Fr. Bernard Lutkenhoff
Fr. Bernard Lutkenhoff, former director of Redwood Rehabilitation Center, spent his life trying to make others' lives better.He died of cancer at St. Elizabeth Hospice in Covington. He was 66.He had been diagnosed only a month earlier in Mexico, where he had lived for several years, helping to develop a school for children with disabilities.He thrived on challenges and embraced changing technology and innovation as new avenues to his constant goal - helping people with disabilities, said Barbara Howard, executive director of the Redwood Center, which serves adults and children with disabilities. She met the Fr. Lutkenhoff at Redwood when he was named executive director there around 1980. Howard had just joined Redwood herself as director of adult programs.I don't think we had a single computer when Bernie started," said Howard. "He just jumped into that. He wasn't afraid to look at how we could use technology.At that time, Redwood's prime mission was education and training for infants and children with disabilities. "Bernie loved children. He was so focused on anything that would help them," Howard said.Fr. Lutkenhoff's zeal was rooted in experience. His sister, Dorothy, had Down syndrome and grew up at a time when there were few services for children with disabilities, said his lifelong friend, Dave Braukman of Villa Hills.Lutkenhoff was born in Bellevue and served in parishes and agencies in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Mexico.He probably moved more than any human being I know," said Braukman. "He had 17 homes in 30 years.He served parishes in Lafayette, Ind.; Barbourville; Middletown, Ohio, and throughout the Diocese of Covington, including Mary Queen of Heaven church in Erlanger, where he was associate pastor during the 1980s, while serving as executive director of Redwood. Before coming to the agency, he was executive director of Dody House in Middletown, a program similar to Redwood's.He relished what was new and different," said Braukman.Fr. Lutkenhoff led Redwood in the heyday of its school-age programs, and helped Howard expand the adult programs. "That was my first administrative job and he was a mentor and a leader," she said. "He was real forward thinking. He knew there are lots of ways we can grow and develop and it's important to let people have the freedom to do that.He was not only a visionary leader, but an even-keeled one, said Howard.I don't remember his ever being angry," she said. "He was a good listener, easy to talk to.And he created family wherever he went. He would hold picnics for Redwood staff at his home and do the cooking. He seldom used his titles. "Everyone called him Bernie," said Howard.It was while he was at Redwood and Mary Queen of Heaven church that he started doing some missionary work in a small town in Mexico, helping to raise money for a program for children with disabilities. "When he had a vacation, he would go to Mexico," said Howard. After leaving Redwood, he moved to Mexico, where he served at the Cristo Rey parish in Apaseo El Grande.He helped build a school there, said Braukman.A friend, Denver Campbell of Corbin, moved to Mexico to help with the program, said Braukman.He said Campbell helped bring the Father Lutkenhoff home. "We met them at the airport and he came to my home, then we took him to the hospital," said Braukman, "He was only in Hospice nine hours.Braukman said he, Fr. Lutkenhoff and Fr. Ray Hartman had been friends for decades. When Braukman was married, Hartman performed the ceremony and the Fr. Lutkenhoff was best man. When Braukman's child was baptized, Hartman officiated and the Fr. Lutkenhoff was godfather.Survivors include sisters, Sister Joanne Lutkenhoff, SND, of Park Hills and Ginger Stiers of Alexandria; plus nieces and nephews.Memorials are suggested to continue Fr. Lutkenhoff's work in Mexico, in care of Mother of God Church, 119 W. Sixth St., Covington, Ky. 41011.Information obtained from the Cincinnati Post online, www.news.cincypost.com"