One Nation, Under God

Ardice "Dusty" Kuehner (November 12, 1932 - June 17, 2024)

Ardice "Dusty" Kuehner, 91, passed away peacefully on June 17, 2024, at the Missouri River Medical Center. She had been under the compassionate care of the excellent staff for the last few months of her life.

Ardice Laureva Weaver was born Nov. 12, 1932, to parents Mabel (Vincent) and Kenneth Weaver. She was baby sister to Russell Weaver, who was two years old. The two were as close as siblings could be and were soon nicknamed Dusty and Rusty.

Dusty and Rusty's father died when they were young children. Mabel joined her mother, Laura Vincent, and Mabel's young sister, Marva, and the two ran a store in Portage, Montana, for a time. Rather than an auntie, young Marva was like another sister to Rusty and Dusty for all of their lives, and when she married Marvin Veen, he was like a sibling, too.

In time, Mabel met a wonderful man named Lawrence MacDonald, and they married. Lawrence farmed near Loma, Montana. A few years later, a new baby sister, Jean MacDonald, was welcomed to the family. Farm living in those days could be hard, but there were plenty of fun times, with all kinds of critters around and with cousins and neighbor farm kids to visit. The kids went to a small country school, sometimes on foot or horseback, even by horse-drawn sleigh when there was a heavy snowfall.

Dusty was a bright and diligent student. She advanced two grades at the country school, making her two years younger than her peers when she entered ninth grade at Fort Benton High School. She graduated in 1949.

Dusty was off to college at Northern Montana College in Havre to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. She attended there for two years, and her final two years were completed at the University of Montana in Missoula. During this time, she was a member of the sorority Sigma Kappa, where she met many lifelong friends. This was true for every group and club she was a part of. She graduated with her bachelor's degree in education in 1952.

After waitressing for the summer, Dusty was off to her first teaching job in Brockton, Montana. It was memorable in many ways. It was standard at the time that a young teacher would stay with a family, and the folks she boarded with were wonderful. They kept in touch for many years.

Most young teachers worked at different jobs during the summer. Dusty spent two of these working at a dude ranch at Chief Mountain, near Babb, Montana. It was there that she met a tall, handsome young man who was working as a (not very experienced) horse wrangler. His name was Charlie Kuehner. After a courtship, the two married in Fort Benton in 1954.

The newlyweds were off to a great adventure, heading way up north to Alaska! Many exciting times and interesting new friends awaited the pair. They were there for the big celebration when Alaska became the 49th state, attended the Iditarod dogsled races, and flew many flights with a bush pilot friend. They skied, snowshoed, fished, and even hunted moose with bows and arrows. The earthquake in 1964 was a catastrophic event, with friends being lost.

While teaching in Anchorage, Dusty was invited by teacher friends to join Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Women Educators. She was active in this group for the rest of her life and traveled to many conventions, notable ones in Anchorage, Alaska, and Toronto. She was especially proud of their work getting scholarships for future educators.

Dusty was educating and Charlie was working at a huge sporting goods and ski shop in Anchorage when they welcomed daughter Gerry in 1965, and son Chris in 1967. They were delighted to be parents and had much winter fun with toddlers on sleds and short skis! Chris had his first hike and camping adventure in a wicker backpack, just a few months old.

In 1970, the family moved back to Montana to be closer to family. Settling in Whitefish, they opened Charlie's Sporting Goods. Dusty did the books and resumed teaching.

The family moved to Glasgow, Montana, for two years, then to Malta, Montana. Dusty spent much of her teaching at this time working with special education children, which she found so rewarding. Dusty was super proud to earn her Master of Education degree in 1990 from Northern Montana College in Havre. She then taught in Dodson, Montana, until retirement.

After both Dusty and Charlie retired in 1992, they moved to Fort Benton, finding their dream home. Dusty had her flowerbeds, apple tree, beautiful lawn, a nice loft for her office, and Charlie had his big wood shop and a riding lawn mower. It was like a dream come true. She spent a lot of time with her beloved mom, Mabel, who lived nearby. She loved walking the levee, having friends over on her screened porch, and welcoming people in Fort Benton.

When her husband Charlie died in 2005, after 50 years of marriage, Dusty was able to plan for some travel. She enjoyed many wonderful trips, including a sea cruise through the Baltics with sister Jean, a cruise through the Panama Canal with friend Phyllis Jewell, traveling to Ireland and Scotland with sister Jean, and a Route 66 car trip with sister Jean and daughter Gerry.

She was active with the Chouteau County Library, serving on the board for a time. She loved books and was a voracious reader until her eyesight deteriorated. After that, she loved checking out audiobooks and visiting there.

Dusty got great enjoyment volunteering at the Visitor Center and the Interpretive Center, talking with new people and sharing her knowledge of the area where she could.

Dusty loved the Lord. She was an active member of the First Christian Church, making many fast and lifelong friendships. She enjoyed being part of the FCC Sisterhood group for many years, too. Her church family was vastly important to her. She had time for each and every one, no matter the time of day.

Dusty will be missed by so many friends and family, near and far. She will be remembered for her lifetime of learning, leadership skills, her sharp mind, helpfulness, and her kindness. Dusty's ability to be a quiet listener with no judgment and her dedication to her community and to the Lord will be remembered by all.

Dusty was preceded in death by her father Kenneth Weaver, mother Mabel MacDonald, stepfather Lawrence MacDonald, husband Charles Kuehner, and brother Russell Weaver. She is survived by her son Chris Kuehner, daughter Gerry Kuehner, sister Jean MacDonald, grandsons Joshua Wentland and Nathan McKenzie, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life is planned for Wednesday, July 10 at the First Christian Church in Fort Benton at 11 a.m. with a luncheon to follow. The ceremony will be officiated by Kit Miller.


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