Lawana's Story

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Lawana (Mills) Kunze passed away from this life Tuesday, August 29 after a 24 year courageous, extremely determined, and unbelievable battle with the most aggressive type of brain cancer and the effects of its treatment. Professionals in the field of Neuroscience are convinced that no one has lived so long after being diagnosed with this particular cancer. Aggressive radiation treatments, without surgery, in November and December of 1993 along with 6 ½  years of chemotherapy killed the cancer. However, the after effects of the treatments lead to a significant deterioration of her quality of life and physical well-being over the last 10 years.
Lawana was born the daughter of Willis Ray "Snooks" and Leora Barrett Mills of Alex, Oklahoma August 2, 1949 in Chickasha. She was raised on a Dairy Farm operated by her Father and Grandfather. Although, her responsibilities seldom included milking, she was responsible for preparing most meals. With early breakfasts and late dinners, she learned the value of hard work at an early age.
After graduating as Salutatorian of the Dibble High School Class of 1967, Lawana started college at what is now The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. Late into her junior year majoring in Music Education, she left school and moved to Oklahoma City to be "on her own". She worked several years in the Oklahoma County Court Clerk's Office during the day and sang professionally at night.
Lawana was an accomplished musician after years of Piano Study in addition to being an outstanding vocalist. One of the singing jobs was with Shawnee local and his band, Tommy Nelson.
As fate would have it, she found employment and her husband Richard found the Love of his Life when she went to work in the offices of the Wilson Foods Plant in the Oklahoma City Stockyards. After almost 2 years of Richard hanging out at the pencil sharpener near her desk, they were married on September 26, 1975.  It was a romantic ceremony at the Cleveland County Courthouse where Bride and Groom along with two good friends who were along as witnesses, were all entertained by the Deputy Sheriff whistling while he brought in a prisoner at the back of the Courtroom.
Beloved Son, Jay, was born April 28, 1978. In another 2 years, Richard's son from an earlier marriage, Tim, came into her home fulltime and the Kunze Family Farm and Shawnee/Dale became home. While Richard worked in food sales, Lawana decided the unfinished business of her College Degree should be addressed and she graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University in May 1984.
Soon after obtaining a Bachelor's Degree, she was determined not to be the only family member  without a degree from Oklahoma State University. Summer and night school along with a diligent effort while teaching brought her a Master's Degree in Elementary Education Administration from Oklahoma State University in May 1988.
 She loved the little children and she had already worked 3 years teaching 2nd Grade and Kindergarten. She also produced the Elementary Christmas Programs. In 1990, she started her dream job at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by the cancer treatments in 1994.  But, the first thing she did after leaving her job was fulfill a promise to her Mother­ In-Law, Selma Kunze, by taking her on a family trip to Ireland which was the birthplace of Selma's Father.
While being a beautiful woman, Lawana was also loving, caring, vibrant, and spirited .  She loved her music, teaching, reading, traveling and her family. She also, loved all things OSU. She and Richard hardly missed any athletic events in Stillwater for over 40 years. The Family is a Major Donor to OSU and Lawana even served as a sponsor of the OSU Wrestling Mat Maids, the female student wrestling support group. Many OSU Coaches and their families, players, and other boosters are among her closest friends.
Her support of OSU did not stop with athletics. For the past 12 years, she has sponsored and funded the Lawana Kunze Scholarship in the College of Education, which is awarded annually to an adult student who is pursuing a Graduate Degree while already being in the work force, just as Lawana did.
She is a life member of the OSU Alumni Association and is a member of the OSU Heritage society as a result of the School being a Beneficiary of her Estate.
Lawana was preceded in death by her Parents and is survived by Husband, Richard; Sons, Tim and Jay and one Brother, Eddie Mills of Ninnekah, OK. Lawana also had numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. Of special note is her "Double Cousin" Kay Davis and her caring visits.
A sincere thank you from the family goes out to Heartland Hospice and their staff along with the home healthcare workers who patiently helped her for the last 10 years. These fine women include: Mindy Burnstan, Austyene Vaughan, Elizabeth Baxter, Donna Chance and Angela Beadle. Thanks so much for the loving care.
Most of all, she should be remembered as the toughest and most courageous person anyone could ever hope to meet and, if lucky enough, be able to know and love.
Lawana can best be remembered by memorial gifts to the: OSU Foundation; designated to the: "Lawana Kunze Scholarship Fund (25-71600)" . Checks should be made payable to the: OSU Foundation and, mailed to: PO Box 1749, Stillwater, OK 74076-1749. Memorial donations can also be made online at: www .OSUgiving .com
Remembrances and special notes about Lawana can be made at
Services were held at Walker Funeral Service Chapel in Shawnee on Wednesday, September 6 at 1:00 pm.  Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery.
Published on September 5, 2017
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