Kim McDowell

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kim Kurka McDowell, 58, of Cape Girardeau passed away Friday, Oct. 1, 2010.

She was a woman of beautiful spiritual belief who loved her husband, her family, her pets, friends and everyone she worked with.

Battling cancer for nearly two years primarily through faith, she was private about her health as she didn't want others to worry about her. On more than one occasion she said: "I have no fear about the future. God is love -- all-encompassing and all-good. Nothing is by accident."

Born Sept. 9, 1952, in Cape Girardeau, she was the daughter of Jere "Jerry" Emil Kurka and Virginia Jane Smith Kurka Frenzel. She and Terry William McDowell were married July 6, 1984.

She was a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist in Cape Girardeau and its Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston. She studied for a master's degree in divinity at Andover Newton School of Theology and attained the status of Christian Science practitioner. She was a longtime Reader, leading worship services at the church in Cape Girardeau, which she and her husband also helped maintain, often serving as organist and music leaders as well. She devoted considerable time to helping others through life challenges.

She was a 1970 graduate of Central High School and a 1974 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in marketing management.

After graduating from college, she backpacked across Europe, and taught high school for a year in the Parkway School District in St. Louis County. She worked in marketing at Colonial Federal Savings and Loan in Cape Girardeau before moving to San Jose, Calif., where she worked as an administrator and instructor at Twelve Acres, a boarding school for the developmentally disabled.

She developed a network of friends along each step of the journey who oftentimes found themselves remembered over the years through the names of her many pets.

Returning to Cape Girardeau, she helped found Tipoff magazine, the longtime tourist publication distributed throughout Southeast Missouri, and began working for Concord Publishing House and the Southeast Missourian, eventually rising to the position of assistant to the publisher and then director of human resources for Rust Communications, a family-owned media company encompassing more than 50 newspapers in eight states.

Besides managing HR, she led health and property insurance negotiations for the company. She was proud of her certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Society of Human Resource Management.

She was also head of the Southeast Missourian's social committee, and along with committee members and her husband helped turn every company gathering into a sparkling and inclusive affair. She was the newspaper contact for many local charitable organizations and not-for-profits, and over the years she served on numerous community boards of directors, including the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, United Way, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, Old Town Cape, the Community Concert Association and Business and Professional Women. She was a past chairwoman of Art in Bloom with her garden club, and was a founding member of the City of Roses Music Festival and helped found and lead the Youth Education Learning and Literacy (YELL) Foundation. She served on the board of directors of the Village Retirement Community in Springdale, Ark.

Among her favorite responsibilities was liaison with the newspaper's various adopt-a-schools and the annual Southeast Missouri Science Fair, which she helped coordinate for more than 25 years, a love of science perhaps sparked by her own award-winning "Tornado" science project as a high school student. She also coordinated Christmas for the Elderly and Toybox for more than two decades, working with the Jaycees and others in providing Christmas cheer for those in need.

Although she never had children of her own, from a young age she helped take care of children. When her father and sister died before she was a teenager, she and her mother moved in with her sister's family and became like a big sister to all the kids in the house. Later, she was a favorite aunt to her more than 30 nieces and nephews (and great-nieces and nephews). Among her activities with children were trips for corn dogs, ice cream, feeding the ducks, walking the dogs, live music and theatrical performances at the Fox in St. Louis and the River Campus in Cape Girardeau, and shopping. She always fulfilled a child's fantasy about magical aunts: complete with her own secret garden just for the kids, and boxes full of toys.

She instilled daring, creativity, independence and kindness within her broad family. In the last year, she became a financial contributor with her husband to the Discovery Playhouse Children's Museum in Cape Girardeau.

She was not always, however, much of a cook, and at one point she was proud not to have made a home-cooked meal outside of a microwave for several years. This changed later, and her tea parties and dinners became renowned for delicious and creative cuisine.

Courageous, spirited and always upbeat, she was quick to join in the singing of patriotic songs or childhood ditties, lead hymns on the piano or otherwise get a group engaged in having a good time. She also never failed to make a statement with her clothing, which was always classy and usually brightly colored. In the office, she was known for often wearing an ID badge with photos of her taken in costumes during Halloween. Her favorite: Cleopatra.

She loved her mother, who preceded her in death, dearly and rarely missed spending time with her each day. And she adored her husband, who was her true love and life partner.

She is survived by her husband; mother-in-law, Ina JoAnn Hanners McDowell; sisters, Wendy Kurka Rust and Wendy's husband, Gary Wayne, and Joy Kurka Gilbert and her husband, Gary Kenneth "Sonny," all of Cape Girardeau.

Nieces and nephews on Wendy's side are Penny Rochelle Rust Terry and her husband Alan of Pinehurst, N.C., Gary Wayne Rust II and his wife Suzuyo of Chesterfield, Mo., Holly Rust Payne and her husband Richmond of Hoffman Estates, Ill., Wynn Bradford Rust and his wife Kimberly of Chapel Hill, N.C., Jon Kurka Rust and his wife Victoria of Cape Girardeau, and Rex Dearmont Rust and his wife Sherry of Cape Girardeau.

Great-nieces and nephews are Alex Benjamin and Katherine Marie Terry; Julia Misaki and Sho Thomas Rust; Reagan Jane, Robyn and Morgan Payne; Erik Rockford, Rachel Ann, Rebekah Kristina and Sarah Elizabeth Rust; and Yuliana Kurka and Ekaterina Ava Rust.

Nieces and nephews on Joy's side are Kenneth Dean Gilbert and his wife Margaret of St. Joseph, Mo., Gay Gilbert Pilsner and her husband Robert of Cape Girardeau, and Julie Gilbert Becker and her husband Ken of Poplar Bluff, Mo. Great-nieces and nephews are Sunny Deshay and Katie Michelle Gilbert; Arthur Blake, Heidi, Alex Wayne, Haley and Hannah Pilsner; and Erika, Alison, Luke Spencer and Connor Reece Becker.

Kim was preceded in death by her parents, sister Sally and niece Robin.

She will be missed by many, but her family knows her spirit soars in a beautiful place, whole and perfect with God.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Chapel.

A private memorial service will be held at a later date.

Memorials may be sent to First Church of Christ, Scientist, 215 N. West End Blvd., Cape Girardeau, MO 63701, or to the Discovery Playhouse Children's Museum, 502 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.

Online condolences may be made at www.fordandsonsfuneralhome.com.