Robert Kuennen, aged 91, died on Jan. 30, 2014, at New Life Hospice in Lorain, Ohio, following complications of a stroke. Bob, a retired sculptor and teacher, had been a resident of Oberlin, Ohio, since 2011. Previous residences included Aptos, Calif., and Wilmette, Ill.
Born Robert Eugene Taylor in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Sept. 30, 1922, his early life was marked by hardship. His parents Beulah (nee Peterson) and Chauncey J. Taylor divorced when he was very young, leaving his mother to care for Bob and his older brother Louis J. The boys were given into the custody of an orphanage for several years, emerging when their mother remarried J.L. Russell C. Kuennen, who subsequently adopted Bob.
Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 as a conscientious objector, and served three years in the European and African theaters. On his enlistment papers he wrote "artist" under the heading "Occupation" although he'd had no formal training at that time. He served as a Pharmacist Mate 3rd Class and was awarded several medals and an honorable discharge. His brother Louis was killed in France during the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, and without a bachelor's degree, he was accepted into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago based on a portfolio of work he'd created during the war. During his time at the SAIC he was an organizer of the Exhibition Momentum group, and frequently exhibited in shows with friends including Leon Golub, Cosmo Campoli, and Dominic DiMeo. He graduated from the SAIC with an MFA in studio art in 1955.
It was also during this time that he met the love of his life, Hannah (nee Doppelt). They were married in Chicago in 1954, and moved to Wilmette, Ill., in 1956 into a home Bob designed and built himself. Bob taught drawing, sculpture, painting, and art history at New Trier East High School. He remained on the faculty for 30 years, most of that time as the chair of the art department. During his tenure he expanded the program to include photography, lithography, etching, printmaking, and metallurgical arts. He was also awarded a year-long sabbatical, which took him all over Europe and northern Africa photographing prehistoric cave art and rock paintings.
After retiring from New Trier, he and Hannah moved to Aptos, Calif., where he began a second career as a dealer in ethnic art and artifacts. His great joy was to peruse the offerings at local flea markets finding treasures that others missed. He freely shared his knowledge and wisdom and developed a strong circle of flea market buddies. He and Hannah opened their home to many visiting artists. Both he and Hannah derived much pleasure from their close friendships in Wilmette and Aptos.
In 2011, Bob and Hannah moved to Oberlin, Ohio, to be closer to family. Hannah passed away on March 1, 2012, and Bob continued to soldier on in his graceful way. He took delight in spending time with his family, friends, and caregivers. He is survived by daughters and sons-in-law Claire Kuennen Jordan and Michael Jordan (Roseville, Minn.), Lisa Kuennen Asfaw and Kifle Asfaw (Catonsville, Md.), and Laura Kuennen-Poper and Roy Poper (Oberlin, Ohio); grandchildren Calder and Reed Jordan, Kirubel and Israel Asfaw, and Ian Poper, brother- and sister-in-law Neil Doppelt and Audrey Adams; nieces and nephews Adam and Shannon Doppelt, Rachel Doppelt and Juan Gaspar, Sarah Adams-Steinberg and Peter Steinberg, and Rachel Adams; and great-neice and -nephews Joaquin and Alejandro Gaspar Doppelt, Elizabeth and Theodore Doppelt, and Charlie and Henry Steinberg.
A memorial celebration will be held at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made in Bob's honor to Heifer International, Catholic Relief Services, or a
Online condolences may be made at www.cowlingfuneralhomeoh.com.