James C. “Jake” Gunkel was born on November 17, 1926, at home in Jackson County near Eldorado, Oklahoma. He was the eighth child and fourth son born to Fred and Bertha Gunkel. He passed away on January 4, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas at the age of 91 years. He is survived by his wife, Jimmie Lou Nease Gunkel and his children, Roger Gunkel (and his wife Dorothy) of Elk City, OK, Valerie Cofer (and her husband Steve) of Fort Worth, TX, Paul Gunkel (and his wife Dee) of Elk City, OK, Leda Nix (and her husband Doug) of North Africa, and Benjamin Gunkel (and his wife Terri) of Wichita Falls, Texas. He has 15 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by three sisters, Theaola Lynn of Arroyo Grande, CA, Geneva Kirkpatrick of Amarillo, TX, and Ethel Kinberger of Folsom, LA.
James’ life was defined by fierce, unwavering loyalty – to his work, to his family and to his faith.
He worked from a young age, helping on the family farm near Eldorado, Oklahoma. They had a dairy and at the age of seven, one of his older sisters taught him how to milk cows. From that time on, he milked cows with his sisters twice a day, 365 days a year. When he was nine years old, he learned to drive the tractor, helping to plow during the day, while his dad plowed at night. As an adult, he worked for Meads Fine Bread for more than 20 years, starting out running a bread route, then becoming a district supervisor, then being promoted to Sales Manager. Later, he worked for Pepsi – Cola for eight years. He was a hard worker, completely loyal to the companies that he worked for. He taught his children, by word and deed, the value of hard work and the importance of being a good employee, whether you were washing dishes in a local café or stocking groceries at Safeway.
He was loyal to his family, teaching his five children the importance of family. He had a deep respect for his parents and took seriously the command to “honor your parents.” He loved being with his family at reunions and having his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around him. He believed marriage was forever and modeled commitment to marriage and family by his nearly 69 years of marriage to Jimmie Lou.
He was loyal to his faith. At the age of thirteen, at a revival meeting at First Baptist Church of Eldorado, he accepted Jesus as his Savior and gave his life to Him. He was baptized a few days later in Sandy Creek and was active in the Baptist Young People’s Union at the church. He and Jimmie Lou, throughout the years of their marriage, were always active in a local church, first, at Letitia Baptist Church, then Calvary Baptist in Lawton, then at First Baptist in Clinton, then at Central Baptist in Lawton, then Immanuel Baptist in Duncan, and finally at First Baptist of Saginaw, Texas. His understanding of “church” and the role of the church in his life can be seen most clearly in his use of the term, “church home.” He would often ask new people he met if they had a church home. To him and Jimmie Lou, the church was home, a gathering of people who were family to each other and who were committed to each other and to a single purpose. His faithfulness to the church was demonstrated through service and giving. At each of these churches, he served in numerous capacities – as a deacon, chair of deacons, and various committees. He is remembered by many as the person who greeted them, often with a hug, at the door when they entered the building for Sunday morning worship. Others will remember him for his compassion, demonstrated by the many visits he made to people who were sick. And, he gave of his financial resources even though he was never a wealthy man. He and Jimmie Lou gave sacrificially to help build buildings at three of the churches they were a part of. They also believed in and supported mission work around the world by their sacrificial gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering every year.
James will be missed by his family and friends, but they are rejoicing in knowing that his suffering is over and he has been reunited with loved ones who have gone before him, including his parents, three brothers, four of his seven sisters and numerous friends.
The funeral service will be held at Letitia Baptist Church near Lawton on Saturday, January 6 at 2:00pm. Arrangements have been entrusted to Whitt Funeral Home.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Vitas Hospice of Fort Worth or the Letitia Cemetery.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.whittfh.com.