Barbara McElroy Kunkler

August 12, 1929January 3, 2021

Barbara Hole McElroy Kunkler, age 91 of Indianapolis, Indiana passed away peacefully on January 3, 2021. As a devout Catholic, her family is comforted knowing that she has been brought home to Jesus Christ. Barbara was the very first girl born at Ball Hospital in Muncie, Indiana on August 12, 1929 and was the daughter to proud parents Clarence and Edna Jones Hole. She graduated from Lafayette Jeff High School in Lafayette, Indiana. She was an esteemed graduate from the Indiana University School of Nursing in 1951. Barbara married Joseph McElroy in 1954 and raised two children in Indianapolis while beginning her career as a Registered Nurse at the Indiana University Medical Center. There she worked in the ER, patient wards and clinics, and became RN Manager for the first Neuro-surgical ICU in the country. Eventually, Barbara moved to the administrative branch of the IU Medical Center where she had an illustrious career as an Associate Hospital Administrator and Director of Physician Relations. With such a busy work life, she managed to never miss any of her children’s concerts or sporting events. She retired in 1994 after 35 years of service. Barbara continued to serve as a member of the IU advisory board, the IU Executive Council, the president of the IU Alumni Association and Visiting Nurses Association of Indiana, and various other boards that supported Indiana University. Barbara and Joe had an active social life with many friends. They loved the holidays, music, Oreos, and early morning doughnuts with their grandchildren.

After the passing of Joe in 1996, Barbara began a new chapter in her life when she married Dr. Arnold Kunkler in 2004. Together they led an active life filled with travel and gatherings with their large extended family. They loved the IU Hoosiers, road trips, and the Colts.

Due to her service and success in her nursing career, Barbara became one of the IU School of Nursing’s 100 Alumni Legacy Leaders. She and her husband Arnold Kunkler were among the lead donors to the Simulation Center for Nursing Education and they generously contributed to several student scholarships. Barbara was presented with several awards for her esteemed service to the IU medical community in Indiana: The Gertrude Rich award (2001), IUAA President’s Award (2010), the IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2011), the IUPUI Special Recognition Award (2015), Business Woman of the Year awarded by former Mayor Hudnut, and the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash awarded by former Governor Evan Bayh on behalf of the State of Indiana.

Barbara was a gifted musician and a longtime church organist for St. Pius X Church. In her later years, she dazzled us all on family trips with her ability to play any tune requested of her on the piano. Her fried chicken recipe was second to none. Barbara believed in education, science and the power of medicine. She believed in community service and was former President of the Washington Township School Board. Dedicated to the empowerment of women through education, she joined and served as past President of the Soroptimist International Chapter of Indiana. She was a role model to her family and inspired them all to pave their way successfully in the world.

Barbara was predeceased by her first husband Joseph McElroy, her second husband Dr. Arnold Kunkler, and her brother Merrill Hole. She is survived by a large family that loved her dearly and will miss her forever — Her children: Daniel (Pamela) McElroy, Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” (Robert) Cometa and Meredith (Patty) Hole. Her stepchildren: Lisa (Bob) McClure, Arnold W. Kunkler, Jr., Carolyn Kunkler, Christine (Tom) Hull, Phillip (Karen) Kunkler, and Kevin (Tracey) Kunkler. Her grandchildren: Kathryn McElroy, Megan (Cole) Slipher, Anna Cometa, Sarah Cometa, Maryellen Hole, Michael (Jennifer) Hole, Melissa McClure, Paul McClure, Gabe Hull, Michaela Hull, Parker Hull, Jessi (Josh) Faulk, and Sarah (Jair) Cuevas. Her great-grandchildren: Cassidy, Brayden, Daniel, Elizabeth, Maddox, and Nolan. She also leaves many nieces and nephews, and her dear sister-in-law, Mary Jane McElroy.

Please join our family for the Mass of Christian Burial as it is live-streamed,, at 11:00am on January 12th, 2021 from St. Luke Catholic Church,(scroll down on the home page to "St. Luke Mass Video"), of which she was a devout member. Due to Covid concerns, we request only immediate family be physically present for the service. Barbara will be laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, Indianapolis. You are invited to visit the website where you may share a personal memory of Barbara and sign the guest book.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in tribute to Barbara may be given to the Jean L. Coffey Webster Scholarship at the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Memorial gifts may be made online at, click the Give Now Button, type in Jean L. Coffey Webster Scholarship. Checks should be made payable to the IU Foundation/School of Nursing and mailed to IU School of Nursing/IU Foundation P.O. Box 6460 Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6460.


  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Barbara McElroy Kunkler

have a memory or condolence to add?

Patricia Cannon

January 12, 2021

My sincere condolences and prayers to Barbara’s family, and extended families. She was a most wonderful lady, a friend to all. I enjoyed time spent with her and Dr. K at their home in Indianapolis, dinners in Terre Haute, and home in Bonita Springs. Always the gracious hostess with her engaging smile, and welcome words. Fly high sweet lady. Heavens arms are busy welcoming you.

Tracey Kunkler

January 12, 2021

Barbara's service was beautiful. Kevin and I wish we had been with you all.

My memories of Barbara are all of a spunky, lively lady. She was strong willed and incredibly accomplished.

She had a beautiful, big smile that radiated warmth, and thick, curly hair that was always done. She always had on a nice outfit, earrings in her ears, and, sometimes, her glasses perched on her head.

She loved her family and was proud of each and every one.

Kevin and I were blessed to have become part of the family after Barbara married Arnold. She took good care of him. Together they remained involved in the community at Indiana University's Medical and Nursing programs. They brought two wonderful families together into one wonderful, big family.

We were the beneficiaries of their thoughtfulness and love on many family Christmas trips.

We will miss her. We thank her for her love. We pray for her peace and for the peace of Betsy, Dan and Meredith and their families at this difficult time.

Mary Ann Campbell

January 12, 2021

Barb was a dear friend to both Bob and me. I first knew Barbara when I was working at IU Hospital and then we became very close after Bob and I were married. The memories of years past come flooding back to me as I write this. Barb was one of the most resourceful people I know and she was always there to lend a helping hand in anyway she could. Her love for Indiana University was beyond measure. Her devotion and love for her family was first and foremost in her heart and my sincere sympathy to all of you over the loss of such a dear lady. Heaven gained another angel. And I know Bob was there to welcome her with open arms. Love to all.

John Kincaid

January 12, 2021

Barb was the head of hospital admissions for IU Hospital and also was the overseerer of the utilization review committee. As a young medical school faculty member I worked with on these committees and learned a great amount from her.
She was also a great hostess. I had many great meals at her condo in Bonita Springs Flordia. She made the best green beans in the world. She would start cooking them at 6 am and served them at 6 pm.

Sandy Blake

January 11, 2021

I'm so sorry about Barb's passing. She played the piano at Don & my wedding in 1950 in southern In. Betsy, thank you for letting Doug know about your mother's health. Our IU School of Nursing class was very close. We lived in Ball Hall together and worked at the Med. Center together. Love and prayers, Sandy Blake

Nancy Snyder-Mucha

January 10, 2021


Helen Schwomeyer O’Connor

January 7, 2021

Condolences to Barbara’s family and continued blessings.

Helen, IU Nursing Class of ‘51, the Squirrels