Donna Lenz Wright/The Week
(Published Sep. 24, 2007, 9:38 a.m.)
He was the uncle who would line up his nieces and nephews in the kitchen and pour chocolate syrup in their mouths. He was the uncle who bought them noisy toys for their birthdays and Christmas.
He was that uncle-the fun one.
And then it was his turn to be a dad. And he couldn't have been happier.
Keith Nurnberg married his life's love, Tonya, in December 2006. In February they found out their first child, who they planned to name Keith Jr., was due in November.
Now, he'll never meet his son.
Cpl. Nurnberg, 26, was buried a week ago Saturday with full military honors at Bloomfield Cemetery.
He died Sept. 5 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations. He graduated from McHenry West High School in 1999 and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq.
He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., and was awarded the rank of corporal posthumously.
Keith and Tonya moved to Genoa City shortly after their wedding where they planned to start their life and family together.
"They'd known each other over 10 years, since I married Keith's cousin, Cliff," said Capri Nurnberg of Lake Geneva, Tonya's sister.
"Keith was an only child and like our little brother. We were all in the family. They grew up together, then they clicked and fell in love."
The two made a great couple-both had the same family values, loved children and wanted the same things from life.
"Tonya is a great sister," Capri said. "She's a great aunt and a very kind and wonderful person. Our two daughters just adore her and Keith."
Tonya is a third-grade teacher at Village School in Round Lake, the same school both she and Capri attended.
"Keith was the most considerate person and such a great person. He could make you laugh in a heartbeat and melt your heart in the next.
"The kids would chase him around and beat up on him. He loved to spoil our kids."
Capri has been staying with her sister since the news of Keith's death came Sept. 6.
"He was supposed to come home in December," Capri said. "We were waiting for the baby, then December to come."
Life has been a haze as the reality of what's happened sets in, she said.
"It's just starting to get real."
Keith enlisted into the Army late in 2003. In 2004 he left for his first tour of duty.
"We all knew there was a big chance he would go when he went the first time."
After his safe return home the families fell into a predictable pace of living. Then Keith was called for a second tour.
"For him to go the second time-and now as my brother-in-law-was so much harder. We just didn't want him to go."
Keith felt it too, especially as a newlywed and expectant father.
"It was different for him the second time because all he wanted to do was be home with his wife. He was so happy about the baby and just wanted to be here."
While the family copes with their grief, they are also feeling very fortunate about Keith Jr.'s impending arrival.
"Cliff and Keith were the last to carry the family name, and we had two girls.
"He will be such a blessing."
Keith's funeral was last Saturday at St. Joseph's church in Richmond, Ill., and burial at Bloomfield Cemetery was made much easier on the family thanks to the Patriot Guard Riders, Capri said.
"They were wonderful from the day Keith got home off the airplane," she said. "They led us home in a big procession from the Waukesha airport to the funeral home.
"Then they stood all night at the funeral home in the cold outside, holding flags from 3 to 9 at night; then the next day from the funeral home to the church, then the cemetery.
"We really felt the warmth from them."
Keith and his family have given the most extreme sacrifice, and Capri wants people to know it's what he wanted to do-for every one of us.
"Keith really wanted to serve his country and be the best soldier. And he was.
"He was great at what he did and now I just want everybody to know he wanted to do it for everybody.
"We will miss him-miss him tremendously."
Keith is survived by his wife, Tonya; parents, Barbara and Alan Nurnberg of McHenry; a grandmother; and three sisters.
Memorials may be sent to the Tonya Nurnberg Benefit Account at First Midwest Bank, 3510 W. Elm St., McHenry, IL 60050.
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