Wilber L Kuenning of Imperial, Nebraska passed away on Oct. 9, 2020 from Coronavirus.
He was born Feb. 18, 1922 in Unadilla to Oscar and Myrtle Kuenning. The fifth of 12 children, he was raised by a single mother. He started working for wages at the age of 10, always giving a portion of his earnings to his mother.
He married Doris E. Schroeder of Grant on Nov. 22, 1944. He would often tell that he moved to Southwest Nebraska with $35 in his pocket. Wilber and Doris started married life renting a farm from Frank and Bertha Osler at Elsie.
In 1953, Wilber and Doris purchased a farm 12 miles north of Imperial, still referred to as the “home place.” He and Doris worked hard to manage diversified crops, a feed-lot and a cow-calf herd. Wilber was proud to be a rancher and a farmer and was proud of what the Sandhills could produce. He thought being a farmer and rancher was the best job in the world! He loved the wide-open spaces and educated himself by being a careful observer of nature.
He retired from farming in 1987 when he and Doris moved to a house on Douglas St in Imperial but continued driving out to the farm every day, spending many hours doing what he loved and often getting himself in trouble with his wife who wanted him to spend more time with her at their home in Imperial! He always knew what was going on at the farm and what everyone was doing. Even when he was in the COVID unit in the Grant hospital, he had a conversation with son Jerry to find out what was going on at the farm.
Wilber and Doris moved to an assisted living apartment in the Imperial Parkview Heights in 2006, when Doris needed Alzheimer’s care. Before the COVID quarantine, it was sometimes difficult to find a time to talk with him; if he was in the middle of playing a game of cards, bingo, Yahtzee or another activity, he would seldom answer his phone. He continued to reside in the same assisted living apartment until he tested positive for the Coronavirus in early October and was transported to the Perkins County Community Hospital. He greatly appreciated the care he received from his caregivers at Imperial Heights.
Wilber helped build the new United Methodist Churches in both Grant and Imperial. He could donate either money or labor, and because of lean times, he chose to donate his labor. Religion was important in his life, he recently received a 60 year membership pin and this year was recognized as the oldest member of the First United Methodist Church in Imperial.
Wilber held several offices of the Lone Star, District #24 school board, including board president the year the school closed and consolidated with Imperial Schools. He served on the boards of the Chase County Soil Conservation Service, testifying to the Nebraska State Legislature the importance of keeping the Upper and Lower Republican Rivers as separate water districts.
He was also on the boards of the United Methodist Church, Federal Land Bank and the Rural Fire Dept. Always a promoter of 4-H and FFA, he received the Chase County Friends of 4-H Award and was awarded Honorary Memberships by both the Imperial and Nebraska FFA Chapters. He entered the Nebraska Corn Husking Competition several years and the last year would have been a champion but he entered himself in the wrong age category!
Wilber loved the Chase County Fair, he spent hours attending various events and visiting with acquaintances, young and old. Over the years, he enjoyed watching his children, grandchildren and especially his great-grandchildren show livestock. He proudly participated in the Chase County Fair parades three different years, driving a restored International Regulator, riding his 3-wheel tricycle and driving his first new tractor, a restored 1945 Model M, accompanied by his grandchildren and/or great-grandchildren.
Dancing was another favorite activity of Wilber’s; continuing the family tradition, when the last granddaughter, Kelly, was married in July he was surrounded by the bride, daughters, daughter-in-law, granddaughters and great-granddaughters, bringing tears to the eyes of many. He was a member of a neighborhood card club for over 60 years.
Family, immediate and extended, were very important to Wilber. He enjoyed his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and was quick to tell them how proud he was of them.
One of his greatest strengths was his positive attitude. During the lean years, due to drought, hail, or crop disease he would say, “we’ll find a way to make it work.” Perhaps because of his eighth grade education, another often quoted saying was, “get an education, it’s something they can never take away from you.” Those who knew Wilber would describe him as honest, hard-working, humble and kind; he saw the positive in everyone and in most situations.
Wilber was proceeded in death by: parents, Myrtle Kuenning and Oscar Kuenning; parents-in-law, Ernest and Zilla Schroeder; wife Doris; brothers and sisters-in-law: Warren (Dorothy), Melvin, David (Hilda), Harold/Joe (Delores), Maynard/Pete (Lois) and Roberta (Lloyd) Stretch; sisters and brothers-in-law: Alvina (Holbert) Vacca, Erma (Otto) Seimers, Mildred (Harvey) Dettmer, Shirley, Glenn Wallen, Don Noerrlinger, Gerald Schroeder; and daughter-in-law, Joyce Kuenning.
He is survived by sisters: Arvilla Noerrlinger, Lincoln; Beatrice/Betty Wallen, Independence, Missouri; sisters-in-law, Irene (Melvin) Kuenning, Syracuse; and Pat (Gerald) Schroeder, Grant.
Children: Ernest, Imperial; Donna (Don) Hutchens, Lincoln; Jerry, Lemoyne; Connie, Lincoln; and daughter-in-law, Kathy Kuenning, Imperial. Grandchildren: CJ Kuenning, Grant; Britt (Erin) Kuenning, Paxton; Amber (Jared) Moscrip, Lincoln; Lance Kuenning (Deb), Imperial; Misti (Chad) Hogan, Auburn, Illinois; Kurt (Melanie) Kuenning, Olathe, Kansas; Dr. Kate (Matt) Boos, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Jerad (Megan) Hutchens, Platte, South Dakota; Brandon (Kelly) Kuenning, Grant; Kory (Nick) Fowler, Imperial; and Kelly (Patrick) Kirkland, Lincoln and twenty-six great-grandchildren: Taylor, Brynn, Brooks, Mason, Alexa, Drew, Cameron, Carter, Bennett, Cord, Madilyn, Cole, Maribeth, Colin, Claire, Burke, Ben, Erik, Ariel, Elvee, Luke, Lily, June, Hayden, Grady and Landry; and two great-great-grandchildren: Jonah and Sawyer.
Funeral Services will be held Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, 1 p.m. at the United Methodist Church of Imperial with Pastor Debra Copple officiating. Interment will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery, Imperial.
Visitation will be held Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, 2-6 p.m. at the funeral home in Imperial.
In Lieu of flowers, a memorial has been suggested to the Kuenning Family for a future designation to the educational funds of the Imperial FFA and the Chase County 4-H Council.
Services will be webcast on Imperial United Methodist Church Facebook page for live streaming.
Online condolences may be left at liewerfuneralhome. com.
(Masks and social distancing required)
Liewer Funeral Home is entrusted with arrangements.