Leaders remember 'true friend' of region

Nolan 'Skip' Kuker

A former Logansport leader who lost his battle to cancer on Sunday is being remembered for his work ethic, enthusiasm and strength.

Nolan Eugene "Skip" Kuker, 55, passed away in Greenfield on Jan. 6, Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell announced in a press release.

From 2004 to 2012, Kuker was president of the Logansport-Cass Economic Development Foundation, now the Cass-Logansport Economic Development Organization. He also served on Logansport City Council along with the city's board of public works and safety and utility service board.

In 2012, Kuker became the economic development director for Hancock County, just east of Indianapolis.

“Logansport has lost a true friend, and many Logansport people have lost a true friend who they have cheered on throughout his fight,” Kitchell said in the release. “Skip always ended his speeches by saying he loved his family and his job, and people loved him because he had a sense of purpose and a sense of humor to match.

"Skip met the love of his life and began the career he loved in Logansport," Kitchell continued, "and ours was a community that was always a home to Skip because of how his life pivoted to a new level. Logansport was never a stepping stone for him; it was a cornerstone.”

Kitchell added his condolences to Kuker's wife, Ellen, and daughter, Jordan.

“Our hearts are full for them, and many of us have prayed for their family for several years because we were fortunate to have someone who was so pro Logansport,” Kitchell said. “Even though he left Logansport for a new opportunity, he was never out of sight and out of mind, and vice versa. He will be missed, but fondly remembered by those who knew him.”

Mike Fincher was Logansport's mayor when Kuker took the helm at the Logansport-Cass Economic Development Foundation and was part of the selection committee that chose him.

"Skip was new, energetic, had a lot of good ideas and not afraid to work and that was something that we needed — something to bring a new perspective to Logansport," Fincher said.

Kuker loved the city, Fincher went on to say.

"You could just tell when he talked about it," he said. "It was his new home."

Fincher recalled how Kuker instituted the city's foreign exchange trips and said he was instrumental in bringing Walmart and the nearby strip mall along with the Holiday Inn Express to town.

"He really worked to promote Logansport any way he could," Fincher said. "He really grew into the position. He was honest-to-goodness dedicated and loyal to the community and he just loved Logansport."

Kuker made an impact on people whether they knew him or not, Fincher continued.

"The number of people that never knew Skip and was impacted by him is phenomenal and the ones that did know him loved him and he was a great individual," he said.

Fincher went on to call Kuker "the strongest person I've ever met," citing his battle with throat cancer and how open he was toward his feelings about it on social media after being diagnosed several years ago.

"I think that helped so many people that were going through the same thing," Fincher said. "I just always loved the guy and became even more impressed with him during that time. I think he was just an inspiration to so many people during that illness."

At Monday's Cass County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Ralph Anderson called Kuker "a good friend of Cass County's and the city of Logansport."

Anderson remembered Kuker's involvement in the Ind. 25 Hoosier Heartland Highway through Cass County south of Logansport, bringing Trine University and Ivy Tech Community College to Logansport and combining the city's and county's economic development efforts.

Kuker "did a lot for this community," "will be missed" and "we certainly appreciate what he's done for the community and the city of Logansport," Anderson said.

Kuker's passion for economic development followed him to Hancock County, according to those who worked with him there.

Steve Long, a Hancock Economic Development Council member and past president, came to Hancock County about five years ago after working in economic development in several different communities.

"Skip was the best economic development professional I have ever known," Long said.

Long credited Kuker with bringing thousands of jobs and a couple dozen businesses to Hancock County that have had a multi-million-dollar impact on the area.

Michael Fruth, president of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said Kuker "epitomized the term of servant leader."

Kuker was "extremely enthusiastic" about selling the community to prospective industries and businesses along with reaching out to and helping existing ones, Fruth continued.

"He set a great example for many of us others to follow," Fruth said.

That devotion and commitment persevered after receiving his terminal diagnosis, Fruth went on to say.

"He made every day count working for Hancock County," he said.

Kuker passed away less than a week after retiring on Dec. 31, 2018.

"I think that's what Skip wanted," Fruth said. "Skip wanted to work and continue to go full-speed ahead as long as his body would allow him to do so... Hancock County will never be the same as a result of his efforts and the sacrifices he made and the work that he did here."

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130.

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