Kunz, William Lowell
Bill Kunz had a big loving heart. Recently, when his life changed dramatically as physical challenges increased, he called on his greatest assets, his heroic optimism, and his strong will to live to see him through those difficult times. His remarkable determination amazed his loved ones and care takers, but sadly, on December 26, 2020, that loving heart stopped. He was 83.
William Lowell Kunz arrived on December 5, 1937 in Seymour, Indiana as the beloved first child of the five children born to Walden and Thelma Miller Kunz. He held the honored position in his large extended family of being the first grandchild of both his maternal and his paternal grandparents, who would eventually welcome 42 grandchildren.
Bill grew up in a family that valued education, an understanding how the world works, and creative solutions, so he enthusiastically went off to college at Rose Polytechnic Institute in Indiana at age 17 and went on to earn a BA in Physics at Hamline College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He took his first and only job as a physicist at the Naval Ordinance Test Station (NOTS) in China Lake, California. His younger brother (by a year-and-a-half), Ken, followed him to China Lake when Bill got him a summer job at the Test Station. They were both boy rocket scientists developing guided missile seeker systems. Bill worked on the Walleye TV guided bomb and the Sidewinder air intercept missile. He built the test seeker systems and range testing and data reduction of the first flights. He was good friends with Dr. William McLane, the inventor of the infra-red guided missile. The Aim-9 Sidewinder is still in production today. Bill’s joke was that they made Hitt-iles, not Miss-iles.
The Walleye guidance was based on video imaging, which was a novel concept at that time. Bill and Ken worked a lot of overtime soldering up the tracking circuits with miniature TV vidicons. He was so excited when they could track jackrabbits in the desert from a mile away. Eventually they could track a rabbit even while it ran through the mesquite bushes.
Every time the Sidewinder shot down a drone, the Captain threw a “Sidewinder Party” at the officer’s club. Bill’s friends recognized his contributions, but to Bill it was just another days’ work. But Bill worked many, many nights to make it happen. He was an honest-to-goodness Rocket Scientist!
An entrepreneur at heart, he started a camera and hi-fi store on a shoestring while still in his 20’s and spent his working life building up bigger and better stores in Ridgecrest, California, including Kunz Variety which often had the latest and greatest computers first to be sold anywhere in the area. Many acts of generosity sprang from his enthusiasm for sharing the fine equipment he sold. Many family members and friends have remarked, “Bill made it possible for me to get my first really good camera.”
Bill was charismatic, bright, and enthusiastic and he found it natural to be interested in whomever he was with. He loved light-hearted movies, clever jokes, well-engineered cameras and well-seasoned Cadillacs. Music was a joy to him and he loved to share the lilting songs of his favorite folk singers, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. He reveled in the deep feelings expressed in the music of Tschaikovski, Chopin, Saint-Saëns and Fauré and he enjoyed adding to his extensive record collection.
He was a car enthusiast. Starting with his experience at age 16 when he bought a 1935 Chevy, carefully disassembling and repairing it, he learned to diagnose and fix most car troubles. He was the go-to fellow for family with car troubles and he gladly shared his skills, often stopping to help a family stranded on the roadside to get moving again.
For years, the police radio remained on around-the-clock at his house so he could hear the call when there was an accident and know where he was needed. He would rush to the crash scene to assist the Highway Patrol with transportation or photography.
Bill’s charitable spirit and natural interest in those he met, watching out for others, befriending the friendless, checking in on shut-ins and bringing meals to little ladies who couldn’t get around very well are all testaments to his kind and giving soul.
He loved to travel, especially by train in the vista dome where he could enjoy the grand scenery and test his latest fine camera. He made friends wherever he happened to adventure. He undertook a daring car trip deep into Mexico to help a friend longing to visit her family there and later trekked through Eastern Europe in a camper van for several weeks experiencing life behind the Iron Curtain, and camped his way across Canada to Alaska. He was delighted when Kodak awarded him a posh photographers’ trip aboard a yacht on the Sea of Cortez because his small-town photo store set the record for the highest volume of orders for film processing.
Bill shared his love of travel with his grandmother, often taking her on long cross-country trips. He delighted to pick her up in his beloved luxury Cadillac and squire her across the country in style to visit her children and grandchildren in California. She enjoyed the pampering and he loved her lively company.
He adored his parents and grandparents, making a special effort to see them often, do thoughtful favors for them, bring them insightful gifts, notice unspoken needs and add spice and sparkle to their lives. He was so proud of his children, supportive and encouraging, excited for them to learn and grow and love life as he did. He was so very pleased with them. He always found fun and interesting things to keep his kids included and engaged no matter their age and ability. His children sensed it was special to have a dad for whom no moment was too small and no emotion went uncared for.
Throughout his life, Bill exhibited an adventurous and resilient spirit, many times springing back from heartache and misfortune and business reversals to find meaning, hope and love again. Down-to-earth, humorous, witty and enthusiastic, Bill was a pleasure to be around. A real “people person”, he loved conversing with others and adding laughter to their day. His many stories and good-humored comebacks will be shared among loved ones as we remember Bill.
He had a remarkable memory and shared countless humorous stories, both true and imagined, with that famous twinkle in his eye. Always one to share his knowledge on a wide variety of topics, his interests and abilities ranged from nutritional healing, understanding complex inventions, delivering his own babies at home, soothing a fussy child with his innate understanding of what was needed, organizing a spice cupboard or designing clever roadside barriers.
He embraced the gifts and challenges of life, alive to life’s wonders, photographing hundreds of varieties of desert wildflowers and climbing Mt. Whitney many times just for fun. He often left younger companions panting on the trail while he pressed on to the summit, shouting encouragement back over his shoulder.
Bill felt especially delighted and grateful to have enjoyed a wonderful new chapter in his life that began when he and his beloved fiancée found each other just four years ago. He could barely believe his great fortune and cherished each day he spent with her. He lived his philosophy: “Enjoy life and help others to do the same.”
Those who knew Bill are thankful for his goodness, for the easy grace with which he lived, for his good humor and affection and generosity, for his gentleness, caring and patience, grateful for the courage and optimism with which he faced his last days, living and dying with courage and without fear, strong beyond expectation, ever optimistic. It was an honor to know him, to love him and to be lifted by his loving spirit. Bill himself was so caring and comforting and those who knew him will continue to cherish his remarkable mind and heart.
Bill was preceded in death by his beloved parents Walden and Thelma (Miller) Kunz, his brother Richard Owen Kunz and niece Natalie Margo Kunz and his beloved grandparents, Albert and Opal (Heckelman) Kunz and F. William and Hannah (Osterman) Miller.
Bill will be dearly missed by his loving fiancée, Zoie Ohmes; children, William Albert Kunz, Davis Kunz, Jennifer Kunz, Janis Kunz, Devin Kunz; brothers, Kenneth Kunz, Walden Kunz and sister Margaret (Glen) Ohmert; sisters-in-law, Mary (Kenneth) Kunz, Diane (Richard) Kunz, Robin (Walden) Kunz, brother-in law Glen (Margaret) Ohmert, nieces Jennifer (Nick) Duva, Kathrine (Mike) Place, Elizabeth Kunz, Revel (Doug) Wolfenberg, Sahra (James) Affleck, nephews Andrew Kunz, Morgan Kunz, grandnephews, Alexander Duva, Christopher Duva, Vincent Duva, Nathan Place, Benjamin Wingert, Joseph Affleck, David Affleck, Henry Affleck, Ephraim Affleck, grandnieces Eleanor Wingert, Joey Kunz, Isla Affleck, aunts and uncles Karlita Kunz Black and David Black, Albert and Faye Kunz and many beloved cousins and dear friends.
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