Connie Kunkle was a well-known television personality and singer who charmed millions of viewers with her sparkling green eyes and delightful voice. She was best known as a host on the shopping network ShopHQ (formerly ShopNBC and Evine Live), where she worked for 11 years. She also had a successful career on stage, starring in several musicals and concerts. However, in 2015, she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of dementia that gradually robbed her of her memory, speech, and personality. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 14, 2016, at the age of 58. This article will explore the life and legacy of Connie Kunkle, as well as the disease that took her away from her loved ones.
Who Was Connie Kunkle?
Connie Leigh Kunkle was born on April 4, 1958, in Indiana, Pennsylvania, to parents Ruth Miller Kunkle and Thomas L. Kunkle. She had three sisters, Judy, Patti, and Debbie, and several nieces and nephews. She grew up in a musical family and developed her talent in public schools, where she performed in the school musicals, choirs, and orchestra. She graduated from Ohio University with a BS in communications and landed her first job at Walt Disney World as one of the Kids of the Kingdom. She later became an original cast member for Top of the World, also at Disney World.
Kunkle went on to have an extensive career on stage and television. She toured with the original cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, starring opposite Tim Curry in Me and My Girl, starring opposite Donny Osmond in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and starring as Fantine in Les Misérables. She also performed in many concerts with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the Queen’s Royal Marine Band in England. She hosted several infomercials and television shows, including The American Music Awards and The Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 2004, she joined ShopNBC/Evine Live as an on-air host, where she showcased various products and brands, such as Invicta watches, Waterford crystal, and Quacker Factory clothing. She was known for her bubbly personality, sense of humor, and rapport with her co-hosts and guests. In December 2010, she released her own Christmas album titled Connie Kunkle Christmas.
Kunkle had a large and loyal fan base, who admired her for her beauty, talent, and kindness. She was also active in several charitable causes, such as the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. She loved animals, especially her dogs, and enjoyed traveling, gardening, and cooking. She had a “chosen family” of close friends who supported her throughout her life.
What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which are responsible for personality, behavior, language, and memory. FTD is the most common form of dementia in people under 60, affecting about 50,000 to 60,000 Americans. It is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, as the symptoms can vary widely and overlap with other conditions. There is no cure for FTD, and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is six to eight years.
The exact cause of FTD is unknown, but it is believed to be linked to abnormal protein deposits in the brain cells, called tau or TDP-43. These proteins interfere with the normal functioning of the cells and cause them to die. FTD can also be inherited, as about 40% of cases have a family history of the disease. There are several genetic mutations that can increase the risk of developing FTD, such as C9orf72, MAPT, and GRN.
The symptoms of FTD can be divided into three main categories: behavioral variant, semantic variant, and nonfluent variant. The behavioral variant affects the personality and behavior of the person, causing them to act impulsively, inappropriately, or apathetically. They may also lose interest in their hobbies, friends, and family, and neglect their personal hygiene and health. The semantic variant affects the language and memory of the person, causing them to have difficulty naming objects, recognizing faces, and understanding words. They may also lose their sense of taste, smell, and touch. The nonfluent variant affects the speech and writing of the person, causing them to have difficulty forming sentences, pronouncing words, and spelling. They may also have trouble reading and comprehending texts.
FTD can also cause other physical and mental problems, such as muscle weakness, tremors, balance issues, seizures, hallucinations, delusions, and depression. The progression of the disease can vary from person to person, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms, the age of onset, and the availability of care and support.
How Did Connie Kunkle Die?
Connie Kunkle was diagnosed with FTD in 2015, after she started to experience changes in her behavior and language. She became more forgetful, confused, and irritable, and had trouble finding the right words and names. She also developed a compulsive eating disorder, which caused her to gain weight and develop diabetes. She left her job at Evine Live in 2015 and moved to College Station, Texas, to be closer to her sister Judy and her family. She received loving care from her relatives and friends, who tried to keep her comfortable and happy. She also received medical attention and medication to manage her symptoms and complications.
However, as the disease progressed, Kunkle lost more of her cognitive and physical abilities. She eventually transitioned to a memory care facility in College Station, where she received professional care and supervision. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 14, 2016, due to complications from the disease. She was 58 years old. She was laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, Florida, where she had lived for many years.
How Did People React to Connie Kunkle’s Death?
Connie Kunkle’s death was met with shock and sadness by her fans, colleagues, and friends, who expressed their condolences and tributes on social media and other platforms. Many people remembered her for her bright smile, warm voice, and generous spirit. They also praised her for her courage and grace in facing her illness and thanked her for the joy and inspiration she brought to their lives.
Evine Live, the shopping network where Kunkle worked, posted a video on Facebook announcing her death and honoring her legacy. They also encouraged people to donate to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) in her name, to support research and awareness of the disease. AFTD is a nonprofit organization that provides information, education, advocacy, and support to people affected by FTD and their families. They also fund research and clinical trials to find better treatments and a cure for FTD.
Connie Kunkle’s family and friends also shared their memories and emotions on various outlets, such as obituaries, blogs, podcasts, and interviews. They described her as a loving, loyal, and talented person, who touched many hearts and lives. They also revealed some of the challenges and struggles they faced in caring for her and coping with her loss. They hoped that by sharing their story, they could raise awareness and understanding of FTD and help other people who are going through the same situation.
Connie Kunkle was a remarkable woman who had a successful and diverse career in entertainment and television. She was admired and loved by many people for her beauty, talent, and personality. However, she was also a victim of a devastating and incurable disease that took away her identity and dignity. She died at a young age, leaving behind a legacy of joy and inspiration. Her death also highlighted the need for more research and awareness of FTD, a rare and misunderstood form of dementia that affects thousands of people and their families. By remembering Connie Kunkle and supporting the cause of FTD, we can honor her memory and hope for a better future.