"Great men stand like solitary towers in the city of God."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Richard A. Kunsch has been called "Mr. Phoenixville" by many of those who know him best. And though I have only known him for about 16 years, I would agree that "Mr. Phoenixville" fits him well.
We all receive more invitations than we can accept but there are some that come which we cannot decline. That is how I felt when I received the invitation to "The Roast" for Mr. Kunsch sponsored by the Phoenixville Healthcare Access Foundation whose mission is "to improve the health and quality of life in the greater Phoenixville area by helping the residents obtain the healthcare they need."
I must begin by saying that I had never attended a roast before. I do remember years ago watching some on television but I still was not sure what to expect that night. But since it was a fundraiser for a good cause and a good man was being roasted, I decided to go.
The emcees of the evening were "the famous Frees brothers," Robb and Dave. They began the program by giving the definition of a roast, which is an event where an individual is subjected to a public presentation of comedic insults, praise, outlandish true and untrue stories, and heartwarming tributes.
Mr. Kunsch was invited to the front to sit next to the podium while his friends gently shot him with good natured barbs which were more intended to make all of us laugh rather than to make the roasted uncomfortable. And, for the most part, they all succeeded.
As I listened to three roasters who were obviously life-long friends (literally), I realized what a treasure their friendship was. They spoke of high school years and common community projects and service organizations they were all a part of over the years.
Sure they roasted their friend, but Daniel Baer, Don Coppedge and Dave Frees, Jr. (A.K.A. The Three D's), could not help but exude enormous appreciation for the honored guest of the evening. I almost felt like I was on sacred ground as they opened the windows into life in the wonderful Phoenixville community through their eyes.
There is something very special about having lifetime friends. My best lifetime friend is my dear wife, Evie. For over 46 years we have traveled countless miles together through all kinds of weather. The memories are precious indeed.
In addition to the roasts by several other friends, the evening began with Mr. Kunsch's son, Michael, and it closed with his other son, Kurt, taking their moments to roast their father. Kurt summed up their thoughts this way, "Dad, you never told me how to live; you lived and let me watch you do it."
And what a life Mr. Kunsch has had. He was born in the Phoenixville Hospital, educated in the Phoenixville Area School District and has worked his entire adult life at the Phoenixville Federal Bank and Trust. He was a leader in high school and his past and present leadership influence in Phoenixville is too long to list here.
Robb and Dave Frees sprinkled the evening with their own humor and referenced someone who said, "I never killed a man but I have read an obituary with great pleasure."
In his closing remarks, Mr. Kunsch quoted a high school teacher who somewhat minimized the prospects of being born and living one's whole life and eventually dying in Phoenixville. But with deep personal pride and rich appreciation for all who had gathered together that evening, even the roasters, he embraced those prospects for his own life.
James Russell Lowell once said, "A great man is made up of qualities that meet or make great occasions."
Richard A. Kunsch survived the roast. We knew he would because he is not only a great man - he is also a good man.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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