Mary Kinder

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mary Frances Hunter Kinder, a lifelong Cape Girardeau resident and a member of one of Southeast Missouri's oldest families, died Friday, Jan. 4, 2008, at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

She was born June 17, 1926, in Benton, Mo., at the family home on what was then known as Hunter Hill, the youngest of five children born to William Joseph and Ida May Wise Hunter.

The family moved to Cape Girardeau when she was 4 months old, and her primary education followed at the old Training School on the campus of Southeast Missouri State Teachers College. In 1943 she graduated from Cape Central High School at the age of 16 and proceeded on to Christian College in Columbia, Mo., for a two-year degree. From there she went on to the University of Maryland, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and earned a B.A. degree in 1947.

A highlight of these years was a double date she shared with Margaret Truman. Arriving at the White House to join Miss Truman before meeting the young soldiers who were their dates for the evening, Truman said, "Daddy wants to meet you." In due course the elevator doors opened and out stepped a smiling, immaculately dressed president of the United States for a brief but friendly chat with a star-struck young lady from Southeast Missouri.

Upon graduation, Miss Hunter returned to Cape and took a job working for Dean Forrest Rose on the campus at Southeast. In early 1948, she met Dr. James A. Kinder Jr., a local pediatrician newly practicing here, and, like her, a fifth-generation Southeast Missourian. They were married at her family home on North Park Avenue on Oct. 30, 1948. Four sons were born to this union: James A. III (Rosie), of Cairo, Ill.; Frank M. (Lori Ann) of Cape Girardeau; Peter D. of Cape Girardeau; and Dr. Mark H. (Barbara) of Cape Girardeau, major, USAF Reserve.

A lifelong passion was the study, performance and encouragement of music. As a student Mrs. Kinder played the cello in the orchestra and mastered the piano, which gave her lifelong pleasure. It was as a soprano, however, that she is probably best known in the region. From girlhood she sang in public as a soloist, in duets, trios and quartets, as well as with numerous choirs. She was a member of the old Cape Choraliers, traveling with them to sing at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962. For decades Mrs. Kinder worked as a volunteer with the old Community Concerts Association and served as its president. Her passion for music, both classical and popular, made her an enthusiastic supporter of the new River Campus at Southeast, the dedication ceremony for which she proudly attended last October.

Mrs. Kinder achieved a small measure of local fame in her 50 years of singing duets with her dear friend, the late Millie Limbaugh. Whether it was a summer's evening concert with the Municipal Band in Capaha Park or an appearance on the old Breakfast Show on KFVS-TV, the Limbaugh-Kinder duets ran the gamut: from sacred music all the way to hilarious, comic numbers they belted out with selected teeth blacked, dressed in bobby sox while holding a mop and bucket.

Other civic endeavors included membership in the Nancy Hunter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the GF Chapter of the PEO sisterhood, as well as service on the board of the Trust for Preservation of the Missouri Governor's Mansion. In 1987 Mrs. Kinder joined with her friend, the late Frances Blankenship, as founding co-chairwomen of the first annual Cape Girardeau Cancer Gala. Her regal grace and beauty commended her as a model, and she was frequently in demand for local stores such as Hecht's, and for charitable causes such as the Zonta Fashion Show.

Mrs. Kinder was an active member of the Cape Girardeau County Medical Auxiliary (now Alliance) during the 52 years of her husband's practice, tirelessly supporting him in his wide-ranging professional endeavors. This support included hosting promising young physicians on countless occasions, in a frequently successful effort to recruit new specialties to Cape's small but growing medical community.

Throughout her life Mrs. Kinder worked extremely hard at the culinary arts, mastering the challenges and nuances of her old, mostly Southern family recipes all the way to gourmet feasts for two or 200. Never one to hire a caterer, she poured herself into the work of entertaining with a thoroughgoing delight and was never happier than when entertaining dozens of family and friends of all ages in the family home north of town. A common end to a dinner party in the Kinder household could find her singing and playing for the entertainment of her guests. Few are those who can compare with her as a generous, thoughtful and gracious hostess.

A lifelong member of Centenary United Methodist Church, she was active in all its affairs and sang in the Chancel Choir for 60 years.

Survivors include her four sons and nine grandchildren.

Mrs. Kinder was preceded in death by her husband, her parents and all her siblings, including her only brother, Will Jr., an Army Air Corps B-24 pilot who died in 1944.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Centenary United Methodist Church.

The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Centenary United Methodist Church, with the Rev. Jeff Long officiating.

The family requests that memorials take the form of contributions in her name to Centenary Church or to the River Campus at Southeast Missouri State University.

Ford and Sons Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.