Obituary: David Kinsey / Businessman, Episcopal priest and ever-smiling Shriners clown

Oct. 30, 1937 - Feb. 6, 2014


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To some Western Pennsylvania residents, the Rev. David Kinsey was better known as Bummer the clown.

Dressed as Bummer, Rev. Kinsey helped raise money for the charity efforts of his Shriners chapter and visited hospitals to cheer up sick children. Bummer was a tramp -- a genus of the clown species that is supposed to be chronically depressed -- but Rev. Kinsey couldn't resist flashing a smile when he played him.

That irrepressible smile was evidence of Rev. Kinsey's generous spirit, his friends and family said.

"When he walked into a room, he filled it with his love," said his wife, Peg Kinsey.

Rev. Kinsey of Collier died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 76.

He was born on Oct. 30, 1937, the son of a General Electric salesman and a schoolteacher, and grew up in Bethel Park. His parents drilled a strong work ethic into him, which he kept throughout his life, his friends and family said.

"I often wondered how he ever slept, because he was constantly going," said Maureen Jones, a longtime family friend.

After earning an undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, Rev. Kinsey embarked into the business world. In 1969, he and his father bought an electrical machinery company. He later served as president of the company, renamed Kinsey Electric Inc.

Starting in the late '50s, Rev. Kinsey became involved in the Shriners organization, occupying several leadership positions during his life.

In 1970, he met his future wife while visiting a neighbor. It was love at first sight, she said.

"When they introduced me to him, I looked in his eyes and saw into his soul, and that's when I fell in love with him," Ms. Kinsey said. "We were inseparable after that."

As a boy, Rev. Kinsey fantasized about flying like a bird, which led him to earn a pilot's license as an adult. In 1972, he co-founded an aviation business, and for a time operated the largest flight school in Western Pennsylvania, Ms. Jones said. He would often take his friends and family on flights.

Rev. Kinsey spent most of the '70s studying to become a Episcopal priest, and he was ordained in 1978. During his career, he preached at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Canonsburg and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in McKeesport.

The Rev. Chuck Weiss joined St. Thomas years after Rev. Kinsey left. But Rev. Kinsey maintained such a strong presence at the church after his official departure that Rev. Weiss got to know him well and began to look up to him. Church members would request for Rev. Kinsey to return to give sermons at their family members' funerals, Rev. Weiss said.

"He was a very comfortable public speaker," Rev. Weiss said. "He loved to tell a story and he had a gift for connecting ancient stories with our lives today."

On top of his accomplishments in business and in the spiritual community, Rev. Kinsey achieved an impact through his generosity to others, his friends and family said.

"If he ever saw someone sitting by themselves, he'd go have a conversation with him," Ms. Jones said. "No one was ever lonely when David was in the room."

In addition to his wife, Rev. Kinsey is survived by three children, Laura Stabell, Leslie Foley and David F. Kinsey; a sister, Susanne Hollaway; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be today from 6 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. at William Slater II Funeral Service, 1650 Greentree Road, Scott. A funeral service will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

Donations can be made to Syria Shrine Roadrunners, 1877 Shriners Way, Cheswick, PA 15024.


Richard Webner: rwebner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4903.


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