Dying Man Receives His Last Wish: Temple Endowment

Contributed By Ryan Morgenegg Church News staff writer

  • 3 December 2014

Kevin Kunf, surrounded by his firefighter brothers from the Redlands California Fire Department.  Photo courtesy of Kevin Kunf Sr.

Article Highlights

  • Kevin Kunf was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer at age 23.
  • His dying wish was to receive his temple endowment.
  • With the help of hospice workers and family, Kevin was able to go to the Redlands California Temple.

“At the conclusion of the ceremony, when Kevin was told he was now in the celestial room, he covered his face with his hands and wept. It was obvious to those who were present that he had fully understood all that transpired and that he was overjoyed to be in the house of the Lord.” —Michael Bouse, family friend

YUCAIPA, CALIFORNIA

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, President Jim Wilson reflected this November on the life of Kevin Kunf and his dying wish to visit the temple.

President Wilson, now a member of the Yucaipa California Stake presidency, served as Kevin’s bishop in the Yucaipa 5th Ward.

“Kevin was a miraculous young man, and his desire for the things of God were inspirational. I’m grateful I could be part of his life journey and play a small role in helping him achieve his final wish,” President Wilson said.

Kevin Kunf Jr. was born September 16, 1986, in Yucaipa, California, and lived there his entire life. He was not raised in the Church, but his father taught him to have faith in God, live virtuously, and be willing to serve those around him. Throughout his youth and young adult life, Kevin had many friends who were members of the Church, and when the restored gospel was presented to him by missionaries, he embraced it and was baptized. He was 22 years old.

President Wilson said, “He often felt as if he had finally found a group of like-minded people that shared his values and faith.”

Approximately one year after Kevin’s baptism, he was diagnosed with desmoplastic sarcoma, an extremely rare form of cancer with fewer than 200 reported cases. At the time of his diagnosis, Kevin was in the midst of training to become a firefighter with the Redlands California Fire Department.

His best friend, Danny Urena, said, “Kevin was heaven sent, there is no doubt about that. He was the kind of person that was born to change people’s lives. It was as if he woke up and thought about what he could do for others.”

“The next two and a half years were an endless cycle of doctor visits and managing poor health,” said Michael Bouse, a friend and member of the Upland 3rd Ward, Upland California Stake. “Despite his challenges, Kevin inspired those who came in contact with him with his courage and determination. He didn’t want his illness to control his destiny.”

Hospice workers carried Kevin Kunf from a Redlands hospital ambulance to the Redlands California Temple; temple workers met him in the temple’s foyer and assisted him as he received his endowment. Photo courtesy of Kevin Kunf Sr.

Kevin Kunf during his training to be a firefighter with the Redlands California Fire Department. Kevin died May 18, 2013, at the age of 26. Photo courtesy of Kevin Kunf Sr.

Kevin Kunf’s brothers at the Redlands California Fire Department present him with a coat, badge, helmet, and honorary firefighter certificate. Photo courtesy of Kevin Kunf Sr.

“From the day of his baptism, Kevin had a strong desire to attend the temple,” said President Wilson. “He believed it was God’s command to His children to build holy temples. He felt that these sacred edifices provided a place free from worldly influences where the Lord could reveal to His children many great and important things pertaining to everlasting life.”

Because of his illness, Kevin had to continually postpone his initial visit to the temple. “No matter what challenge got in the way of him reaching his goal, he never lost hope in one day going to the temple to receive the blessings and ordinances that were promised him,” said President Wilson.

With his health declining day by day, Kevin was placed on hospice care at the Redlands Community Hospital in California under the care of Dr. Regan Douty, the hospice medical director.

“During my first meeting with Kevin, he was clearly near the end of his life,” said Dr. Douty, who is not a member of the Church. “As I talked with him, I asked if he had anything else he wanted to accomplish with his time left. … I inquired if he had been endowed in the temple. He had informed me that he was not.”

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, Dr. Douty approached Brother Bouse, his father-in-law, at a baseball game. Dr. Douty explained that Kevin wasn’t doing well and that his final wish was to go through the temple. To help facilitate this, Dr. Douty indicated that his medical hospice team could accompany Kevin in an ambulance from the Redlands Hospital to the Redlands California Temple if Brother Bouse could organize what needed to be done. Brother Bouse and his wife, Theresa, were temple workers at the Redlands California Temple, so they knew exactly what needed to happen. Things were set in motion for Kevin to receive his dying wish. A miracle was about to unfold.

President Darryl Cartozian of the Yucaipa California Stake visited Kevin at his bedside to provide him the needed recommend to enter the temple. Brother and Sister Bouse worked closely with Kevin’s bishop, Jeff Moser from the Yucaipa California 2nd Ward, and with Redlands California Temple President Nolan Kerr to coordinate a temple visit. Even medical personnel from Kevin’s hospice team contributed to help him purchase the temple clothing he needed for his visit.

Due to the help of many people, on Thursday, April 11, 2013, Kevin was able to attend the temple and receive his own endowment in the Redlands California Temple. Sister Bouse, a registered nurse, met the ambulance and hospice medical team in the lobby of the temple and stood by Kevin’s gurney the entire length of the service while the hospice medical team waited outside in case they were needed.

“During the ceremony Kevin was very subdued and quiet,” said Brother Bouse. “Those who knew him well recognized that he was being reverent and respectful as he participated in this sacred event. At the conclusion of the ceremony, when Kevin was told he was now in the celestial room, he covered his face with his hands and wept. It was obvious to those who were present that he had fully understood all that transpired and that he was overjoyed to be in the house of the Lord.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Kevin was wheeled back out to the lobby of the temple to greet friends and family. There was not a single dry eye there, and all who were present felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. Brother Bouse said, “Kevin continued to be overcome with tears of joy, and his family was able to behold how much he loved the Lord and His holy house.”

When the ambulance returned Kevin to the Redlands Hospital, the parking lot was filled with several Redlands County fire trucks and emergency vehicles. As he was wheeled to his room, people in the fire department lined the halls and presented him with a Redlands Fire Department hat, coat, and badge. “It was an incredible day,” said Brother Bouse.

“Kevin surprised everyone with his strength and will to press on,” said Brother Wilson.

“But just over a month after his special day in the temple, on May 18, 2013, he was released from his labors on the earth at the age of 26. His funeral was held at the Yucaipa California Stake Center on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013. The chapel was filled all the way back to the overflow with friends and family. Those who were in attendance will never forget the manifestation of the Spirit of God at that funeral. Kevin’s last wish was granted, and now he could go home.”