Obituary Details

Grace Alzora Kuns

(05/07/1888 - 08/08/1986)
Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 08/13/1986

Grace E. Kuns

Grace Kuns, 98, former Niobrara County Superintendent of Schools and teacher in Lusk High School, died Aug. 8, 1986 in a nursing home in Upland, CA.

She had moved from Lusk to Ontario, CA eight years ago to be near her daughter, Mrs. Harley (Jean) Jones. Until then she had lived in Lusk since 1917 when she and her late husband, Ford B. Kuns, moved here from Nebraska.

A private burial service will be held in the Lusk Cemetery Thursday morning, Aug. 14. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Congregational Church with Rev. Frank Blsh officiating. Fellowship will follow.

Mrs. Kuns daughter will be staying at the Howard Weymouth home beginning Tuesday evening. Her son, Stanley Kuns of Spring, TX., will arrive Wednesday.

Memorials may be made to the Congregational Church or the P.E.O. Educational Fund. A detailed obituary will be published next week.

The Lusk Herald
August 20, 1986
Grace E. Kuns

The death of Grace E. Kuns on Aug 8, 1986, in California closed the life of one who had given 45 years of significant service to education in Niobrara County schools, as well as to church, organizations and the county at large.

She died in a nursing home in Upland, CA. After retiring in 1966, she remained active in Lusk until 1978, when failing health forced her to move to Ontario, CA, to be near her daughter, Jean Jones. A broken hip in April 1981 made residence in Upland Convalescent Hospital necessary.

Mrs. Kuns was born May 7, 1888, at Pilger, NE, the daughter of Charles and Minnie (Montgomery) Ellis. Named Grace Alzora, she later used the family name, Ellis, as her middle name.

A graduate of Pilger High School, she attended Wayne State College in Wayne, NE. Her first job was at Oakdale, NE High School teaching Latin and coaching girls' basketball. Her principal was Ford B. Kuns, who she married on Aug. 14, 1913.

It was about in 1918 that the couple homesteaded on the west side of Rawhide Buttes, south of Lusk. However, they lost the homestead and in 1919, moved to Lusk, where Mr. Kuns became superintendent of schools, a position he held for 14 years.

Mrs. Kuns began teaching Latin in Lusk High School in 1920, continuing in that capacity through May 1926. A son, Harold, was born to the Kuns in January 1918, but on Aug. 12, 1927, he was fatally injured in an accident of children playing with a pony and cart. Mrs. Kuns lost two children at birth. In 1930, a son, Stanley, was adopted and in 1932, a daughter Hazel Jean, was adopted, both as infants.

Mrs. Kuns began teaching again in July 1934, this time at the Node School, which held classes during the summer. Two years of high school were offered at the time.

Meanwhile, her husband had been elected county superintendent in 1934 and served in that capacity for nine years. He suffered a stroke in August 1940 while playing softball and died Oct. 11, 1944.

In February of that year, Mrs. Kuns was named by the county commissioners to take over her husband's position. To help in the teacher shortage of the war years, she had gone back to teaching Latin and mathematics in Sept. 1942.

In 1946, Mrs. Kuns was formally elected county superintendent and continued to be re-elected every four years until her retirement. Long miles over rough and often snow-filled county roads did not stop her from visiting the 13 rural schools and giving assistance to the isolated teachers. In addition, she continued to substitute teach in high school and elementary schools.

In 1978, the Niobrara Alumni Association honored her at the annual reunion.

One of the most significant parts of her service to Niobrara County schools began in 1947, when new state legislation mandated a study and submission of a plan for school district reorganization within each county. For some time, the county had been worrying with the fact that the main high school student population was coming into District No. 1, which included Lusk, but the only adequate taxable valuation was in Lance Creek oil field districts 12 and 13.

Mrs. Kuns, sitting on the reorganization board of elected county officials, accepted heavy responsibility in submitting a plan for making the county a single, unified district, and finally on June 30, 1949, the plan gained voters' approval by a narrow margin.

Niobrara County was the first in Wyoming to accomplish reorganization and gained attention throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

At the same time legislation also allowed reorganized districts to submit for vote a proposition to eliminate the office of county superintendent. For Mrs. Kuns, this was a dilemma. Understandably, there was still fear among rural people of losing all control of their rural schools, and pressure mounted among them for her to continue in office, which she did, working with the county district administration until her retirement in 1966. Only then did the county approve eliminating the office.

Mrs. Kuns and her family took an active part in the Congregational Church. Despite her busy schedule of home and professional duties, she still found time to work with the church circle, take an active part in Job's Daughters, the Business and Professional Women's Club, and later in the Auxiliary of Niobrara County Hospital.

She was a founding member and president of the Niobrara Retired Teachers Association and a member of the same national organization. She was initiated into Chapter I of the P.E.O. Sisterhood and was a president. In 1924, she was initiated into Niobrara Chapter 26, Order of Eastern Star and was a Worthy Matron. She also was a member of the Royal Neighbors of America.

Surviving are her children, Stanley R. Kuns of Springs, TX and H. Jean (Mrs. Harley) Jones of Ontario, CA; five grandchildren, Janet Kuns Zimmerman of Colorado Springs, CO; Kevin Kuns of Las Vegas, NV, Michelle Jones Blackmon, Ontario, CA, Kimberlee Jones and Christopher Jones, Ontario; and four great-grandchildren.

Besides the services held Thursday in Lusk, a memorial service will be held Aug 24 at Bethel Congregational Church in Ontario at 7 p.m.

Burial was held at the Lusk Cemetery at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Rev. Frank Blish, minister emeritus, presided at the memorial service Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Images & Attachments

Photo courtesy of Joshua Brackett's Eagle Scout Project

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Kuns, Joseph (11/30/-0001 - 08/24/1931) View Record
Obituary Kuns, Ford (06/15/1888 - 10/11/1944) View Record
Obituary Kuns, Maxine (07/02/1931 - 03/11/1955) View Record
Obituary Kuns, Harold (01/09/1918 - 08/12/1927) View Record
Obituary Ellis, Minnie (11/30/-0001 - 08/10/1940) View Record
Obituary Ellis, Charles (11/30/-0001 - 10/20/1946) View Record
Historical Niobrara County School District No. 1 is 50 years old View Record
Obituary Jones, Hazel (05/12/1932 - 11/20/2020) View Record