Elizabeth R. Kuenzi
May 1, 1943 - April 27, 2013
Elizabeth R. "Bette" Kuenzi passed away peacefully Saturday, surrounded by family and friends, following a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 70.
Born in 1943 to Charles and Louise Youle in Montgomery, AL, Bette spent much of her early life abroad. Her father served in the US Air Force for 30 years. Bette attended 16 different schools growing up, graduating from high school in Japan. She was editor of her high school yearbook, selected as "Most Likely to Succeed" and appeared in several movies and commercials as a young woman.
Bette spent many summers as a teenager in the Central Howell area, picking crops and working on the farm owned by her aunt and uncle, Bernice and Eldon Alt. While attending the University of Oregon, she met Lowell Kuenzi. She and Lowell were married on November 25, 1964 and began to build their life together in Silverton.
After college, Bette worked for Birdseye Food in Woodburn. She was outreach coordinator for Chemeketa Community College and the manager for Silverton Family Clinic. In 1982 she became office manager for Pacific Sanitation, the company she and Lowell founded in 1978.
Bette quickly became active in the Silverton community. She was elected as the first woman member of the Silverton Union High School Board and was also the first woman to serve as SUSD Chair. She was the first woman to chair the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association and the first woman to chair the West Coast Recycling Coalition for Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.
Always interested in politics, Bette worked on the Oregon Bottle Bill in 1972, helping to shape one of the nation's first recycling laws. Along with her school board service, Bette was also Silverton Junior Woman president and chaired the Detroit Water Festival in 1986.
As their children, Lisa and Mike, grew older, Bette and Lowell spent many happy weekends at Detroit Lake with family and friends. Their lake house was always full of people, especially children. Bette's kids and grandkids loved to spend time boating on the lake and enjoying time together. These were some of Bette's happiest times and created many fond memories for family and friends.
Upon "retiring," Bette and Lowell spent many winters living in Arizona where Silverton friends and many new friends gave them much enjoyment and sunshine. It was also in Arizona where Bette recorded a hole in one.
But they always returned home to Silverton for the Christmas Holidays and their grandchildren looked forward to their return to "The Resort" at Detroit Lake every summer where they always celebrated "Family Week" the first full week in August.
Bette was diagnosed with cancer nearly two years ago. As she battled the progression of the disease, she still always managed to keep her spirits high while spending quality time and providing love and guidance to her family.
She is survived by her husband of 49 years, Lowell, children Lisa and Mike, daughter-in-law Tonia, and grandchildren Carson (Autumn), Taylor and McKenna Kuenzi, and Max Sugerman, all of Silverton.
A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the First Christian Church, 402 N. 1St St. A celebration of Bette's life will be held at Festhalle, 500 Wilco Hwy. in Mt. Angel, at 3p.m. following the service.
Parking for the church service is limited and a shuttle will operate from the gravel lot next to Roth's to the church.
Donations in Bette's memory may be made to the
or the Silverton Alumni Association, 303 Oak St., Silverotn, OR 97381. Arrangements are by Unger Funeral Chapel.
Published in StatesmanJournal on Apr. 30, 2013