Belvedere’s Bill Kuhns was passionate supporter of library, Rotary
Belvedere resident William Albert “Bill” Kuhns, who was named the city’s Citizen of the Year Emeritus in 2016 for his dedication to the local library and other community projects, died June 24 after a period of declining health. He was 91.
Mr. Kuhns was a strong supporter of the Belvedere-Tiburon Library and a founder of the Rotary Club of Tiburon Sunset, named because it meets for dinner instead of lunch.
From the start of the planning for the existing library, Mr. Kuhns was the supreme booster. In the 1990s, as an estate-planning attorney, he guided clients looking for destinations for their bequests to local community nonprofits. At his recommendation, his client Eleanor Knight donated $1.2 million to the project to build the library next to Town Hall, doubling the funds raised thus far and energizing the fledgling fundraising campaign. The 10,500-square-foot library opened in 1997. Shortly after the original building opened, Mr. Kuhns was appointed to the Peninsula Library Foundation, which has since been renamed the Belvedere-Tiburon Library Foundation and serves as the library’s independent, nonprofit fundraising arm.
In 2006, he was selected by the Belvedere City Council to be one of two Belvedere representatives on the Library Agency board of trustees, which oversees the library’s operations. He served on that board until 2014.
As a member of each board, he was part of the planning for a further expansion of the library, which stalled several times before finally being approved by the Tiburon Town Council in 2012. A revised $17.69-million expansion to nearly double the library’s current size is underway and expected to be completed early next year.
“He was interested in and cared deeply about the library,” said Bonnie Spiesberger of Belvedere, who also served on both the library agency and library foundation boards. “He wanted us to go forward with the expansion. He was a smart, intelligent, kind person, and I looked to him for advice. I don’t mean for legal advice, but for good, common-sense advice. We were very lucky he was part of the process.”
In a 2016 Ark article about Kuhns being named Belvedere’s Citizen of the Year Emeritus, then-Library Foundation Executive Director Donna Bero said Mr. Kuhns proved to be “transformative in the way that the community perceives the library.”
In 1991, Mr. Kuhns and four other men founded another fundraising organization, the Rotary Club of Tiburon Sunset, to accommodate professionals who wanted to join a local Rotary Club but could not meet for lunch due to their work schedules. He did at least one turn as president, according to fellow club member and former Tiburon resident Al Burnham.
Burnham recalled teaming up with Mr. Kuhns to pick up litter on Tiburon Boulevard.
“Bill was a wonderful person, a consummate gentleman and a very fine lawyer,” he said. “He was an old-school lawyer, and his word was his bond.”
Dave Bennett, a certified public accountant who was friends with Mr. Kuhns, called him “one of the good ones.” Bennett and Mr. Kuhns often referred clients to each other.
“He was a calming influence on people,” Bennett said.
Mr. Kuhns was also an advisory trustee of the Belvedere Community Foundation and served on the boards of the Belvedere Lagoon Property Owners’ Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, Meals on Wheels and the Tiburon Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
A native of St. Louis, Mr. Kuhns was born March 23, 1930, to Louise and Albert Kuhns. After graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1948, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University, also in St. Louis.
It was his first career as a sales representative for St. Louis-based hardware manufacturer Haggar Hinge that brought Mr. Kuhns to San Francisco in 1958. He soon met his future wife, Geri Busco, on a blind date. The two married in 1962 and moved to Belvedere in 1963, first to a house on San Rafael Avenue and then to a house on the lagoon.
In 1970, with his wife’s encouragement, Mr. Kuhns quit his sales career and enrolled in law school at Golden Gate University. The couple and their two children lived frugally off their savings and, at the end of three years, Mr. Kuhns finished law school, passed the California bar exam and settled into a new solo practice specializing in trusts and estate planning out of a second-floor office suite at The Boardwalk Shopping Center.
While his children were young, in the 1980s, Mr. Kuhns was active as a coach for their local soccer and Little League teams.
“He really loved helping people, and he loved being a lawyer,” said Geri Busco Kuhns. “He would get up and come out in the morning and say, ‘Geri, I love my life.’ He was also a down-home, aw-shucks kind of guy. He was a really kind, considerate man.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Kuhns is survived by his daughter, Julie Kuhns of Santa Barbara; his son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Michele Kuhns; and three grandchildren, Billy, Jamie and Audrey. His brother, John, and sister, Jane, predeceased him.
The memorial service will be private. Donations in his memory may be sent to the Belvedere-Tiburon Library, P.O. Box 483, Tiburon, CA 94920; or to Rotary Club of Tiburon Sunset, P.O. Box 236, Tiburon, CA 94920.
Reach Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634.