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Obituary: R. Franklin Kern III

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R. Franklin Kern III of Big Sky, Montana and Palm Beach, Florida died suddenly on March 2, 2020 in Miami while recovering from surgery. He was 66.  

Born January 23, 1954, to Ruth Caroline (nee Selmser) and Raymond Franklin Kern, Jr. in York, Pennsylvania, Frank is survived by his loving wife of 31 years, Kristin Shutes Kern, and daughter, Kelly Huntley Kern. Kristin and Frank met in Denver in 1986 and were married in Vail, Colorado, in 1989. He leaves behind his sister, Cynthia A. Kern (husband Les Malcovitch) of Elmira, New York; niece and nephew Jenny Malcovitch (Dr. Michael Kuzniewicz) of San Francisco; John Malcovitch (Liz Ott) of Reno, Nevada; brother-in-law Kelly Shutes (Gretchen Shutes) of Twin Falls, Idaho; plus four first cousins and their families; and many devoted friends around the world. He was predeceased by his parents. 

Frank’s ambition and unrelenting intellectual energy was the catalyst for a remarkable career that began at IBM in 1977 in Syracuse, New York. His fast-track within the company led him to relocate with his family to Los Angeles; Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan; and Shanghai, China. Frank was a well-known champion of diversity in the workplace throughout his career at IBM. In 2008 he returned to the U.S. to Westport, Connecticut, and worked at the company’s Armonk, New York, campus. He was a Senior Vice President of Gold Business Services when he departed in 2012 to become CEO of KKR-funded Aricent, an innovation technology company based in Silicon Valley. The company was acquired in 2018 by France’s Altran, transforming it into the global leader in engineering and R&D.

After the Aricent sale, Frank’s interest and energies turned to Big Sky, Montana, the place that he and his family have always considered to be their home. The long-term economic welfare and quality of life in Big Sky was a priority of Frank’s, in part because his wife is the niece of its founder, the famed NBC News anchor, Chet Huntley, but mostly because he cherished the rare natural beauty of the pristine Montana mountain town near Yellowstone National Park. He was committed to ensuring that the current fast pace of growth in Big Sky was steered in constructive, inclusive directions. He and Kristin purchased Hungry Moose Market and Deli in 2019 and immediately launched a major expansion and improvements that were completed last December. Frank also invested in the development of essential workforce housing in Big Sky to ensure that those with year-round employment had a place and a voice in its future.  

Frank graduated from Bucknell University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1975, serving as president of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. He earned his MBA in Finance at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University in 1976. He graduated from Pennsylvania’s Carlisle High School. His childhood summers, like those of his father’s, were spent at Camp Lenape Blue Sky in the Pocono Mountains from the age of 7 through college, when he served as a camp counselor, and tennis and water-skiing instructor.  

Frank was a powerful, passionate and compassionate man, fully devoted to his family, work, and a brilliantly curated collection of loyal friends.  Fearless both intellectually and physically, his recreational hours were filled with downhill skiing, riding his Harley Davidson, racetrack driving, sailing, staying fully informed about the world around him and getting lost in his latest book.

The family extends its heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Dr. Horacio Asbun, Frank’s world-renowned surgeon and friend, who helped him navigate the path toward regaining his health and wellness. 

Details about a memorial service this spring in Big Sky, Montana, will be shared soon. In lieu of flowers, please say a prayer for his extraordinary, optimistic soul.

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