Edward Douglas Kuhns, 93, passed away on the morning of Dec. 13, 2016. He was in death, as he consistently showed in life, a fighter to the end.
Kuhns overcame great odds after a life-changing accident left him disabled, with his left hand paralyzed, to go on to lead a superior life of education and achievement. He was a gifted writer and storyteller.
Born as an orphan on Dec. 9, 1923, in Hood River, Ore., he was adopted by loving parents, Edith Youngkrantz and John C. Kuhns. His father had been appointed by Teddy Roosevelt as one of the first foresters under the Department of Agriculture in the Walla Walla District, near Baker, Ore. Both parents had always assumed that Kuhns would follow in his adopted father’s footsteps as an outdoorsman. After the accident, his parents didn’t know what to do. So, for better or for worse, he was left to fend for himself.
As a boy, Kuhns spent many of his days in the local city park or at the library, reading books about world history. The few friends that he had were also outcasts. He once said, “My only friends growing up were a Muslim boy, a Native American boy and a Jew.”
Finally, he found himself. He learned, over time, that despite his disability, he was athletic and smart. He taught himself to play tennis, holding the ball in his racquet hand and releasing it, at just the right time, high over his head, to serve it at a blistering speed. Later, while in high school, he and his Native American friend won the City of Portland tennis doubles championship.
He met his college sweetheart, Eileen Pease, while they both worked for the Reed College newspaper, The Quest. She was the editor, and he was sports editor. He learned to debate and ran for student council. They were married on graduation day in 1945 and went to Syracuse University, where they both earned their doctorates — his in economics, and hers in sociology and anthropology.
Kuhns had a brief career as a professor of economics and political science, teaching at Colgate University and Lake Forest College. He ended his work in academia when he left Union College in Schenectady, and never looked back, choosing instead to become a labor economist, working for Walter Reuther of the AFL-CIO. Having been one himself, he became an avid protector of all underdogs.
Kuhns served as the chief negotiator of each pension plan between Fortune 100 companies’ management and the various labor unions. He never paid a health insurance bill in his life because, as he was fond of saying, “I wrote the damn thing.”
Kuhns is survived by his sons, John D. Kuhns, D.C. Kuhns and Paul G. Kuhns, and his daughter, Anne Kuhns Gude. In July, the family celebrated its first-ever Kuhns family reunion. Afterwards, when someone showed him the picture of 22 people, in all four generations, Kuhns said, “Look at what Mom and I made together,” and then he just smiled.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at noon at Mariner’s Bethel U.M. Church, 81 Central Avenue, Ocean View, Del. A reception for family members will begin at 11 a.m. Luncheon will be served afterward. Instead of flowers, the family suggested memorial donations to the Kuhns Family Scholarship Fund, Reed College; 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.; Portland, OR 97202-8199.