Life History

John Kirk Nyaga Kamunyori was born on 1st January 1943 in Kagaare Location, Embu. He was the fifth child of the late Julius Kamau Kamunyori and the late Susan Mukami Kamau. His four elder siblings are the late Obadiah Nyaga, the late Richard Njagi, Hannah Igandu, and the late Peninah Werimba. He was then followed by the late Mary Igandu, Ernest Njagi, and Naomi Gichuku.

John had many academic successes. When he was 7 years old, he started school at Kagaare Primary School in 1950 completing up to Standard 4. In January 1954, he joined Mbiruri Intermediate School for four years where he completed his KAPE (Kenya African Preliminary Education) in 1957. He passed his KAPE with flying colours and was the first person from Mbiruri Intermediate to pass and attend secondary school. Based on these excellent results, he was accepted to attend Kangaru Boys Secondary School. He was the first Mbiruri graduate to have ever attended Kangaru Secondary School. He did his A levels at Kangaru in 1962-63.

Having completed his A levels, he won a place at the University of East Africa, University College of Dar es Salaam. Graduating secondary school at a time when the Dar es Salaam Law School was newly established, he was a member of the fourth cohort of the Law School and completed his Bachelor of Law (LLB) in 1968.

His first job after completing his Law degree was teaching at the Kenya School of Law. He taught for one year before winning a government scholarship to undertake his Masters (LLM) at Queen Mary’s College, University of London in 1969. He was fortunate to be in the UK at the same time as his cousin, George Ruria, and together they were able to explore the country.

He is recognized as one of the pioneering advocates of Embu County. He is the second person from Embu to become a lawyer with Justin Njage in 1968, the first lawyer from Embu being Richard Nyaga.

He married Josephine Wawira on 5th June 1971. Together they had four children: the late Muriithi Kamunyori, Sheila Wanjiru Kamunyori, Robert Muchira Kamunyori and Joy Wanja Kamunyori. John was also a dedicated uncle to many nieces and nephews.

After his return from London, he became the first Town Clerk of Embu Municipality when the municipality was established and he served from August 1971- July 1972.

He joined the Housing Finance Company of Kenya (HFCK) in August 1972 as the Head of the Legal and Human Resources Department. He was the first African at HFCK to head a department. In January 1979, he moved to Development Finance Company of Kenya (DFCK) as the Company Secretary. He was at DFCK until 1998 when he retired.

While advancing his professional life, he also participated heavily in civic duty. He was the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Parklands Secondary School and Chairman of the Board of Governors of Mbiruri Secondary School. He provided substantial legal education throughout his life to the public. For some time, he provided advice on legal matters on Wimwaro Radio every week. Through this medium, he played a critical role in educating the public on the 2010 Constitution. He was also heavily involved in church matters both in Runyenjes and Rukira, contributing substantially in their development.

When he retired in 1998, he set up his own private practice called Kamunyori and Company Advocates based in Nairobi. He later expanded the law practice to Runyenjes where he emerged as a valuable legal resource in the Embu rural community.

John enjoyed sports, traveling and the outdoors immensely. Acknowledging his love for exploration, John added “Kirk” to his name after a 19th century explorer whose travels John found intriguing. Motivated by his travel abroad on official visits, he would often use the school holidays to discover Kenya with his family, visiting various corners of the country. He took up squash in early 1980s and was an active member of the Nairobi squash fraternity for many years. He also took up golf and swimming which became a core part of his life. When he relocated to Rukira, he could be found often walking many hours in the countryside.

John was also a voracious reader, devouring crime and mystery books beside his many legal briefs. He was known to respond with the phrase, “Read a book!” whenever one of his children mentioned that they were bored.

In May 2019, John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which was already at an advanced stage. He immediately commenced treatment, made great strides with chemo and was able to reduce the size of his primary tumour. In December 2019, he even started playing golf again.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the cancer sneakily metastasized to his brain. Because John had outlived the average survival rate for advanced pancreatic cancer patients (3-6 months), the doctors were not aware that it would do so.

On May 10, 2020, he was taken to ICU and never fully woke up.

He fought the good fight and God called him home the morning of May 23, 2020.