Thomas E. Kirchhofer, 80, of Royal Oak, Michigan and formerly of Berne, passed away Monday, January 4, 2021, at home under hospice care following a nine year battle with cancer. He was born February 24, 1940 in Berne to Tilman and Eva Kirchhofer. He was married to his wife, Swidlonna, for 53 years.
He graduated from Bluffton College in Ohio. He taught art for six years at Adams Central in Monroe. He and his wife moved to Michigan in 1968 when he was accepted into the design department of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he graduated with a master of fine arts degree in 1970. He worked independently as both a portrait and commercial photographer as well as developing a three year photography program for Lakeview High school in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. He was also a beloved art teacher for Christ the Good Shepherd in Lincoln Park, Michigan.
The church was of utmost importance in his life, and he was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He served on several committees as well as being a deacon and elder. He was involved in both the establishment of the columbarium addition and the design decision for the 2009 sanctuary renovation at the church. He was strongly dedicated and supportive of the church’s outreach effort, its commitment to diversity and inclusion and its engagement on racial and social issues. Early in retirement, he volunteered as a tutor/aide to students at Pontiac’s Alcott Elementary School, and every week, he enjoyed seeing the people who came to Fort Street Presbyterian Church’s open door program.
He loved classical music, and a particular favorite instrument was the pipe organ. He requested that his interment in the church’s columbarium be near the stained glass windows so he can hear the organ’s majesty.
He was beloved by many friends across the country as well as many with whom he worked or befriended at home. His kind, gentle outreach welcomed so many, and he is remembered for his joyous laughter that often sounded like that of Santa Claus. He will be dearly missed.
He is survived by his wife of Royal Oak, Michigan; his brother, John Kirchhofer of Berne; niece, Laura Kirchhofer of Kokomo; and nephew, Tim (Jennifer) Kirchhofer of Wapakoneta.
He will be interred in the columbarium at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Michigan. Due to the situation, it is unknown when a memorial service will be held.
Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 1669 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham, MI 48009. You may specify Deacon’s Fund, Music Program or First Foundation.