Remembering the victims of Knoxville church shooting

Remembering the victims of Knoxville church shooting

In memoriam: Linda Kraeger and Greg McKendry.
Jane Greer


When people talk about Linda Kraeger, who died from gunshot wounds in a July 27 attack during a worship service at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, one of the first things they describe is her smile. “You can’t capture her smile in writing,” said Susan Wolfe, a fellow member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.

Her husband of 42 years, Duane Kraeger, agreed “She had such a pretty smile,” he said. “As soon as it faded, I was racking my brains for something I could do or say to get her to do it again.”

Kraeger loved children. Although she and her husband never had any of their own, she still viewed mothering as an important part of her life. Recently retired from a career teaching college English, Kraeger had moved to Knoxville with her husband in 2007 to help friends Joe and Mary Ann Barnhart, also Westside members, raise their granddaughters.

Joe Barnhart, who was seated near Kraeger at the time of the shooting, was injured in the attack, but was released from the hospital within a week. The Kraegers and Barnharts were attending a performance of the children’s play “Annie Jr.” when the gunman began firing.

Kraeger has been described as a “humanitarian,” by members of her church. This thoughtfulness continued even after her death, through organ donation. “She was able to help three different people live,” said Duane Kraeger. “That tells you what kind of person she was.”

According to friends and colleagues, Greg McKendry, killed in the July 27 attack on a Knoxville UU church, was a big man—with a big heart.

“He was the consummate church volunteer who contributed in a lot of different ways,” said the Rev. Chris Buice, minister of the 500-member Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. At the time of his death, McKendry, who had joined the church five years earlier, was serving as an usher and greeter. But he was also a board member, the treasurer elect, and a former member of the building and grounds committee.

One of the things that McKendry especially liked was helping people climb out of financial debt. He did this by teaching a seminar on money management, which he offered at the church several times. “It actually saved my financial life,” said the Rev. Rosie Rimrodt, a former minister of religious education at TVUUC, who took the course. “It wasn’t just the class that helped me, but his passion was infectious. He loved people and he loved to help them.”

Friend Carolyn Franks remembered McKendry’s legendary kindness. “His wife had a friend who used to work for her, and her grandson needed braces. Greg said, ‘You need to take him to our dentist.’ When it came time to pay the bill, Greg said, ‘It’s already been taken care of.’”

McKendry is survived by his wife Barbara, two children and a foster son.

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