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Beloved Sunbright man killed, wife injured in car accident

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By Michelle Hollenhead

A Fentress County wreck last week claimed the life of a well-loved Sunbright resident, and critically injured his wife.

Robert L. Bunch, 82, was killed in the two-car accident, which occurred last Thursday around 1 p.m. on State Highway 52.

His wife, Callie S. “Sue” Bunch, 72, was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville following the crash. She was listed in stable condition as of Friday.

The couple was westbound in a 2013 Dodge Van, when they were struck head-on by Stanley Hull, 37, of Allardt. Hull was traveling east in a 2008 Chevy truck when, for reasons unknown, crossed the centerline and struck the Bunches’ vehicle. The impact caused the pickup to overturn, and forced the Bunches’ car off the roadway.

Robert Bunch was pronounced dead at the scene. Both he and his wife were wearing seat belts, but that fact would not have made a difference in the wreck’s outcome, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol report.

Hull, who was not wearing a seat belt, was also injured. He was treated at a nearby hospital.

The Bunches were well-known — and well thought-of — in Sunbright.

Morgan County Executive Don Edwards remembers the couple fondly.

“Robert, Sue and their children have been our friends for decades,” he said. “We are very hurt and deeply saddened by Robert’s passing. We are comforted that Robert’s faith in Jesus Christ has graduated him into the presence of our Lord and Savior where there is no more hurt or sorrow, only unspeakable joy.

“We will continue to pray for Sue as she recovers from her injuries, and pray the Lord comfort the children and family.

Mike Hammond, pastor of Sunbright First Baptist Church, knew the couple “pretty well,” as they had sometimes attended the church with their son, Robby, and daughter-in-law, Bridgett Bunch, both of whom are church members.

“They are good people — this has been a real shock to the community.” Hammond said Friday. “They both just had a great sense of humor, and were always happy.”

Hammond said the last time he had seen them was at a July Fourth cookout at the home of Robby and Bridget Bunch.

“We were all cutting up on the back porch,” he said, adding that his wife played cornhole with Robert in the backyard.

Hammond was out of town on vacation when the couple’s accident occurred, but he said many church members had been at the hospital, visiting and praying for the family.

Hammond said an amazing blessing had come from the tragedy.

“Their daughter Wanda called, and asked that we pray for [the other driver involved in the accident],” Hammond said. “That is just the kind of character that family has.”

The Bunches’ grandson, Jordan Vann, took to social media last week to share his grief.

“One of the best people around gained his wings earlier today,” he said on the day of the accident.

“If y’all knew this man, you know he was always making somebody laugh somehow, and was always there to help others no matter if it was his last dollar or by just going out of his way.

“He never went anywhere without a smile on his face.”

“It didn’t matter who you were, or how old you were, if you met [both of them], you were considered family, and they’d tell you they loved you.”

Vann said they are also known because of their support of Sunbright School sports teams.

“They never missed a game, and were always the loudest ones,” he said.

Sunbright Mayor Terri Ryon remembers the couple as staunch Subright School supporters, too.

“One of many precious memories of him and Sue is always supporting Sunbright School sports, whether they had a child or grandchild playing or not.

“When I was in school, Robert and Sue would always grill burgers for the concessions during football season. If you attended a home game, a ‘Bunch Burger’ was a must have.”

“Robert Bunch will always be remembered ... as someone always willing to help others even if he had to do without. He might have been in his eighties but he could still play a mean game of corn-hole and plant his own garden.

“I ask that everyone please keep the entire Bunch family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Sue Bunch is expected to be released from the hospital later this week. Robert Bunch’s funeral arrangements have not been officially announced.