- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

John G. Kuhn, 72, mental illness advocate

Monsignor John G. Kuhn, who founded and led the Anchor Mental Health association for 40 years, died Jan. 30 after battling cancer of the esophagus and pneumonia. He was 72.

Born Sept. 1, 1932, in the District, he grew up in the Brookland neighborhood and attended St. John’s College High School in the District, St. Charles College in Catonsville, Md., and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.

He studied theology at the American College and the University of Louvain in Belgium. He was ordained in Belgium as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in June 1958.

Monsignor Kuhn’s first assignment as a priest was at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Rhode Island Avenue NW in 1958. That year, his encounter with a mentally ill, homeless man bred a lifelong commitment to assist the mentally ill.

In 1958, he founded the Anchor Friendship Club to provide social and recreational activities for patients of St. Elizabeths Hospital.

The club expanded and by 1964 began offering pre-employment programs and halfway houses. In 1968, when de-institutionalization increased the number of mentally ill people among the homeless, Monsignor Kuhn shifted his club’s focus to serve the broader community.

He introduced support services to help homeless adults manage their mental illnesses, obtain employment and re-enter the community.

In 1970, Monsignor Kuhn persuaded nationally acclaimed satirist Mark Russell to donate his time to help raise funds for Anchor. For the next 30 years, Mr. Russell provided the entertainment for the club’s annual Festival of Hope.

In 1975, Cardinal William Baum assigned Monsignor Kuhn full time to Anchor Mental Health, by then an agency of the Archdiocese of Washington. Under his direction, Anchor pioneered innovative programs, including housing for adults leaving St. Elizabeths Hospital, and vocational training and employment. Monsignor Kuhn retired as executive director in 1999.

Anchor has grown into a full-service community mental health agency with a budget of nearly $9 million. It serves about 850 adults.

Monsignor Kuhn was honored with a 1983 Resolution of the Council of the District of Columbia, the Catholic Charities Advocacy Award and the United Way Gold Award.

In addition to his work with Anchor, he served at the Cathedral of St. Matthew from 1958 to 1974. He started as associate pastor, became administrator in 1968 and pastor in 1972.

In 1970, Pope Paul VI recognized him with a papal honor and the title of monsignor. In 1974, he served as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Rockville for one year.

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