkel’s leadership roles were the President of the Congressional Club in Washington, D.C. and President of Homeland Center in Harrisburg. She was also active with the Red Cross, United Way, Junior League, and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral. Mrs. Kunkel died in 1990 after 91 years of being a remarkable “co-worker” to humanity.