Bernie Kuntz was awarded a Bronze Star for his service with the U.S. Marine Corps during Vietnam.
The avid hunter and fisherman, born and raised in Jamestown, lived the final years of his life following a strict, military-like daily regiment that any serviceman could arguably appreciate. Kuntz lost a nearly decade-long battle with low-grade B-cell lymphoma on Sunday, Oct. 28. He was 69.
"You tell me the time of day, and I can tell you what I was doing with Bernie," said Kuntz's wife of 35 years, Laurie Kuntz, from their home in Bozeman, Mont. "The first thing in the morning was to read the newspaper. He loved that."
Upon completing his service with the 1st Marine Division, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Kuntz attended the University of North Dakota, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English. It was in Grand Forks in 1974 when Kuntz first penned what he'd become locally famous for: his weekly outdoors column.
Kuntz came into homes every week via newspaper, enlightening an ever-growing readership of his passion for the outdoors. A majority of Kuntz's artful storytelling evolved from his own personal hunting and fishing experiences, which included harvesting 18 major species of North American big game.
Kuntz's first column appeared in the Grand Forks Herald, where he worked after college, and it later became a staple in The Jamestown Sun. It's estimated Kuntz authored over 2,300 columns over a span of 44 years, bringing such places as Saskatchewan's Amisk Lake and America's Rocky Mountain region to life.
All the while, Kuntz's cup of all things hunting and fishing overflowed. From rifles, scopes and ammo, to knives, lures and lines, no stone was left unturned.
"I have to give him credit," Laurie said. "He was, in my mind, very creative in coming up with an idea to write about every week for, Lord, 40-some-odd years. He was at it."
Kuntz enjoyed to read. He was employed as associate editor of Wyoming Wildlife magazine for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department from 1975-83. Kuntz and Laurie, a native of Massachusetts, married in 1983 and lived in Juneau, Alaska, for three years before moving to Montana in 1986.
Kuntz worked for nearly 14 years as information officer and later information manager, for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Bozeman. Along with hunting, Kuntz was a collector of handmade knives and fine custom rifles.
"Bernie did a lot of reading," Laurie said. "I don't know how many books we have in the house. Lots about hunting and fishing, but other historical books as well."
Laurie would accompany Kuntz on many of his hunting and fishing endeavors, which included a hunt in Africa. Kuntz completed a second Grand Slam of North American wild sheep-harvesting all four species: Rocky Mountain Bighorn, Dall, desert bighorn and Stone-in 2012.
"We had a good time with the camping and fishing and backpacking, and all that stuff," Laurie said. "He was very communicative. If he went into the dentist's office he'd be talking with everybody, and most people liked him."
Childhood friend and hunting partner Dale Marks, of Jamestown, was one of those people. A year older than Kuntz, Marks recalled many duck hunting and other outdoor excursions the two shared as high schoolers in the mid-'60s.
"We hunted a lot together. He was a great shot," Marks said. "That was his specialty, guns and ammunition. It's amazing what he knew."
Marks said he followed Kuntz's detail in Vietnam closely. Kuntz graduated from Jamestown High School in 1967 and served in Vietnam in 1970.
"I was glad to see he got back," Marks said. "He was in some pretty tough combat."
Kuntz was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2011, a type of cancer he was told by V.A. doctors could possibly be traced to Agent Orange exposure while serving in Vietnam. Laurie said years of battling the disease took its toll, but Kuntz essentially never stopped writing.
His final column-"Hail and farewell"-was printed in The Sun on Sept. 27, 2018.
Kuntz wrote: "I will miss writing about rifles, shotguns, handguns and fishing outfits. I'll miss discussing rifle cartridges and their development. I will miss writing about old times and new, and stories of times gone by. I'll miss writing about dogs ... I'll miss it all."
Kuntz is survived by wife Laurie; daughter, Katrina (Brad) Koerner; grandchildren Ben and Erin; and his beloved yellow labrador, Oscar. Funeral arrangements are pending.