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John Kurtz01/14/2020
John Wendell Kurtz, husband, father, and man known for his collection of bowties, died Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Fiercely in love with our mother, Muriel Tarr Kurtz, they navigated family life with Lesley, Shelley, John II, and Halley.

A lifelong wearer of bowties, Dad enhanced the bass section in every choir he joined and read all 54 volumes of the Great Book series. He could not watch a basketball game unless he was cracking walnuts, putting up a swing set on Christmas Eve in the rain, building lots of bicycles, dragging many a water skier around yet another picturesque lake, and driving a convertible.

The architect of our family road trips, nothing was left to chance between home and exotic-sounding destinations like Leech Lake and Lake Okoboji. Every mile was calculated, and arrival times were strictly observed. The well-worn Best Western guide in the back seat provided hours of entertainment as the Kurtz Kids argued over which motel had the best pool. Rousted up at 5 AM for every space launch, we knew every word from The Music Man musical, and he cranked his famous ice cream for neighborhood gatherings on the Fourth of July.

Born and raised in Knoxville, Iowa, John was the youngest of four children in a bustling household of love, music, faith, and midwestern practicality.

Ever the top student, John graduated from Iowa State University, served in Hawaii for the Navy following the war, and moved to Sacramento. There he met Muriel at a singles event at the First United Methodist Church. They were married, traveled through Europe, and moved to Boston, where Muriel taught school while John got his MBA from Harvard. Upon graduation, they returned to Northern California to raise four children.

The space industry in Sacramento was exciting for a time until the entrepreneurial bug led John into small businesses in Sacramento and later in Walla Walla, WA.

Retirement brought John and Muriel to Eugene in the early ’90s after a year of teaching at a university in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Eugene Symphony, Westminster Presbyterian Church, PEO, so many wonderful friends, and their extensive travels defined these years.

Graduations, weddings, grandchildren, and all the joy that came with frequent family gatherings that John orchestrated and supported: Williamsburg, San Diego, Olympic Peninsula, and the Oregon Coast many times.

He adored his grandchildren, Chelsey, MacKensey, Shelley, Spencer, Kiley, and Cameron, and embraced Beth, Ron, Jim, Jay, and Ben and was anticipating the birth of his first great-granddaughter in June.

To honor John, settle into your leather chair with a big biography, probably a Michener or a book about a Republican, or record yourself reading a children’s book for a grandchild who lives hours away. Plan a trip for your extended family, maybe an Alaskan cruise.

Send your Christmas cards early in honor of Muriel and remind yourself that everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. Take a paper model of a warship and an Exacto knife on vacation;John Kurtz discover the instructions are in Japanese and construct it anyway! Listen to a favorite classical music CD, say a quiet prayer and celebrate a life well lived and deeply loved.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 11 AM on Friday, February 21, which would have been John’s 95th birthday. Donations in John’s memory can be made to the music program at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Please sign the guest book at
Published in Eugene Register-Guard from Feb. 7 to Feb. 16, 2020