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In Loving Memory

Kuehnle, Richard

June 20, 1926 - November 24, 2023

Richard Kuehnle was born on June 20, 1926 to Rose and William Kuehnle. He was the youngest child of the family. His siblings were Paul, Helen, William, Eugene, Jim, Andy, and Rose. The family lived in south St. Louis at 5206 Alaska in the St. Cecilia Parish where all the kids attended school. Richard attended kindergarten through 8th grade at St. Cecilia’s. His class was the first kindergarten in the school. Grandpa told me many stories about his education. He was surprised by the low number of students in today’s classrooms because his class had 50 students in one room. When I asked him how the teacher kept everyone’s attention, he told me “It wasn’t her job to keep our attention. It was our job to learn.” It is no surprise that his favorite subject in school was math. Anyone who ever played cards, bet on the horses, or watched him play blackjack could quickly see his acumen with numbers.
At the house on Alaska, the majority of the basement was dedicated to the Christmas Stand that William created for the holidays. While the kids weren’t allowed to play with the stand, William did make the kids their own toy soldiers made out of lead. Grandpa reported epic battles in the basement between him and his brothers. The Christmas Stand was such an important part of the Kuehnle house that William cut holes in the living room floor to install a pulley system to raise the stand from the basement to the front room during the month of December. Imagine a small south St. Louis house with 9 people living in the space and for an entire month of the year the main room of the house was off limits for the Christmas Stand. Grandpa did say he had fond memories of the neighbors coming to the house each holiday season to see the stand and revel in the holiday tradition. When I asked if he had ever worked on the stand with his dad, he was quick to show me a gift his father had made him. Each child in the house was given the gift of their own “dream” house in the Christmas Stand that they got to design and decorate. The kids would look at the real estate section of the paper looking for ideas for their house. Grandpa’s house had a wonderful front porch, working lights and lovely flowered wallpaper on the inside.
Anyone who knows the Kuehnles knows that competition and physical activity go hand in hand. So, how do you keep 6 boys occupied? Build them a bowling alley in the basement. Grandpa said the kids would spend hours in the basement bowling. I’m guessing that is where his hand eye coordination skills began to develop. Later in life, Grandpa could always be seen at family functions playing horseshoes, ping pong, washers, and bags. His hand eye coordination was second to none. He also didn’t believe in letting you win. You had to earn your stripes. He told me about a time he was teaching Matt how to play blackjack at Easter. Matt had his Easter dollar to bet. Grandpa won, and Matt wanted to play again, but Grandpa passed on the second game. Grandpa said: “Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.” It was a lesson we all learned at some point in playing games with Grandpa. He was never a sore loser or a braggart; he just had a joy in competition and the game itself. And let me tell you, when you won, you felt like you had really accomplished something.
Grandpa attended Cleveland High School and graduated at the age of 17 on June 10, 1944. On September 11, 1944 he enlisted in the Army. All of his brothers except Paul served in the military during WWII. Grandpa was the only one of the brothers who served on the ground during the war. He went to Fort Robinson in Arkansas for basic training and then traveled to
New York City where he was housed in a large warehouse that served as a barracks as they awaited transport to Europe. He and 17,000 other US soldiers sailed for 6 days on the Queen Elizabeth to get to Europe. I asked him if he was in the royal accommodations. With his signature chuckle, he told me he was assigned a room with 9 bunks and they rotated between
sleeping in the quarters one night and sleeping on the deck the next night because the ship was so crowded. He said the smart soldiers slept on deck by the steam vents to try to catch some warmth. When I asked him where they sailed to, he said, “We went where they told us to go. It was a lot of that. Just go to the next place, and then the next.” Once Grandpa got to Europe on February 1, 1945, he was placed with the 84th Division Infantry. He recounted being with 2 other new soldiers in a barn and each had a candle for warmth and light. Several officers came in and said, “You come with me. You go with him. And you stay here.” I asked him if he got the right officer and he shrugged and said, “It turned out all right for me.” Grandpa’s division was sent to the Rhine River were he saw combat until victory in Europe day on May 8, 1945. When I asked him about his experiences, he simply said, “We don’t talk about that.” He shrugged slightly, took a deep breath and then moved on. While Grandpa was in the Army, he made sure to write home to his mother Rose to keep her updated on his whereabouts. Even while away at war, Grandpa’s focus was always on home.
Amazingly, she kept all of the letters that he wrote home to her and Grandpa still has them all safely housed in a cardboard Christmas Pepperidge Farms Sausage box. In the letter dated May 8, 1945, the opening line reads: “The war is over.” Like so many of his letters, this simple phrase captured so much of the simple yet practical views on life and his situation. Many of the letters after VE Day expressed his longing to return home and his desire to see his family. After VE Day, Grandpa remained in Europe until June 10, 1946. Much of his time was spent in the south of Germany where he worked first to remove old communication wire that had been strung to communicate via telephone. The copper coil was considered a valuable asset to recollect. His next job came when he was stationed with a communications division. His job along with 6 others was to run a switchboard. At first their job consisted of 24 hour shifts that they rotated through to man; however, Germans in search of work who spoke English were hired to man the switchboard, so Grandpa’s shifts were shortened to 6 hour shifts that he and the other soldiers rotated, and then more Germans were hired to cover the weekends. With all the extra help, Grandpa ended up working one 6 hour shift and then being off for 2 and half days at a time. I asked him what they did with all that extra time and the answer was simple: “we played a ton of ping pong.” Grandpa’s ping pong prowess is legendary, so it turns out that we can all be that good if we just join the Army. One of the artifacts he kept from his time in the war was a newspaper clipping of his ping pong record during that time. Forget the bronze star commondations; bring on the winning ping pong record! Upon Grandpa’s return to the US on August 14, 1946, he took a series of jobs as a clerk. It was at The Auto Club on Lindell Blvd that he met Dorothy Garland. She worked in the publicity department of the company. I asked Grandpa how they started talking, and he said that one of the first things he did once he got back from the war was he bought a car. He said “no more walking” for me after his time in the war. Because he had a car, he offered to take some of the other employees to and from work. Dorothy overheard this conversation and asked if he would be willing to take her home. Luckily for him, she was the last one he had to drop off each night which gave them a chance to talk. Grandpa said, “It was a miracle I even talked.” I asked him if he was shy and he confirmed that he was notoriously shy “especially around girls.” He said when he started talking to Dorothy, “she just made him feel so comfortable and the words just came out.”
So, where does a guy take a girl in the late 1940s for their first date. A movie? A dinner? How about to a wrestling match at the Kiel Auditorium? Grandpa laughed from his belly when he told me about their first date. He said in retrospect that it might not have been a great choice. I asked him if Grandma liked it, and he again laughed and said “she loved it! We went back a bunch of time after that.” As a person who got to witness over half of their married life together, this story of their first date just makes perfect sense. I can see Grandma laughing and having a great time at that wrestling match. Unfortunately, for our shy Richard, Dorothy decided to move to California with a friend to reconnect with her father. This move only lasted a year, and she returned to St. Louis. Grandpa said he knew she had returned, but it took a while for them to reconnect. They ended up going on their next date to a wedding, which Grandpa described as “a cheap date,” and then they began dating again. For the next year of their dating life, Grandma would ask when they were going to get married and Grandpa’s response was “one of these days.” Finally, three days before Christmas in 1949, Grandpa proposed. I asked him where and how the proposal happened and he said, “I went to my work Christmas party and had the ring in my pocket. I ended up having a really good time and came home and took a nap. My mom woke me up and said, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be at Dorothy’s.’ I jumped up and went to her house and asked her. It worked out great because her ring was also her Christmas present.” Such a romantic!
Richard and Dorothy were married at Resurrection Church on April 29, 1950. The newlyweds were supposed to move into a house owned by Grandma’s sister Jane and her husband Joe, but at the last minute they sold the house so the newlyweds were left with no place to go. Rose and William opened the doors on Alaska and Richard and Dorothy lived with them for 3 months while they worked out housing. I asked if Grandma got along with Rose, and Grandpa said, “Of all the daughter-in-laws, Rose liked Dorothy the best because she talked to her and showed interest in her as a person.”
Grandma and Grandpa’s first house was a two-family flat on St. Vincent Ave. They occupied the downstairs flat and Grandma’s mother and step-father lived above them. The happy couple moved to their home at 5321 Alfred in 1953 and lived in that home for 41 years. In that tiny house on Alfred they raised all 6 of their children, Tom, Don, Mike, Linda, Sue and Bob. The boys all occupied one room of the attic bedroom, while the girls were in a small room off the front of the house. Grandma and Grandpa’s room was the dining room converted into a bedroom. While the house was small, it contained lots of energy, laughter and joy. Tom recalls that even though hard work was part of the household, there was always a focus on making the kids a priority. Grandpa rearranged the paper route schedule so that Tom could also participate in the school plays. Work was important but so was providing for your kids. Linda recalls the love that Grandma and Grandpa shared as being central to the house. They would often go on
dates to the corner tavern at Alfred and Delor on Friday nights while Grandpa’s cousin Ann would watch the kids. Grandpa recalled that they would get a bucket of beer and “he would have four and Dot would have two.” Their love was based upon a deep friendship and a continued sense of being together and enjoying small moments.
For the kids and older grandkids, the house on Alfred symbolized the start of Christmas. It was the place where we all went to begin the holidays. The tiny house was filled with each crevice with love and energy. There was the epic year where Grandma bought all the aunts and uncles ping pong guns and the grandkids were shuttled out of the living room so that adults could wage an epic battle. There were the traveling three wise men who started by the door each year and traveled slowly across the month to end at their final destination of the manger. There was the Christmas tree placed in the corner on top of an end table because that was the only available space in the room. There was the picture of the Last Supper that hung above the table and felt like a presence all to itself. The house itself always had a spirit of play and joy.
After several jobs as a clerk, Grandpa purchased a St. Louis Post-Dispatch paper route in 1967 that he ran until his retirement in 1984. I can remember being fascinated by the paper truck in the garage on Alfred with its twin spools and bins for papers. Grandpa delivered the Post-Dispatch in the afternoons to 1,100 daily customers and on Sundays to 1,200 customers. He was given a Globe route that he and Tom ran in the mornings. When he ran the Southside Journal route, Grandma and Tom ran the Globe route while he ran the other. His route covered the majority of the Bevo Mill neighborhood. All 6 kids worked on the paper route at one time or another, and Grandma even drove the truck sometimes. It was a true family business. The dining table that has long been a fixture in Grandpa’s house was a prize from the Post-Dispatch for earning credits on his route. He proudly explained how that table could fit all 8 members of the family so that they could eat together.
Grandpa’s life was filled with family. He was a humble human who did not seek fame, fortune or even travel. When he was reflecting on his life with Sue near the end, he stated, “Even though we had nothing we had everything.” He was content and fulfilled with the love of his family around him, a bit of good natured competition and lots of laughter. One thing I will remember the most about Grandpa was his quick wit and laughter. His whole body reverberated when he laughed. Once you married into the Kuehnle family, you were just that “family.” Everyone called him Dad or Grandpa or Gpa because once you were on the family wall of wedding pictures, you were considered family. This focus on family brought forth 20 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. While Grandpa wasn’t big on holding babies, he definitely had a sense of pride in the family he and Grandma created.
Being a Kuehnle also meant that you were now part of family traditions. I thought all families got together once a month for Cards. I didn’t realize until I was older how rare a tradition like this was. As a kid, Cards meant running with my cousins, creating games and hideouts. It meant being free to be kids and getting to eat junk food. The adults always seemed to be mid-story and loud. Grandpa was always at the card table enjoying the camaraderie of being with his kids and later grandkids as they played endless games of poker. This love for cards and friendship extended to the card club that he and Grandma were part of with three other couples. He
proudly shared that each couple was around to celebrate each other’s 50 year anniversaries of marriage. The monthly family card tradition started with his own siblings but then transferred to our immediate family. Later in life, Grandpa always enjoyed the trips he got to take with his adult children to Tunica, Mississippi where they would spend time together at the casino. As much as Grandpa loved the sport of gambling, it was the time spent with family that meant the most to him.
A longstanding tradition for the Kuehnles was the summer family picnic. It was always the last Sunday in July and usually the hottest day of the year. This tradition dates back to Rose and Wiliam’s generation and continues today. Although we have changed locations from its original space at Carondelet Park, and then Willmore Park, and finally at Uncle Mike and Aunt Cindy’s, the core focus has always been the same: family is important. All of us have different memories from family picnics, but one of the parts I always loved was seeing the generations of people together and hearing all of the stories. I can remember Grandpa and his siblings talking aboutgrowing up. I can remember celebrating milestones in our family. I can remember endless games of tennis, washers, softball and who could ever forget the Egg Toss?
There are so many stories that fill the life of a person who was with us for 97 years that one person cannot possibly capture them all. We all will hold our own memories about what Grandpa taught us and showed us about being a human being in this world. It will be through our stories that he will live on and continue to be part of our family. Although the passing of Richard Kuehnle is a loss for all of us, it is also a moment for celebration. He is finally back with the love of his life, Dorothy and all of his friends and siblings. He has left us a host of family traditions that we have the duty to continue. He may be the last of his generation, but he has left a legacy built upon embodying humbleness, finding joy in the small moments, loving family and continuing the tradition of being a Kuehnle.

Service from KUTIS AFFTON CHAPEL, 10151 Gravois Rd., Wednesday, November 29, 10:30 a.m. to St. Catherine Laboure, 9740 Sappington Rd. for 11:00 a.m. Mass.  Interment Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.  Visitation Tuesday 4:00 -8:00 p.m.




7 thoughts on “Kuehnle, Richard”

  1. I send my condolences to the Kuehnle family. You’ll will be in my prayers doing this time of need. My God bless each and everyone of you all.

  2. I’m sorry to learn of your Dad’s passing. He was a very nice man, I think I called him Uncle Richard, thanks to Gloria, of course! He was always so sweet when we would run into him and Aunt Dorothy at St John’s picnic! It’s sad to see their generation go! I loved all of them! Hugs!


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