Devin Kunich: “He was a character in life”
Devin Kunich of Kenosha is being remembered by his parents, Gary and Ruth Kunich of Kenosha, as a person who loved to make people laugh, loved to act, a big fan of the color pink and “a character in life.”
Devin Kunich died after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle along Highway H in Pleasant Prairie very early Sunday morning. The driver of the car, Quashae D. Taylor, 18, of Kenosha, told police that she had her eyes closed at the time of the crash and also said that she received a cell phone call at about the same time. She made an initial court appearance Monday and has been charged with homicide by negligent operation/vehicle, according to online court records.
I spoke with Gary and Ruth Kunich today. Following are some of their thoughts about their son:
Devin had not always had a smooth go of it. But, of late, he found what was going to be his first real apartment. He had found work at the Bristol Renaissance Faire for the last three years that he loved. And he was taking college courses. “He had so many struggles that he went through, but he had taken so many positive steps recently, I think we’re comforted by that,” Gary said.
The Renaissance Faire job was something he had worked into through friends. By all accounts, he relished his role as the captain of the Black Swan, a swing ride. Recently, supplied with some free tickets from Devin, Gary and Ruth were able to see Devin in action at the Faire in his character. Gary called it a memory that will stay with him for his whole life. “We were just getting into it and joking around.” Ruth related that Devin recently was hurt at the Faire when he snatched away a boy who had wandered into the path of the swing. Instead, the swing brushed Devin, but he saved the youngster from serious injury. “He was so proud of himself,” Ruth said. Devin also worked as a Christmas elf in the winter. “He was an actor, he just never studied it,” Ruth said, “but he was a character in real life.”
Ruth and Gary attended Taylor’s initial court appearance Monday. Ruth said she needed to go, to hear the details of what happened Sunday morning. “I wanted to know the details. I needed to know what happened,” Ruth said. She said she didn’t know how she would feel about the defendant. But when she heard testimony about the circumstances and about Taylor’s volunteer work, she found herself feeling sorry for Taylor. “She was just a kid,” Ruth said. “I just started crying for her.” After the hearing, the families ended up meeting and ultimately embracing. “All I could say was I’m praying for you, too,” Ruth said. After that experience and reflecting, Ruth and Gary on Monday said they do not want to see Taylor serve extensive jail time. “I forgive her,” Ruth said. “It’s a three-second error. I don’t want her life ruined.” Added Gary: “If she was drunk, if she was on drugs, that would be a different thing. She didn’t have so much as a parking ticket, they say…” Added Ruth: “She’s a stand-up person; she made a mistake.”
One of Devin’s unusual interests was the color pink. Lately, he had taken to wearing pink more often. Just last Wednesday, he had told his mother as they shared their weekly breakfast get-together, that he could use another pink shirt. “He said he needed more pink in his life,” Ruth said. Gary and Ruth have decided to celebrate this at Devin’s funeral by asking people to wear pink. Even the family’s pastor has agreed to comply.”He would just think it was the funniest thing in the world that people would wear pink to his funeral,” Ruth said. (An obituary with funeral and visitation arrangements are available here.)
With neither Ruth nor Gary being from the Kenosha area originally, they do not have family nearby. But friends and neighbors have really stepped up to fill the gap or just say a few kind words. “Just those simple things mean the world to me personally,” Gary said. Devin’s friends have created a memorial to him on Facebook. “He made it easy to love him, that’s what his friends are saying about him,” Ruth said.
The loss of their son is gut-wrenching, but if there is any lesson to be learned from the circumstances, Ruth and Gary said they feel this is it: Don’t be distracted by your cellphone while driving. “Put your cellphones down,” Gary said. “I will never look at my cellphone in the car again. I will turn it off.” Said Ruth: “I just don’t want people to use their cellphones while driving. I think I’m going to get active on that cause. There’s no phone call that’s so important that it could take someone’s life.”