Tryon - With sadness for our loss and rejoicing for his eternal life, we announce the passing of our beloved Dad, husband, grandfather, brother, and true confidant, Ralph Kuether.
On July 6, 2022, Reverend Ralph David Kuether, 82, passed peacefully in his sleep, in the house he, his father, and his son built, with a daughter and a caregiver by his side. Our family’s rock and treasured son, brother, uncle and cousin, Ralph David was born June 21, 1940 in Gallipolis OH to parents Reverend Ralph Leslie and Christine Marie Deters Kuether. He is survived by his wife of 62 years - Penny Mae Humboldt Kuether.
Ralph attended Elmhurst College, graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a B.A. in two majors, Sociology and English Language and two minors Psychology and English Literature. He was active in collegiate choirs and glee clubs and has melted hearts with his baritone voice lifting up praise through song. He attended Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri, assumed his first pastorate in 1964 and was ordained in 1965, graduating seminary in 1966 with Penny and first child, David Mark by his side.
It was the purpose of his life to use what God-given abilities he possessed in service to others.
Ralph was ecumenically-minded, finding every human being a child of God to be loved and whose life is to be respected, and if hurting, restored. He loved to live united and to create uniting opportunities for people to come together in community: local, national, and out in the world. His passion-populations are our most vulnerable people: the young and the old.
He and Penny’s first call to serve was as house parents for a juvenile delinquency home in Minnesota. Soon after, his first full-time pastorship at UCC in Hutchinson, MN is where Ralph organized the opening of a preschool center as well as serving as chairman of the board for the Hutchinson Senior Citizens Center. Church service took Ralph and Penny out into the world in the early years helping his brother, a missionary pastor and field coordinator in Honduras, to more recent years as a ship chaplain on various cruise lines.
His children are son David Mark (Anna Marie), Bluffton, SC, daughter Carol Lynn, Tryon/Fort Lauderdale, FL, and daughter Christine Kuether (Matthew), Goodyear, AZ.
His grandchildren are LaSae Nikole, Spartanburg, SC Samantha M, Bluffton, SC, Cole Stewart, Kennett Square, PA, Bronwyn Siobhan, Denver, NC and Reagan Alexandra, Goodyear, AZ
He has one beloved older brother Reverend Gustav Kuether and sister-in-law Sue Kuether, Shiloh, IL
Surviving nephew is Scott Kuether (Sandy), Glen Carbon, IL. Nieces are Lynda Kuether (Jen), Carbondale, IL, Lori Shultz (John), Elgin, IL and Tawnya Humboldt Femrite of Minnesota.
Grand nieces and nephews: Brittany Kuether – Worden, IL, Emily Kuether, Edwardsville, IL, Mathew, William, and Amanda Schultz – Elgin, IL
Ralph loved to sing! He loved to spend time with family camping, gardening, cooking, and drafting designs for his home and his commercial building. He enjoyed designing newsletters and other printing projects. During the pandemic, he created and published a weekly comic newsletter with uplifting messages for residents in his community.
The churches Ralph served over 50 years include First Congregational U.C.C. Hutchinson, MN, (‘67-’70), St. John's U.C.C., Minneapolis, MN, (‘70-’73), Parkway U.C.C. Minneapolis, MN, (merger with St. John’s) St. Peter's U.C.C. Stillwater, MN (‘73-’80), First Congregational Church, Asheville, NC (‘81-’83) First Congregational U.C.C., Hendersonville, NC (83), Columbus Presbyterian Church, (PCUSA) (84-89) Tryon Estates, Chaplain (‘93-2014). He served as guest pastor and chaplain in diverse settings including The Congregational Church, Tryon, Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, Tryon Presbyterian Church, White Oak Sunday Vespers and Orchard Lake Campground, Saluda, NC, where he and Penny were the campground’s (under various ownerships) longest continually residing seasonal residents.
Ralph also served out his faith in several business settings including as Co-Founder/Executive Director, ForLIFE, Inc. (‘75-’90), Minneapolis, MN and Owner/Operator M.A. Religious Designs & Printing, Inc. (‘1970-2020).
Ralph and Penny adopted, fostered, pastored, counseled and opened their home to care for and serve others who were in urgent need of housing and other forms of Christian love. They were active in the civil rights movements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., having traveled to meet the pastor and participate in well-known civil rights marches in the South. They dedicated their lives to respecting the life of every human being as worthy of protection, care, and love.
Local community organizations in which Ralph served as board officer, member, or other service involvement include Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries, Thermal Belt Friendship Council centered of building healthy race relations in Polk County and beyond, Thermal Belt Community Choir, Polk County Schools, Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, Habitat for Humanity, Steps to HOPE, Manna Cabanna, The Community’s Kitchen, and White Oak Manor of Tryon.
Our father had a wonderful sense of humor! Through lifelong illness, he kept a levity of spirit, and his optimism was infectious. He also died as he lived: patiently, kindly, faithfully, and gracefully sharing lessons in love all along the way.
His very presence ushered in God’s grace.
On Saturday, August 20, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. we invite friends of Ralph to A Celebration of Life to worship with his family and his church congregation, Tryon Presbyterian Church with Rev. Allan Purtill. Please join us to both grieve and to joyfully share memories on this day.
Donations may be made to The Ralph D. Kuether Memorial Fund and will be distributed in the name of his ministry to serve the vulnerable in our community, especially our youth and our elders. For checks, mail to HomeTrust Bank, 341 North Trade Street, Tryon, NC 28782. For online banking, find it in the business name of the fund and then enter firstname.lastname@example.org.