William “Bill” Kunerth, 89, of Belle Fourche died Monday, December 9, 2013, at the Fort Meade Veterans Hospital.
William F. (Bill) Kunerth was born October 18, 1924, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to John F. and Caroline (Osloond) Kunerth. In 1939, the family moved back to the Kunerth homestead ranch about 15 miles west of Belle Fourche, just across the Wyoming border.
Funeral Services will be held 11 a.m., Saturday, December 14, 2013, at St. James Lutheran Church in Belle Fourche with the Reverend Evelyn Weaver and Reverend Sandy Williams and Deacon Mike Weaver Officaiting. Burial will take place at 2 p.m. at Pine Slope Cemetery in Belle Fourche with military honors provided by the Belle Fourche Veterans Honor Guard.
Visitation will be from Noon to 7 p.m., Friday, at Kline Funeral Chapel in Belle Fourche.
The family suggests memorials to St. James Episcopal Church or the Kunerth-Wechsler Investigative Reporting Fund.
Bill was a 1942 graduate of Belle Fourche High School. After graduation, he worked as an editorial assistant on the Washington (D.C.) Evening Star and an advertising assistant on the Washington (D.C.) Daily News. His parents had moved to Alexandria, VA where they worked in a torpedo factory during World War II. Bill joined the Army in 1943 and worked as a newspaper reporter at Carlisle Barracks and studied engineering at Virginia Tech under the Army Specialized Training Program. When that program was closed he was transferred to the 84th Infantry Division. He was wounded in December 1944 while in combat in Germany. He received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge, before being discharged in March 1946. Kunerth was married to Willie Wennberg of Belle Fourche on June 16, 1948.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wyoming and worked for community daily and weekly newspapers in Belle Fourche, Torrington, Laramie and Sundance, WY, Ames IA and Wilmette, ILL. He received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism in 1952. He taught journalism at South Dakota State University for three years and at Iowa State University for 30 years. He taught investigative reporting and editing courses and conducted research to assist journalists in their coverage of public affairs news.
He received the Iowa Newspaper Association Distinguished Service award and an Iowa Freedom of Information Committee award for defense of the First Amendment. He also received an award for Imaginative Teaching at Iowa State University. One of Bill’s students, Tom Knudson, won two Pulitzer prizes.
The Kunerth family spent their summers on the Kunerth ranch until 2003 when they moved to Belle Fourche permanently. Bill’s enduring and deep love of Willie, his wife of 65 years, was the center of his life.
Bill was active in politics, enjoyed fishing and reading. He did publicity work for several organizations in Ames and Belle Fourche. He was a member of St. James Episcopal Church, the Belle Fourche Lions Club, the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and Order of the Purple Heart. He worked with the Center of the Nation Concert Association, Belle Fourche Arts Council and the Dakota Smiles Dental Clinic.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Caroline Kunerth and a brother, John.
He is survived by his wife, Wilma “Willie” Kunerth of Belle Fourche; sons, Jeff (Gretchen) Kunerth of Orlando, FL, Bill (Jeri) Kunerth Jr. of Fairbanks, AK and John Kunerth of Belle Fourche, SD; daughter, Myla (Russell) Budmayr of Ten Sleep, WY and 6 grandchildren, Chad and Jesse Kunerth, Kellie and Allison Kunerth, Hunter Kunerth and Stephanie Kunerth.
An online guest book is available to sign and send written condolences at www.klinefuneralchapel.com