Sonny Kahler, OV man who collected funds for muscular dystrophy, is gone - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Sonny Kahler, OV man who collected funds for muscular dystrophy, is gone

Family, friends urge continued donations to MDA

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Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:26 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

You may not have known longtime Oro Valley resident Quentin "Sonny" Kahler.

But you may have seen him, operating his red-flagged motorized wheelchair on town streets, or seated in front of a grocery store every day in August, for years, raising funds to fight muscular dystrophy, the disease that had stricken him.

Sonny Kahler would be out there again this August, without doubt, asking for donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Tenaciously, persistently, he'd be asking for loose change and dollar bills, and people would say "yes," digging for coins or a few bucks.

He'd be out there again this August, except for the cancer. Cancer — not muscular dystrophy, the crippler he battled for two decades — claimed Sonny's life on Wednesday, June 3.

"No one will ever tell Quentin 'no' again," said a friend, Joli Gaskell. "Quentin has left us to do bigger and better things, and we will all miss his determination, persistence and love for life."

His widow, Rhondda, hopes friends will continue to collect, and to give, in Sonny's name. "I don't want it to be left aside," she said Friday.

Over the past 18 years, Sonny gathered more than $60,000 for MDA, Rhondda said. Every August, before the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon, he'd ask grocery shoppers for donations, filling cup after cup after cup. One year, he received $8,500.

"It was his hobby, it was his baby, he made it his life," Rhondda said. "He'd spend eight hours in those stores, in the heat of day. Fry's was wonderful." Employees brought him water and food. Other stores treated him well, too.

The diagnosis came not long after the couple moved to Arizona from Massachusetts. He had "Popeye MD," hitting groups of muscles but not all muscles. His forearms and calves were strong, yet his upper arms and legs weak.

Sonny was in a wheelchair for the last seven years. "Coyote Run, they were marvelous to him," she said. "And I give my heart to hospice," Casa de la Luz.

"He never was sorry for himself, he was always concerned about everyone else," Rhondda said. "Nothing let this man down. He was hit in the face and just kept getting up." Even near the end, he said to Rhondda, "just take care of yourself."

"Don't ever think things are tough until you've seen someone else," said Rhondda's sister, Angela Allain.

At Sonny's request, no services are being held. Vistoso Memorial Chapel is handling arrangements.

Gifts in memory of Sonny may be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Joli Gaskell urges one final "yes" to Sonny, "and show him and all of the people that he touched how truly special he was."

"I know that would be his wishes," Rhondda said. "Honor my husband."

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