In Memoriam: Robert P. Kunkel

Title: In Memoriam: Robert P. Kunkel
Author: Grant I. Gaeth
Publication: The Outcrop, August 2003, p. 22

Robert Kunkel died while sleeping on May 11, 2003, at the Denver V.A. Hospital. He was being treated for medication-related complications associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Robert Kunkel

Robert was born in Grants Pass, Oregon in 1926, attended a one-room rural school and graduated from high school in Bend, Oregon in 1943. He attended the University of Utah until called to active duty by the U.S. Army Air Corps on June 6, 1944. The war’s end cancelled his flight school and terminated his enlistment in the fall of 1945. Bob immediately returned to the U of U engineering school in Salt Lake City, changed his major at Oregon State University in 1947 and received his B.S. in Geology in 1949. Graduate studies at the U of U were interrupted when he accepted a position as geologist with the USGS Fuel Branch in 1950. Two published mapping projects and four years later, Bob joined E.J. Longyear Company as a photogeologist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From 1955 to 1962 he worked as a geologist for various independent operators and consulting geological firms in the Rocky Mountain area.

By 1961 Bob was an independent consulting geologist writing for the Petrogram and later jointly publishing his Kunkel Report in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Kunkel Report graded and prioritized available federal oil and gas lease tracts as published by the BLM prior to each state’s monthly simultaneous drawing.

A rapidly increasing list of independent and small corporate subscribers allowed Robert to expand his participation in the drawings and win several valuable leases. During the 1970s he was participating with other independents in leasing large, unexplored areas via open federal filing. Most of these prospective areas were sold to major oil and gas companies.

By 1987 the BLM had replaced the simultaneous drawings with competitive oil and gas lease auctions. Environmentally-restrictive stipulations created a negative reaction within the oil and gas industry and major oil companies initiated a phased withdrawal from prospecting on public lands. When the oil price finally collapsed in 1986, Robert turned most of his effort towards pursuing a career in the arts.

Robert was a 50-year member of the AAPG, a Fellow of the GSA, member of AIME and UGA and a Certified Professional Geologist with the AAPG and the AIPG. His activities included AAPG Development Paper, 1962 and 1963; UGA delegate to RMS-AAPG: 1963-83; General Chairman of RMS-AAPG Annual Meeting – S.L.C., UT: 1973; AAPG House of Delegates: 1977-79; Communicator AAPG Governmental Affairs: 1978-83; and AAPG Membership Committee: 1983-86. Although Robert’s artistic expression with film dates back to his geological field work with the USGS, his activities in Sedona, AZ from 1987 to mid-1999 led to more than 50 sculptured figures in wood, alabaster and bronze. Most of these works appeared in public exhibits, winning many awards, and currently are located in museums, libraries, art studios and private collections. Many of his most intricate works were created after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s.

After being diagnosed with lymphoma and following hospitalization induced by his second chemotherapy treatment, Robert moved to Denver in mid-1999. This quiet, caring, and benevolent geologist-artist enjoyed more than 3½ years as an integral member of a Denver family unit prior to his untimely passing.