Kurtis A. Tunnell

Kurtis A. Tunnell, 58, of Hilliard, Ohio was tragically killed on August 31, 2019. Kurt passed away at Riverside Hospital after a car collided with his bicycle on Scioto Darby Road in rural Hilliard. He was most reinvigorated when he combined exercise, deep thinking and relaxation with his “nose to the wind” being inspired by the farm landscapes in his early morning rides. Kurt was born to parents, Henry Adair Tunnell and Mary Ellen Laubner Tunnell on October 1, 1960 in North Platte, Nebraska. Kurt learned dedication, determination and perseverance from his family, growing up working from dawn to dusk on his fourth generation Tunnell family farm near Stapleton, Nebraska. As a child, he delivered newspapers, became an Eagle Scout and was Valedictorian at Stapleton High school in 1979. Kurt graduated from Hastings College in 1983 where he was also awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. As a rotary scholar, he obtained his Master's Degree at the University of Toronto before completing Law School at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1987. Kurt married the love of his life, Julie Jones, on August 10, 1985 in Stapleton, Nebraska. They were married 34 wonderful years and have three children, Kristine, Jordan and Jessica. Kurt was a devoted husband, father, and friend. Kurt is survived by his wife, Julie J. Tunnell; and children, Kristine Tunnell Helsper and her spouse Casey Helsper of Jefferson, Colorado; Jordan Tunnell of Hilliard, Ohio; and Jessica Tunnell of Chandler, Arizona. Kurt joined the law firm of Bricker and Eckler where he spent his entire 31-year career. Kurt's devotion and work ethic made an immediate impact at the law firm, and people throughout the community began to notice a budding talent. At the young age of 31, Kurt was tapped by Governor-elect George Voinovich to serve as the Governor's Chief Legal Counsel. His distinguished service to Ohio began with Governor Voinovich and continued through the years in all facets of Ohio government serving Ohio governor's, Attorney General's, members of the Ohio General Assembly, Congressional Leaders, and President George W. Bush when Kurt served as his Ohio counsel during and after the 2004 presidential campaign. Kurt gave selflessly of his time and talents to elected officials of both parties, clients, and friends always believing that we serve others best when we seek to serve something greater than ourselves. At Bricker and Eckler, Kurt built a practice that centered on the intersection of public policy and politics. He helped spearhead advocacy efforts which established Ohio as a national leader in comprehensive tort reform initiatives. Kurt led legislative programs that have reduced and broadened the insurance premium tax, applied Ohio's tax abatement law to all electric generation facilities, eliminated the tax on prescription pharmaceutical samples and maintained the interests of nonprofit hospitals He assisted in the development of a coalition of advanced energy companies, including solar, wind and biomass business, to advocate adoption of a renewable energy portfolio standard in Ohio. His capstone role was Leading the third largest firm in Columbus, Ohio as the Managing Partner of Bricker & Eckler. His calm, reassuring spirit was combined with a sharp, analytical intellect as he facilitated the strategic and operational direction of this major Ohio law firm, Kurt established a leadership program within the firm to grow its leadership capacity and provide opportunities for young partners and senior associates to make early contributions to the firm. He was a passionate advocate for and a leader of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession. Kurt lived his life humbly dedicated to serving those around him. His calm, reassuring spirit was combined with a sharp, insightful intellect. These ingredients led Kurt to becoming a trusted advisor to Governors, Senators, business leaders, law partners, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, and family members. A serious thinker, focused strategic leader and a devout person of faith, Kurt also possessed an incredible sense of humor and a wonderfully warm and welcoming smile – a great conversationalist who enjoyed a hearty laugh. He will be missed as a mentor to others for his calm guiding wisdom, especially his ability to tell others what they needed to hear in a critical moment. He enjoyed connecting people to achieve a common goal and supporting others to live out their passions. His faith being the center of his life, he was very involved at Northwest Bible Church serving as a deacon, and on many community boards, and foundations. He retired from the practice of law in January 2018, in order to pursue a “second half” dedicated to serving and furthering God's kingdom. During this brief retirement, he spent time hiking the Colorado trail with his daughter, Kristine, visiting his daughter Jessica and supporting her missionary role in San Pedro, Dominican Republic, and encouraging his son, Jordan, in his engineering job at Honda. Kurt traveled to Africa this summer on safari with his beloved family, which included a week at the Namikango Farm in Malawi, Africa. Kurt also gave generously of his time and talents by consulting on political races and issues, uplifting charities and guiding their leaders in serving others. In addition to his law career, leadership development and diversity initiatives, one of his greatest joys grew out of assisting in the creation and development of a self-sustainable farm business model in Malawi, that will continue to provide jobs for Malawi workers and their families a hope for their future in addition to being a demonstration site for local Malawi farmers, and other international charity efforts in Africa. You are invited to join his family for the viewing at SCHOEDINGER NORTHWEST CHAPEL, 1740 Zollinger Road, Columbus, Ohio 43221 on Wednesday, September 4 from 3-7pm or for our Celebration of Life ceremony at Northwest Bible Church, 6639 Scioto Darby Road, Hilliard, Ohio 43026 on Thursday, September 5 at 1 pm. He will be buried at the McCain Cemetery next to his parents in Stapleton, Nebraska. A local celebration will be held at the Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Saturday, September 7th at 2pm. A memorial foundation is being established to continue Kurt's legacy of servant leadership, diversity and inclusion, and to further assist the Kurt Tunnell Leadership Development Program at Bricker & Eckler. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to either of the following memorials:
The Namikango farm in Malawi, Africa in care of the Malawi Talent fund. Or to the Kurt Tunnell Servant Leadership Memorial Foundation in c/o of the Tunnell Leadership Development Program at Bricker & Eckler LLP. He cared deeply and passionately for others and worked every single day to provide a path for success to nearly everyone he interacted with. He was the consummate servant leader. He was genuine and forthright in all things and Kurt described a servant leader in the following quote. “Leadership is a climb; learn from fellow travelers the art of being a servant leader.” – Kurtis A. Tunnell, 2018. Please visit to share memories and condolences.