Love blossomed at West Point for cadet couple


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Rick and Kathy Ann Funk graduated from West Point in 1980.

Courtesy of Rick and Kathy Ann Funk

West Point might not seem to be a top romantic spot, but the United States Military Academy served to bring together Rick Funk and his wife, Kathy Ann.

Rick and Kathy Ann were part of West Point’s Class of 1980, the first class that admitted women. Rick defers to Kathy Ann when it comes to West Point achievements.

“Kathy Ann was the second-highest ranking woman in the class and graduated in the top five percent academically,” said Rick, the lead pastor at the Melbourne Beach campus of Advent Lutheran Church. 

Engaged as cadets, Rick and Kathy Ann were not allowed to marry until after graduation. They will celebrate their 40th anniversary this December. 

Being a military couple posed long-distance challenges for the young couple, as Rick attended the Armor Officer Basic Course in Fort Knox, Kentucky, while Kathy Ann pursued the Military Intelligence Basic Course in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. When she was assigned as a military intelligence officer to Fort Benning, Georgia while he attended flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama to become a Scout helicopter pilot, compromise was required.

“We each commuted an hour,” Rick said.  

Fortunately, their next assignment took both of them to the same location, Wurzburg, Germany. In 1986, the couple was back to Fort Rucker, where Rick worked for the Army Aviation Combat Developments Office. Kathy Ann went into the Army Reserves and became mom to Kelly Lee. 

Rick’s West Point mentor, a chaplain, proved pivotal in his later career choice.

“I wanted to be like him,” Rick said.

The couple moved to Boston so Rick could pursue a master’s of divinity degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a prerequisite for Army chaplains. He kept his wings serving as a helicopter pilot for the Army Reserves, later re-entering active duty, this time as an Army chaplain deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

In 1992, Rick again left active duty for the Reserves and a job as civilian chaplain at West Point, working for his mentor, Chaplain Dick Camp. As an Army reservist, Kathy Ann joined West Point as a faculty member in the Russian Department.  

The next chapter of the Funks’ life took them to Stony Brook School, a Christian boarding school in New York, to Fort Collins, Colorado to start a church, and to the tiny island of Kwajalein, which is part of the Marshall Islands. Here, Rick was the civilian Protestant chaplain, while Kathy Ann worked as engineering manager for the ALTAIR missile defense radar system. Both of their daughters graduated high school in the minute slip of land with 1,500 inhabitants.

After another stint in Colorado, the Funks were Florida-bound to be closer to Rick’s mentor, who was dying of Parkinson’s.

“He called us and told us he could hardly talk or walk,” Rick said.

The former helicopter pilot became chaplain for VITAS Hospice and later the lead pastor at Advent’s beachside campus. Kathy Ann works for Riverside Research as a systems engineer on missile defense radars. Rick’s versatile wife also is Melbourne Municipal Band’s flute section leader, a private pilot with her own Cessna 172 and a ham radio operator.

Rick, no slouch in the activities department, biked 1,400 miles of the Pacific Northwest in 2011. Author of a 12-week spiritual fitness program, the well-balanced pastor once held the Guinness Book of World Records mark for balancing 18 milk crates on his chin.

That is a well-balanced individual.