Dr. Megan Kuhlman | Obituary | Record Eagle – Traverse City Record Eagle

Dr. Megan H. Kuhlman February 4, 1938-September, 3 2021
The world’s best ever mother, wife, sister, friend and teacher, Dr. Megan Haupt Kuhlman passed away on Sept. 3, in Traverse City. The “angel” many affectionately called Megan in life is now true.
Megan’s family is proud that she lived her long, adventurous life like a beautiful, whimsical piece of art.
Megan was born to Reginald H. “Rags” and Margaret H. Butler in Hannibal, Mo., Feb. 4, 1938, where she spent her early childhood around extended family, playing a-la Huck Finn along the banks of Mark Twain’s Mississippi. The family moved to Jacksonville, Ill., and then to Birmingham.
At Seaholm High School, Megan reported and edited both the newspaper and yearbook, which sparked her life-long interests in relationships, news and how institutions work. As a Forever Spartan, Megan received her teaching, master’s, specialist and Ph.D. degrees at Michigan State University. She would roll her eyes at her formal “doctor” title here, but we figure she earned it. Megan was Traverse City Area Public Schools’ Educator-of-the-Year, belonged to several local organizations and served on many different community education and health-care committees.
In 1965 Megan moved from East Lansing to Traverse City, where she began her teaching career at Rapid City Elementary School, and then she moved to TCAPS as a special education teacher at the former East Bay Elementary School. Megan so loved special education kids that her doctorate was in special education administration. As TCAPS’ special education director, Megan advocated for families, kids and staff. Megan said, “Special ed kids are interesting and fun—they come up with the dangdest things! When you see their progress, it is even more meaningful, because it is so hard-fought.”
Megan then served as principal in three different elementary schools, Bertha Vos, Oak Park and Central Grade, where she helped start the Talented and Gifted program. Megan said, “Working with little kids all day was like playing straight man in an unrehearsed comedy act—you never knew what they were going to say or do. Their thinking is so open and free.” So she could play in the snow with the kids, Megan outfitted for winter playground duty in her mother’s 50’s style mink coat, Sorel boots, and son Johnny’s hand-me-down ski gloves and hat.
Megan finished her education career at TCAPS as assistant superintendent of schools and elementary curriculum director, where she strove to expand programming and opportunities for children. Megan said, “The work was hard, but rewarding, and the children were such a hoot that sometimes I thought, ‘I can’t believe they pay me for this gig.'”
Megan never met an “ice cream” sign that did not compel her to stop. She loved reading, learning, truth and justice. Every fall, she took classes at Northwestern Michigan College until three years ago; her last were on foreign affairs and U.S. policy. Megan always played by the rules, but she always rolled up her sleeves to improve things. For fun, Megan loved to entertain on her ever-expanding deck out at her High Lake “Compound.” This was quite a trick, because Megan never really bothered learning to cook. Other joys were decorating, gardening, landscaping, gathering sea-shells and sending funny cards and gifts for no reason other than for a laugh. Her favorite gifts were wind-up toys for children and adults, which were always all over her house and office and message T-Shirts like, “It wasn’t my fault, I was unsupervised.” Megan collected Green Bay Packers sweat shirts not because she liked football—she only wanted game updates on “my boys” and the final score—but because they share her favorite Spartan green, and because she loved the idea that the city of Green Bay owns the team.
Megan was married to the father of her children, David R. Yeomans; mentor and renaissance man, the late Walter “Walt” L. Oberlin; and her “intellectual toddler,” business partner and “the best time I ever had,” Gary B. Kuhlman.
In 1994 Megan and Gary retired from education, bought a boat Gary named after her, the Mamoo II and spent 22 winters in the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast. There, they camped, rented cool properties, fished, took nightly sunset cruises and enjoyed a big long party celebrated in the sunshine with many friends new and old. Megan and Gary loved boating to some tiki bar for the Jimmy Buffet-esque ambiance just to see what local characters showed up. They also volunteered in Islamorada. Every March they returned to their Compound-in-the-North where, from April through October, Megan and Gary ran their Kuhlman Tree Doctor business. A lot of area trees are still standing, still healthy and still beautiful because they worked with MSU Extension Service and did a lot of research. Megan went from running education budgets to doing the books for their small business. In her wellies, big straw hat and garden gloves, Megan was all over the area rooting around in the dirt, pulling brush and gathering tree samples. She was delighted she had another career shared with Gary that involved the beauty of nature, was intellectually challenging and presented 30 years of great customer relationships.
Megan was predeceased by her parents; husband, Walt; brothers, Harry P. and James M. Butler; and stepsons, R. “Scott” Kuhlman and Mike Oberlin.
She is survived by her husband, Gary; brother, R.H “Tod” Butler Jr. (Sharon); sisters-in-law, Vicky Butler (Jim), Anne and Susan Kuhlman; children, Missi and John Yeomans (Cindy Andrews); stepchildren, Mary Oberlin, Bryon Kuhlman and Willow Alshama (Jamie); grandchildren, to whom she is known as “Gramoo,” Bryon Sinclair, Jake Yeomans, Connor Kostrzewa, Maggie Coco, Nick Kuhlman, Jack Ryan Graverson and Aden Alshama and many nieces and nephews she adored.
Megan always said she was “so lucky in my friends,” some of whom were former colleagues, and some were gems collected, the late Wendy Frohm; Sharon Le Meux and Mary Ellen Charleton; Sue Lemmen, Renee Dean, Chris Derks, Diana Oberschulte, Auleen Duffy, Ann Herzler and Donna-Donna-Belladonna Folgarelli; New York City ambassador-at-large, Erica Martin; Florida soul sister, Marianne McBride; and friend and mentor, Diane Hodsen. With you she navigated life’s bumps and turns, learned, delighted in your triumphs, went to yoga and then stopped for cookies on the way home, explored, and bought elaborate chef’s tools still in the package. Megan collected her Compound comrades, where front doors and front decks always revolved, Laura Howard, Jan McCall, Caroline Risk, and newbie Megan Holycross.
For five decades, Megan was a proud member of the Women’s Athletic Association, a group of seven whose idea of “athletics” was hanging out in a sauna, attempting to knit and eating. Despite that, Megan left Jacksonville, Ill., as just a high school sophomore, her 12-member “Jacksonville Gang” defied geography and stayed connected for over six decades. With all of you, her laugh-till-your-jaw hurts besties, Megan had a blast.
A final salute to Megan wouldn’t be complete without her retinue of beloved Springer spaniels over a three decade run, the late Jimmy; Sunny-Bunny; Gracie; Missy; Lilly; Ruby; Rosie; Schapudt; and Jackie and Claire-Bear, who survives. All were great companions who did tree service ride-alongs, garden outings and Florida flats-boat fishing and tiki bar excursions. Megan was proud that her Springers were all “alligator savvy.”
The family thanks Megan’s amazingly skilled and empathic care team, the staff at Munson’s emergency room; Webber Heart; and Hospice; the staffs at the Pavilions and Villa Point; and Dr. Carl Anders and assistant Gwen—all of whom helped Megan retain her sense of humanity and humor. Thanks also to the staff at Reynolds-Jonkhoff who helped Megan in her final sendoff. Because all of you had teachers like Megan, your family brags about you.
Cremation has taken place. Come celebrate Megan’s life at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, 305 6th St. Traverse City, on Sept. 18, 11:00 a.m., weather permitting in the garden. Stand-up luncheon, cookie and ice-cream salute immediately follows the service. Kindly mask-up.
Come as Megan attired herself until her mid-50s, all fashiony or in island-wearor in your favorite green sweatshirt. Megan loved an eclectic mish-mash, as she loved you. The family looks forward to tributes and stories about Megan at Reynolds-jonkhoff.com. For away family and friends and the virus-hesitant, Megan’s service will be livestreamed beginning around 10:45 the day of the service at rjfh.tv, and archived on her tribute page.
Megan loved flowers; after the service we will pay them forward to Megan’s new friends at Villa Point. Donations can be made to Megan’s local heroes, East Bay Fire Rescue and Ambulance Assn., 110 High Lake Rd, Traverse City, 49696. She never missed a pancake breakfast with her High Lake Heroes and, as they carried her from her home for the last time, she made first-responders laugh. Soon, you can visit Megan at Traverse City’s Oakwood Cemetery.
Gary wants everyone to know that Megan, his “Mamoo,” was “beautiful, smart, kind and funny. Everyone loved her with good reason—she was just a fantastic person.”