As I contemplate the death of Derrill Unruh, I am reminded of a quote from H. Jackson Brown, Jr. “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.”
Derrill was not a soft-spoken, easy going sort. In fact, he was loud-spoken and sometimes showed his temper. But what everyone knew about dealing with Derrill is, ultimately, he was fair and he cared, and he would always do what was right.
Probably the most indelible characteristic the community came to know and love about Derrill is how he cared for everyone. As the quote goes, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Derrill always had time for all the people who needed his help regardless of who they were.
Another thing we understood about Derrill was that he always did everything he could for the people of Independence. There were times as a plant manager that he risked his own welfare to keep people working.
Later in life, when he had more time on his hands, he was willing to serve on the Independence City Commission, which he continued until he was physically unable.
Derrill Unruh established himself as a leader in business and a leader in government. He was a distinguished citizen of the community. His passing is not only a loss for his family but a great loss to Independence, and he will be deeply missed.
Micky Webb, City Manager
Derrill Unruh, 76, of Independence, KS passed away at Golden Living Center in Pittsburg, KS, October 23, 2016.
Funeral Services will be held at 2:00pm, Thursday, October 27, 2016 at the Zion Lutheran Church, Independence. Burial will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery under the direction of Potts Chapel. Visitation hours will be held form 6:00pm-8:00pm, on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at Potts Chapel. The family has suggested that memorials be offered to Zion Lutheran Church.
Derrill was born August 17, 1940 in Goltry, Oklahoma, son of Dewey and Lorene (Janes) Unruh. He moved to Independence in 1943 where he was raised and graduated from Independence High School in 1958. Derrill relished being one of “Kayo's Boys.” He attended ICC and later received a BS in Human Resources Management from Friends University. Derrill married Linda Brake from Wayside, KS in 1963, they had a son, Zach, and later divorced.
After beginning his career in Dallas, TX, Derrill returned to Independence in 1974 to work for Automotive Controls Corp./ Dana Corp. (now SMP) in the capacity of Factory Manager. Derrill worked the next 28 years of his career for ACC/Dana serving as Division Manager from 1990-2001 and participating in numerous acquisition teams.
Derrill maintained a focus on community service throughout his adult life. After his retirement from Dana, Derrill devoted himself to community service in various capacities for the City of Independence among other civic and social organizations. Derrill's service to the community began with his involvement as an Executive Advisor to Junior Achievement of Independence through the 1980's. Derrill was a member of Independence Rotary Club and served four years as a Board Member for the Independence Chamber of Commerce and Board Chairman in 1985. Derrill coached youth basketball, was a member of the Zion Lutheran Church Board of Trustees, and served as a Board Member for the Southeast Kansas Board of Lutherans where he was instrumental in the rebuilding and sale of the Faithcare nursing facility after the 2007 flood.
Derrill was elected to the Independence City Commission in 2007, where he served until his resignation is 2014. Derrill served as the Mayor of Independence three separate times during his tenure on the City Commission. In his role as Commissioner Derrill will be remembered for his support of City staff and for his dedication to furthering the best interests of the community.
Derrill is survived by his son Zach, his wife, Melissa, grandchildren Ellen, Diane, and Jimmy, brothers Earl Unruh, his wife, Barbara Jean, Donald Unruh, his wife Barbara Ann, Mike Unruh, his wife Susan, sister Mary Robinson, and her husband, Ed. Derrill was preceded in death by his sister, Sharon Rorick, and his parents.