Area residents mourn loss of community leader Bill Hunkler

Special to The Enterprise

Residents of Barnesville and the Belmont County educational community are mourning the loss of Bill Hunkler, a community leader who died on Jan. 24 at his home south of town surrounded by his family. His passing came just days after his 71st birthday.

Hunkler was born in Barnesville on Jan. 18, 1950, to Mancel and Virginia (Bailey) Hunkler, a son in a large, close family. A graduate of Barnesville High School class of 1968, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University before launching into a long career with Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

One of the original 1981 founders of the local Barnesville Thrift Store and Food Pantry (formerly St Vincent), Hunkler served as chairman of the board for over 30 years. In 2016, he led efforts to build a permanent site for the organization that resulted in the current South Gardner Street facility that opened in February 2018.

An advocate for public education, Hunkler represented western Belmont County on the Board of Trustees for Belmont College from 2004-20. Prior to that, he served on the Barnesville Exempted Village School Board and represented the district on the Belmont-Harrison Joint Vocational School Board.

Bill Hunkler

A member and past president of Barnesville Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, he was also active in the Assumption Catholic Church where he served as a CCD teacher for 25 years as well as a lector and Eucharistic minister. A Memorial Mass was held on Jan. 27 at the church for family and friends. He donated his body to the West Virginia University Human Registry

He descended from the Hunkler Brothers who came to Barnesville from Miltonsburg in the 19th century. Here, they opened a bakery and restaurant on Arch Street that was open to all races during the Jim Crow era. On his mother's side, his Quaker ancestors were also active in social causes. It is appropriate that the family asked that memorial contributions be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, or Hospice of Guernsey that assisted Hunkler in his final weeks of life.

Survivors include his wife, Alice Reed Hunkler; four children; six grandchildren; and seven siblings.