Twenty-four years ago, Maureen Kuhne walked into Clinchfield Senior Adult Center and began an association with that organization that continues to this date. On that day in 1996, having been referred there by the Director of the local Chamber of Commerce, she entered the building and introduced herself to Anne Hawkins, the Senior Center Asst. Director. Mrs. Hawkins, realizing that the visitor was obviously too young to join the Senior Center, asked Maureen if she could help her. Maureen’s reply was that she was hoping she could help the Senior Center. Thus began a journey with CSAC that grew from a volunteer position to part-time employee, then full-time employee and then back to volunteer and a member and officer on the Board of Directors. How this outgoing, congenial lady with a delightful British accent and her family found their way to Unicoi County involves several countries.
Maureen was born in Wales at the beginning of WW2. Unfortunately, her parents’ marriage did not survive the war, and when she was age 10, she and her mom moved from England to Virginia, USA where her mother married a serviceman she had met during his deployment in England. Her step-father passed away when she was 15, at which time she and her mother returned to England to live.
Meanwhile, the man destined to be her husband, John Kuhne, traveled from South Africa to England to further his education. Maureen and John met at a technical school in 1957 when she was 16, prior to nursing school for her and university for him to study veterinary medicine. They married 3 ½ years later while both were still studying. In September, 1963, they sailed for Africa, a wonderful adventure of two weeks on the Atlantic Ocean with their 9-month old son.
The next seven years were spent in Zimbabwe where John worked for the government veterinary department with large animals and then spent two years setting up a government veterinary lab. Meanwhile, their family had increased by another son and two daughters. After returning to South Africa to work with a veterinary pharmaceutical company, John later became a partner in a veterinary practice. He then accepted a teaching position in the Veterinary Dept. at the University of Pretoria. During that time, he also took evening classes in theological studies.
At this point, John felt called into full-time ministry in South Africa, and he served as a pastor for a church in Johannesburg for two years. Then in 1980 the couple felt the Lord calling John to Hawaii to be a part of Youth with a Mission. He helped start a Christian university in Hawaii, now the University of the Nations. A few years later, he was appointed Dean of the College of Science and Technology with international responsibilities. While the family lived in Hawaii, Maureen worked for a nursing agency for about seven years and then for a Hospice organization scheduling caregivers and, as the Volunteer Coordinator, providing volunteer training.
Primarily due to volcanic air pollution in Hawaii causing health problems for Maureen, the family began considering a move to the continental U.S., possibly to a mountain region similar to what she remembered as a youth in Virginia. In Hawaii, they had become good friends with a couple originally from Florida, who had been living in Hawaii for about 20 years. The couple owned a rustic cabin in the mountains of Unicoi County, TN. They offered their cabin as a base for the Kuhnes to travel around to select an area they liked. So Maureen, John and daughter, Tracey, who decided to move with them, packed their clothes in suitcases, shipped 60 boxes of John’s books (truly, his library!), sold or gave away everything else and flew to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. (This was the third time in their married life that they had moved and left practically everything behind.) They rented a car and drove through Virginia, stopping along the way to visit a relative of Maureen’s step-dad. With some difficulty, no GPS in those days, they finally found the cabin, which Maureen said had lots of windows with a spectacular view of a waterfall. While living there, they attended a little mountain church where John and Tracey had difficulty understanding the mountain dialect, which was totally foreign to them! After living in the cabin for two months, they had to move because the cabin wasn’t winterized, so they rented a house in Erwin.
It was a few weeks later in December 1996 that Maureen visited the Erwin Senior Center and immediately became a valuable addition to the two-person staff assisting with meals, fundraising activities, and manual creation of activity rosters – no computer then. Meanwhile, John continued his frequent international travels for the University. After several months, Maureen was hired part-time and, a year later, became a full-time employee of the Senior Center. Among other duties, she was Program Coordinator and maintained attendance records.
After moving to Erwin, the family joined Calvary Baptist Church. In 1999, Calvary’s Pastor resigned to accept a pastorate in another city and John was asked to serve as the Interim Pastor. He took a 6-month sabbatical from his University position and was told that, “An Interim Pastor is never hired as the full-time Pastor.” However, he was so loved by the congregation that they finally convinced him to become the full-time Pastor with the proviso that he could continue to take two or three trips a year for the University. In 2000, he retired from his international mission work to concentrate on his Erwin ministry, finally retiring as the Calvary Pastor in 2005.
For over 12 years, Maureen coordinated a large Health Fair for the Senior Center with health professionals representing over a dozen different health disciplines. For five years, she co-coordinated a Fair for approximately 20 civic and non-profit organizations and government service agencies. During her second volunteer period, she processed attendance records faithfully once a week, delivered for Meals on Wheels for six years, helped with all fundraising activities, and was a member of the Nursing Home Singers and the CSAC line dancers who performed at area nursing homes.
Reflecting on the many places her family has lived, Maureen said she has loved everywhere, but especially the mountains for their beauty and for hiking, while John especially enjoys walking along the Nolichuckey River in Unicoi County. She has always enjoyed contributing to communities where they have lived and has enjoyed the camaraderie among the residents. Concerning her lengthy association with CSAC, she said it is an important part of the community and she has enjoyed knowing so many seniors in the county. She appreciates the opportunities she has had to serve at CSAC in so many capacities.
When asked about highlights in her life, she said most important is the way God has blessed their family in all the places they have lived. She feels especially blessed that she was able to be a stay-at-home mom to their four wonderful children: Tracey – Starkville, Mississippi; Sarah – Apex, N. Carolina; Paul – S. Africa; and Wayne – Dubai in United Arab Emirates, who have gone on to raise their own families of whom we are very proud. She summarized her comments with, “We have had a good life.”