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Keeping in step with the way she lived her life, Karen S. Violetta Kunkel stayed with her motto “To Achieve And Move On” and answered God’s call on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the age of 83 at her home. She was surrounded by family and angels from Lake Superior Hospice and Life Care, and amazing caregivers that never left her side.

Karen was born on March 4, 1934, in Negaunee, Michigan, a daughter of the late Adolph and Fannie (Maki) Violetta. She graduated from Negaunee High School in 1952 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan in 1956. Karen also held a Masters of Arts Degree from Northern Michigan University.

Karen always prided herself with being a professional teacher. Upon graduation from MSU, her teaching and coaching talents landed her a position at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. This position at Carleton was a stepping stone to teaching physical education in large high schools in Michigan at Pontiac Northern, Lansing Everett and Ovid-Elsie. She thrived on classroom challenges by accepting a 3rd and 4th grade combination position and coaching the boys sports program at St. Ann School in Cadillac, MI. early in her marriage to husband, Jack.

When NMU came calling in 1966, she was ready to return to higher education as associate professor in the HPER (Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department), coach of the Women’s Nordic & Alpine Ski programs and served as Associate Athletic Director. Late in her NMU career she prided herself with pioneering the designation of the U.S. Olympic Education / Training Center on campus.

Her love for the classroom carried over into retirement with contracts to teach in the Elderhostel / Road Scholar Programs at Eckard College, Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University. Her topic was “The History of Women in Baseball”. Last but not least, she taught Commercial Truck Driving for the Lester Coggins Trucking Company and was the Director of Training.

Karen is survived by her husband of 57 years, Jack Kunkel, who she married on August 13, 1960 in Negaunee; two sons, Scott (Melanie) Kunkel of Bay Mills, MI and Kit (Angela) Kunkel of Iron River, MI; two grandchildren, Jon Adam Kunkel of Lawrenceville, GA and Kristina Sharon of Gwinn; a sister, Anne Connors and brother, Arlin “Buzzy” (Marie) Violetta, both of Negaunee; nephews Tony and Brett Violetta and niece Lisa Violetta. One sister-in-law, Betty Violetta of Gwinn; nephew, Jay Violetta of Marquette and niece, Lori Violetta of Skandia. Preceding her in death besides her parents was a brother, Al Violetta and nephew Joe Violetta.

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Monday, August 13th at 2 p.m. in St. Christopher Catholic Church with Rev. Greg Heikkala officiating. A luncheon will immediately follow in the church hall.

Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are kindly asked to consider the Marquette-Alger Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 309 S. Front St., Marquette, MI 49855 or to a scholarship to be established in Karen’s name through the NMU Foundation.

The Canale-Tonella Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements where memories may be shared at

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of KAREN S. VIOLETTA KUNKEL, please visit our Tribute Store.

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2:00 PM
St. Christopher Catholic Church

2372 Badger Street
Marquette, MI 49855


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