David Kemp Karnes

David Kemp Karnes

December 12, 1948 – October 25, 2020


He is survived by his wife, Kris and their two daughters, Katharine and Alexandra; daughters: Korey (Ryan) Huyler, Kalen (Chris) Strickland, Kara (Will) Mason. and Laurel (Nathan) Murphy; sisters, Nana (Jeff) Tonkin and Betsy (George) Max ; mother-in-law, Mary Lueder; in-laws, Merlyn and Phyllis Dorn; grandchildren: Elizabeth, Grace and Quinn Huyler, Connell and Logan Strickland, Riley and Madelyn Mason, and Kemp and Mikey Murphy; and many other beloved in-laws, nieces, and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Lewis Lunsford Karnes, Jr. and Marion Kemp Karnes; his wife, Elizabeth Lueder Karnes; and his father-in-law, Robert Lueder.

VISITATION observing CDC guidelines: Friday, November 6th from 3pm to 8pm at the West Center Chapel.  SERVICES: Saturday, Nov. 7th at 10am at Dundee Presbyterian Church, 53rd & Underwood Streets.  MASKS REQUIRED. Private Family Interment.  To view live broadcast of the Funeral Service, go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “View Live Service” button on the home page.

In lieu of flowers please consider sending a memorial to one of the following: Kicks for a Cure (a benefit for Liz’s Legacy), Omaha Children’s Museum, AKSARBEN Foundation, or The Scottish Rite Foundation.

While the family would love to see old friends and reminisce about Dave’s amazing life with each of you in person, out of a concern for the safety of all and limited capacity due to COVID-19, we request that those wishing to pay their respects attend via livestream rather than in person.


David Kemp Karnes passed away peacefully on October 25, 2020 in Lincoln, Massachusetts, near Boston where he had been receiving cancer treatment.  Dave was born December 12, 1948 to Marion and Lewis Lunsford Karnes, Jr.  He attended high school at Benson High in Omaha and graduated in 1967.  After high school he attended college at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, graduating in 1971.  While there he competed as a swimmer and was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, with which he remained active throughout his life.  After college he attended the University of Nebraska College of Law, graduating in 1974.

In 1981 he was selected as a White House Fellow, serving as special assistant to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He later continued working in the Reagan administration in various capacities.  He also later served as a member of the United States Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, as a former Chairman and member of the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, and a member of the U. S. DOT/FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee.  Dave also proudly served his beloved State of Nebraska as their United States Senator from 1987-1989.

After the Senate Dave returned to Omaha to join the law firm of Kutak Rock LLP.  He greatly enjoyed his many colleagues and the corporate and governmental relations work he was able to do there helping clients all over the country navigate state and federal legislative and regulatory law.

Dave put his heart into making Omaha a wonderful place to live and was active in many professional and civic organizations, including the founding of Liz’s Legacy and Kicks for a Cure to raise money for local cancer research in honor of Liz, and the Omaha Children’s Museum, as well as helping to establish hockey at the University of Nebraska Omaha.  He was active in Dundee Presbyterian Church, the AKSARBEN Foundation, the Omaha Airport Authority, and the Scottish Rite Foundation among many others.  He was also an ardent supporter of Westside Community Schools, which were attended by his six daughters.

Dave loved his family above all else.  In 1971 he married Elizabeth Lueder.  Liz and Dave had a very active life and raised their four daughters during their 32-year marriage prior to her death in 2003.  In 2008 he married Kristine Dorn and they enjoyed raising their two energetic young daughters together.  Dave was surrounded by Kris and his daughters in his final days, and Kris was by Dave’s side when he passed.  Dave cherished spending time with his family traveling around the world, attending Husker games, participating in sporting events and practices, spending time at Happy Hollow Club and celebrating family milestones.  His love of adventure, his kindness to all, his willingness to connect people and help anyone he could, his endless curiosity and sense of humor, his strong faith and the twinkle in his eye will be sorely missed by many.



  • John Starr Posted October 26, 2020 8:38 am

    Dear Friend,
    You will be missed by so many. May God welcome you into his loving embrace.

  • Van Argyrakis Posted October 27, 2020 6:37 am

    I first met you when I was in eighth grade and I was honored by the Rotary club. I then got to know you in 1988, when you were running for the U.S. Senate. You always conducted yourself in a decent and cordial manner and you were an influence in my attending law school and becoming a lawyer. May your memory be eternal.

  • Howard Brown Posted October 31, 2020 9:40 am

    I met Dave and Liz one time – when hired to wash their windows. They treated me as if I was on the guest list for their upcoming party.

  • King Kuebler Little Posted November 1, 2020 10:18 am

    May God’s love and grace bless you and keep you in the knowledge that Dave is no longer suffering and in a much better place.

  • Bruce McKeag Posted November 1, 2020 10:34 am

    I knew Dave as a fraternity brother for over 50 years, I was a senior in the chapter house when Dave was a freshman pledge, but that age difference did not stop us from having a great friendship that continued through our lives. Kris and family—our hearts ache for his passing. We know it’s been a struggle, but in my phone and email conversations with him these past few mos—Dave remained upbeat and positive. He touched the lives of many people across our nation, and there is a void in our world with his loss. Our deepest sympathies to all of you, and our prayers remain as you grieve his passing. Be comforted with the memories he gave as God wraps His arms around each of you.

  • Richard Rosenblatt Posted November 1, 2020 10:55 am

    It was an honor and a privilege to work for Dave for the past 20 years. He revealed himself to be a man of sharp intellect, effortless kindness and above all sterling character. He connected with everyone he met and had no vanity about him. My sincere regrets to Kris and the rest of Dave’s family. He will be missed.

  • Charles Packard Posted November 1, 2020 11:01 am

    Kris and family. With others, I am so deeply heartbroken. May the Lord bless and keep you, give you strength and comfort in this time of sorrow.

  • Steve Offner Posted November 2, 2020 9:08 am

    Kris and family;
    Susan and I are so heartbroken about Dave’s passing and we are praying for your rest and peace and we send you our deepest sympathies. I have known Dave since we became pledge brothers at the Beta house over 50 years ago; then we went to law school together; and Liz and Dave introduced me to Susan. We are so sorry for your tremendous loss but rejoice that Dave is with our Lord.

  • Pamela J. Whitted Posted November 2, 2020 9:51 am

    Please accept my sincerest condolences on Dave’s passing. I went to high school with Liz and college with both Liz and Dave. He may no longer be with us, but he has left a lasting legacy through his wonderful family and many friends. He will not soon be forgotten.

  • Tom and Dorothy Shull Posted November 2, 2020 1:36 pm

    Dave has been a dear friend since our time together as White House Fellows classmates. Last December, I was privileged to spend time with Dave and his brother-in-law Jeff Tonkin (a Vietnam Veteran who was severely wounded) at the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia. Dave and I joined Jeff for an on-field presentation honoring his service and that of several other Purple Heart recipients. It was a true honor to stand next to Dave as we saluted the service of our Nation’s heroes. While I did not know this would be the last time we would see each other, in retrospect, it was a fitting testament to Dave’s steadfast commitment to service and family. May God be a source of comfort and strength for Kris and the family as we remember the indelible mark Dave left on all who had the privilege to know him. Our Nation is far better for his service. Dave will be greatly missed by the countless lives he touched during his time with us.

  • David Rosacker Posted November 4, 2020 8:00 pm

    My deepest condolences to Kris and the family.

  • Ardith and Dennis Davenport Posted November 5, 2020 3:55 pm

    We offer our most sincere love and condolences at this time. You are in our prayers.

  • Barb and Jon Elliott Posted November 6, 2020 10:03 am

    Dear Kris and Family: Please accept our sincere sympathy on the death of David.. We attended Westside High School with Liz. Korey and Allison went on their 8th grade Westside Washington blessed to have known him.

  • Philip Young Posted November 6, 2020 11:15 am

    I worked for Senator Karnes in the U.S. Senate and also with him when he practiced law. He was a great and honorable man and a dedicated public servant, husband and father. It was an honor to have worked for and with him. My prayers are with Dave and his family during this very difficult time.

  • Scott Gass Posted November 6, 2020 5:05 pm

    Kris, I am so very sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this very difficult time.

  • Richard Dart Posted November 7, 2020 7:57 am

    Dave was a godsend to poison centers in the United States. I worked with him and many others to attain at least some federal funding for poison centers. We had tried many times and failed but with Dave’s insights and leadership, we were able to achieve our goal. This created stable poison center funding for the entire United States. He became a friend and we will always be in his debt.

    My best wishes to his family. Please know that he accomplished many good things and we are thinkin of him.

  • Gay Robinson Abraham Posted November 18, 2020 12:03 pm

    I knew Dave in high school. What a easy, comfortable guy to be around. We were on student council together, and I always really liked him – he just exuded ease with everyone, and always brought some fun to the day. What a huge loss for all of who loved him, and for our community. I am so sad you have to endure this. I send much love and support to you as you move through life without him.

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