Scottsdale Republic Article

Zina Kuhn leaves legacy of patriotism

Served as Scottsdale's 'goodwill ambassador'

Lois McFarland
Special for the Scottsdale Republic
Aug. 18, 2005

MCCORMICK RANCH - A woman who called all of Scottsdale "home" and instilled in people, especially students, a sense of pride in community and country left a legacy of patriotism and volunteerism.

Zina Kuhn, proclaimed an "ambassador of goodwill for Scottsdale" by both the late Mayor Herb Drinkwater and former Mayor Sam Campana, died Aug. 15 at her McCormick Ranch home. She was 91.

"She never met a stranger. She could, and did, converse with everyone," Campana said.

If the strong-willed yet passionate former singer and dancer said it once she said it more than 100 times: "I love this country, and I think it is the greatest country in the world."

Then she paused and in her best Russian-English accent added, "And I believe in the freedom which no other country in the world has and I tell the children that no matter how angry they get and whatever they do in their lives, the flag has nothing to do with their anger."

Born in Russia

Born in St. Petersburg, Kuhn was raised in Poland. She later fled the invading German army during World War II, never again to see her mother or grandparents.

She spent countless hours volunteering in schools, imparting her love of America to anyone who would listen.

A unique personality

"She was unique, "This is the end of an era. What she went through in her lifetime in Russia and Eastern Europe, communism and Nazism, surviving in tents, coming to the U.S., with limited English, not knowing anybody and ending up in Scottsdale. It's really a unique life."

An accomplished linguist, she spoke fluent Russian, French, Polish, German, Italian and "a bit of Arabic." One of her passions was translating or interpreting for foreign dignitaries who came to Scottsdale and to Arizona State University.

Kuhn had a privileged childhood as part of a musical family living in Poland with her mother and maternal grandparents.

At 17, Kuhn married a concert violinist and composer, Ignace Stolov, who drowned in the Volga River as they fled the Germans. After Ignace's death, she joined the Polish army-in-exile's entertainment troupe and spent the remainder of the war singing and dancing for troops throughout the Middle East.

After the war, she worked as a nightclub singer in Beirut from 1945 until May 1951, when an uncle brought her to America.

In 1957, while on a trip to Athens, Zina met U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Cole Kuhn. They married several months later, a union that lasted 34 years until Cole's death in 1992.

The Kuhns came to the Valley in 1963 and eventually moved to McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale.
Helped save railcar

Perhaps her most successful task was persuading Arizona to move the historic 1947 French "Gratitude Train" boxcar from Pioneer Village, where it had been left to decay, to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park at Indian Bend and Scottsdale roads.

Last summer, at age 90, before her health began to decline, Kuhn returned to her birthplace, a trip she had dreamed of taking for a decade. With the help of a Lithuanian attorney, the home where she lived for 25 years with her mother, grandparents and later her first husband was located in Wilno, Poland, now known as Vilnius, Lithuania.

Services this month

Services will be 2 p.m. Aug. 30 at Messinger Indian School Mortuary, 7601 E. Indian School Road. Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m.

Interment, including a 21-gun salute and honor guard, will take place at Paradise Memorial Gardens, 9300 E. Shea Blvd.

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