MADISON - Helen Louise (Hartley) Kuntz died Sunday, October 11, 2020. She was almost 101 years old and proud of it. Helen will be remembered by her family and many friends as a lovely, gracious and generous woman (and a loyal and diehard Badger and Packers supporter) during the 77 years she lived in Madison. Madison was the perfect place for her to hone her many skills as a teacher, naturalist and librarian.
Helen was born on January 19, 1920, in Troy, Ohio, to William H. and Derry P. Hartley. Helen attended public schools in Troy where she graduated from Troy High School as class valedictorian. Helen attended Ohio Wesleyan University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in English in 1942. Although Helen was an active member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, she happened to meet her future husband, James E. Kuntz while excelling in one of her botany courses and both events presaged a lifelong interest in the natural sciences. Following graduation from college Helen taught high school English for a year in Fairborn, Ohio. Newlyweds Jim and Helen attended graduate school programs in 1943 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he in the Department of Horticulture and Plant Pathology and she in library science.
Raising three children and keeping the proverbial home fires burning, Helen never lost her love of teaching children as a dedicated leader in both Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and sharing her joy of learning by starting and maintaining several libraries in Madison schools, the United Methodist Church and UW’s Department of Plant Pathology. She created reading programs for women and children and tutored Laubach Literacy students. As a UW faculty spouse, Helen provided the necessary and unfailing social direction for the UW’s forestry summer field camp at Wisconsin Rapids. The challenges of organizing numerous faculty participants, a covey of rambunctious kids and streams of enterprising graduate students conspired to challenge the most intrepid overseer of social decorum and activities. Helen never wavered in the more than two decades of summer encampment.
Helen and Jim participated in a faculty exchange program from 1970-72 in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, where she volunteered at the University of Ife’s (Awolowo) main library and the Plant Science library. When Helen and Jim returned to Madison and the UW in 1972, she worked in the Plant Pathology library. Helen was active in the University League book club and her church women’s group. She established the library at the Kuntz Environmental Education Center at Pine Lake, Wisconsin, and taught hundreds of kids of all ages over the years about the natural environment.
Following retirement Helen and Jim succumbed to their love of traveling, adding to their having visited almost all of the states of the United States as well as Canada and many European and African countries, by attending more than 30 Elder Hostels in the United States, Europe and Latin America. Being the consummate and tireless volunteer, Helen assisted in the library at the Oakwood Retirement Center where she also sang in the chorus and knitted wooly hats, scarves and mittens to give to those who needed them.
Helen’s memory will be cherished as a loving and caring mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Helen’s family meant everything to her. Her fierce loyalty to each member was legendary. Her quiet presence and unswerving support will be greatly missed. Helen was preceded in death by her husband of 69 years, James Eugene Kuntz. Helen is survived by her sons James Edward Kunz (Leslea Kunz) of New Bern, North Carolina, and children Kristine (Kunz) Leclerc (Christian Leclerc) and Kimberly (Kunz) McKee (Christopher McKee); and David W. Kuntz (Patricia Mulvihill) of Boulder, Colorado, and children Jason Mulvihill-Kuntz (Sara Barker) and Jessica Mulvihill-Kuntz (Joel Kablau); and great grandchildren Abigail, Jacob and Matthew Leclerc, Robert and Samuel McKee, and Colin and Julia Kuntz; and her daughter Patricia S. Kuntz of Madison.
A memorial service will be held later. Helen will be interred at the Kuntz Family plot in Leipsic, Ohio, beside her husband (1919-2012) and paternal in-laws. Memorials may be made to the Kuntz Environmental Education Center, United Methodist Church District Office, 750 Windsor St., Sun Prairie, WI 53590 or St. Olaf College, International Studies Program, Northfield, MN 55057.
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