By Dennis Morgan
From the time he was a small boy, Gerhard “Jerry” Tunink was fascinated with building. Together, he and his wife Amelita “Lita”, operated Tunink Construction Co. for over 40 years.
They were fixtures of the community, contributing monetarily and in service whenever and wherever needed.
Today, Thursday, the Tunink Trust gave Elgin and Antelope County one more reason to be grateful for their contributions as gifts of $1,704,690 were awarded in endowments.
Receiving gifts were:
• St. Boniface Catholic Church — $713,343
• Elgin Community Fund — $495,674
• Knights of Columbus — $165,225
• Antelope Memorial Hospital (AMH) — $115,657
• Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) — $82,612
• American Legion Post — $82,612
Also designated as a beneficiary was Yvonne Heithoff. “You were very special to Amelita,” Sandy Kester said to Lita’s sister, Yvonne, who was brought to the presentation by her sister, Lorene Stuhr.
Columbus attorney Jim Fehringer, joined by trustee Sandy Kester, made the check presentations during a brief ceremony held in the basement of St. Boniface Catholic Church. Mrs. Kester said the trust was established in 1995 as a means for the Tuninks to give back.
“It’s important for the community to be aware of what the Tuninks have provided to them,” Fehringer said during his brief remarks. “I’ve known them professionally for some time. They were always such sincere, well-minded people who thought a lot of Elgin and Antelope County.”
Elgin Community Foundation
The amount given to the Elgin Community Fund will, according to ECF President Todd Heithoff, be used for improvements to be made to the Elgin Swimming Pool. The gift is estimated to cover approximately one-third of the cost for renovation of the pool. A bond election will be held on November 10 in Elgin for up to $500,000, with the remainder to be raised through other means.
Mrs. Kester said the Tuninks had so many fond memories of the park and the pool which their daughter Jeannie loved so much.
“If you don’t have something to attract people back to the community, you’ll have a hard time keeping young families here,” Fehringer said about the pool.
“The future of Elgin maybe has some springboard now to have available to the families.”
“We can’t thank you guys enough,” Heithoff. Hopefully, this will get the whole community on board with the project,” Heithoff added. Present to accept the check, along with Heithoff, was Elgin swimming pool committee member Michael Moser.
Antelope Memorial Hospital
AMH Administrator Jack Green said the gift would go towards remodeling efforts at the hospital.
Mrs. Kester said the Tuninks were grateful for the medical service provided through the years, both with their children and, later in life, the Tuninks. “AMH was their ‘go to’ for help,” Mrs. Kester said. “Dr. Peetz was always very, very good to them.”
St. Boniface Catholic Church
St. Boniface Church was their extended family, Kester said. “They (the Tuninks) were very faithful people,” Kester said while making the check presentation to Father Ross Burkhalter.
“They were very, very good to the church,” said Michele Reicks, who joined Fr. Burkhalter at the presentation. “Not just in money, but giving their time.”
“Their heart was always St. Boniface,” Mrs. Kester said.
Fr. Burkhalter said the gift “insures their presence still” in the church and school. A percentage of the money will go to church renovation/improvements, St. Boniface Parish Endowment, St. Boniface School Endowment and also to St. Boniface Cemetery.
VFW and American Legion
LeRoy Kerkman accepted the check on behalf of the VFW.
“Jerry was very, very loyal to the veterans,” Mrs. Kester, noting how he was very passionate to the Wounded Warriors.”
Legion Commander Gary Hoefer was presented the gift to the local Legion Post.
“I was glad that he, Al Schrage and Ray Dinslage got to go on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.,” Hoefer said about the World War II Veterans. “It meant a lot to those guys.”
Knights of Columbus
“The KC Hall was Jerry’s baby,” Mrs. Kester said in presenting the check to Grand Knight Jerry Heithoff. Tunink, who served as the KC’s treasurer for 25 years, was instrumental in the remodeling of the kitchen. “It (the kitchen) was his pride and joy … He was very proud.”
In accepting the gift, Jerry thanked her “for carrying out Jerry and Amelita’s wishes … Jerry’s heart was really in the community,” Heithoff said.
“He’s still building.”
Read more about the Tuninks and their love for Elgin in the next issue of The Elgin Review.
By Dennis Morgan