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Obituary: Michael K. Hubner

Published in The Boston Globe on Apr. 22, 2018

HUBNER, Michael K. Died peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, in her Sudbury, M.A., home on April 6, 2018, from complications related to A.L.S. She was 70.
She was born on June 1, 1947 in Rockville Centre, N.Y., the only child of Edward James Kehoe and Winifred Swanton Kehoe. When she was nine, the family left Long Island for Albuquerque, N.M., where she spent the remainder of her childhood. One adolescent highlight was a starring role in her high school production of The Sound of Music. Always a voracious reader and receptive student, she graduated with a B.A. in French from Smith College in 1969; obtained an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School (H.D.S.) in 1974; and returned to Smith for an M.S.W. where she was elected class speaker in 1980. She also received a certificate in health care administration from Simmons College. After two post-college years as an art director in New York City, she found her calling in social work. As an oncology social worker for more than 30 years, she dedicated herself to providing material and psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families through diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and end of life. She worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center from 1982-2001, then served as director of social work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute from 2001-2013, where an annual lecture is named in her honor. She also served on the board of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She was celebrated and beloved by colleagues for her leadership, mentorship, empathy, intellect, and integrity.

ichael met her husband David in the fall of 1971, who at the time was a fellow H.D.S. student, and the two married in June of 1972. They went on a coast-to-coast camping trip for their honeymoon, and upon their return to school, became live-in house-parents at a halfway house for former psychiatric patients. In 1974, they moved to Hudson, M.A., where David had been called to be minister of the Unitarian Church. While there, Michael served as attendance officer for the local school system. They moved to First Church and Parish in Dedham, M.A. in 1980, where their beloved son Benjamin was born in 1985.

In the last three years of her life, she faced the challenges presented by A.L.S. with exceptional grace and courage. She described herself in a note to friends as “well-suited” for the disease because the physical limits it imposed on her had given her the gift of time and mental space to meditate on the nature of existence, truth, goodness, and beauty. Most importantly, she wrote: “I have time to love and be loved.” Michael deeply loved her “small but important family,” her friends and colleagues, gardening, art, music, travel, language, and thinking seriously about life and how to live it with purpose and meaning.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 5, at 10 a.m. at First Church and Parish in Dedham (Unitarian Universalist), 670 High Street, Dedham, M.A. Memorial gifts may be sent to Compassionate Care ALS (, P.O. Box 1052, West Falmouth, M.A. 02574.