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Kuffner Leaves Mark On Community

March 1, 2013

ST. MARYS — Local volunteer, attorney and community advocate Jack Kuffner died Thursday, leaving behind family, fellow parishoners, Kiwanis and colleagues with memories of the ways he impacted the St. Marys community.

As a lawyer, local attorney Kraig Noble said that Kuffner was highly respected in the local law community. As an assistant prosecutor, prosecutor and judge in the county court, Noble said he had high standards.

“Everyone knew you could trust Jack’s word,” Noble told The Evening Leader. “If he said he’d do something, he’d do it.”

For 30 years, Kuffner was chairman of the Nominating Committee, which meant other lawyers joked that Noble took care of whoever would be the next officers.

“He took an interest in St. Marys as a whole, promoted education,” Noble said.

While Kuffner advised commissioners and township trustees, he was probably best known, Noble said, as the corporate counselor for Midwest Electric.

Vic Von Blon said he connected with Kuffner through Jaycees, where Kuffner was a founding member, and through church council, and as a client in Kuffner’s private practice.

“He was always available to work on projects,” Von Blon said. “He was a determined guy. If he was involved in something, he was all in. With the Kiwanis, he was at everything. Every pancake day.”

Von Blon remembers Kuffner as honest and likable.

“It was just his nature, his personality,” Von Blon said. “He was a giving guy.”

The last time Von Blon saw him was Wednesday night at Zion Lutheran Church, where they shared their usual basketball banter, speculating whether Duke would win their game that night, whether they’d get back to No. 1 in the polls.

The Rev. Bill Maki, with Zion Lutheran Church, also saw Kuffner last at that service.

“I gave him communion on Wednesday night,” Maki said. “I handed him the wafer, the body of Christ, and looked him straight in the eye. He was a man of great integrity, great compassion. He would offer me words of wisdom. He was sincere in a kind way.”

Maki said Kuffner was willing to speak his mind even to people who didn’t agree with him, but he did it in a sincere way that Maki called courageous. He was also concerned about people in the community who were struggling.

“The St. Marys community and Zion Lutheran were better for having him as a person considered one of our own,” Maki said.

Allison Brady, a Kiwanis member with Kuffner and the Heritage Trails Park District director, said that Kuffner had contributed to the parks department immensely when he and his wife donated a wooded area to the district in October.

“It’s not only a loss to his family, church, service clubs but to the Auglaize County region,” Brady said.

Kuffner and his wife were inspired to give the woods by their passion for keeping the area unchanged. Because the park district’s goal is to preserve land and make it accessible to public, Brady said the gift was a natural choice.

“There’s a couple very significant things about the woodland,” Brady said.

First was that it is the first public woodland in Auglaize County. Previously, if someone needed to go out and do a leaf study, or study wildlife, they needed to know somebody who owned land. The second significant thing is that it’s the first gift of land the district has owned outright.

The woods, named the Dr. Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner Nature Preserve, were named in honor of Kuffner’s mother, and had been in the family a long time.

Kuffner, Brady said, had an active voice in how he and Alma Kuffner wanted the land to be opened to the public.

The land transfer was the first action of probate court in the new courthouse, Brady said.

The last time Brady saw Kuffner, was at Tuesday’s Kiwanis meeting. After seeing the picture of the land transfer in the paper, Brady said he he joked, “Oh, my, didn’t we look good.”

The Kuffners’ park will be developed soon by local volunteers, Scouts, and schools, with the same spirit of volunteerism Kuffner was known for, Brady said. She believes it would be just the kind of project he would have been part of himself.

“That’s who Jack was,” Brady said. “He was a person who wanted to see the place he lived, grew up, and had children in, thrive.”

In addition to funeral services coordinated by family, a moment of memory is planned at 10 a.m. Monday in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court.

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