Skip Kuker dies after long battle with cancer

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    Skip Kuker, whose trademark enthusiasm for Hancock County as economic development director led to the creation of  hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment in the county, died Sunday after a five-year battle with cancer.

    Kuker died Sunday morning in the hospice unit at Hancock Regional Hospital, where he was admitted last week. His death was confirmed by Mayor Chuck Fewell Sunday afternoon.

    “He fought this battle a long time,” the mayor said. “He gave it a heck of a fight.”

    Kuker, 55, was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in 2013, a little more than a year after he’d been hired as executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council. Kuker ceased treatment almost a year ago after a recurrence of cancer.

    In November, he announced his retirement from the HEDC. Randy Sorrell, a former member of the Hancock County Council, took over as executive director on Jan. 1.

    Kuker perhaps was best known for his enthusiastic support for Hancock County as he promoted it to site selectors and company executives looking to open new factories. He frequently said his job was easy because of its location, its amenities and its able workforce.

    Kuker’s cancer battle also unfolded very publicly. He spoke frequently about his treatment and prognosis and posted updates — often in the middle of the night — on Facebook. On New Year’s Eve, his wife, Ellen, took over posting for him. She told his followers that he had been admitted to the hospice unit so his pain and discomfort could be better managed.

    “I… can’t express just how much we appreciate all the love and support given to us by our friends, family, and the community as a whole,” Ellen Kuker wrote on New Year’s Day.

    Funeral arrangements are pending. In addition to his wife, who is director of the Greenfield parks department, he is also survived by their daughter, Jordan.

    The Daily Reporter will be reporting on Kuker’s death for a story in our next print edition, on Tuesday.