Obituary for Cleo Kuelbs
Cleo Kuelbs, age 83, of Brainerd/Baxter, passed away at St. Joseph’s Essentia Medical Center, on Thursday, June 14, 2018.
Cleo Ann Janke was born in Turtle Lake, North Dakota on March 20, 1935 to Alvin & Ann (Houstman) Janke. She grew up in Napoleon, North Dakota, and graduated from Pine City High School and Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, with a degree in music education.
Cleo, the music teacher, met Jim Kuelbs, the gym teacher, at Aurora-Hoyt Lakes High School. They married in 1961 and moved to Brainerd in 1962. They co-owned the Cass Lake Golf Club with Tommy and Lois Broekemeier and both taught in the Brainerd school system. Cleo taught vocal music at Franklin Jr High from 1971-1986 and continued to substitute teach another 15 years
Cleo often said music was her life. She started playing violin at age 7, later adding piano, voice, trombone and tuba. She started teaching piano in 1958 and continued into the final year of her life. Cleo was the choir director at Park United Methodist Church for 25 years and Music Director at Motley UMC for 13. She directed United Methodist Annual Conference Choir for many years. She sang and played for countless Brainerd weddings and funerals.
She became a jazz singer at age 50. She performed with Cliff Veronick as C&C Duo, Cliff Veronick Trio, Diane Saumer and friends in “Ladies of Elegance & Gentlemen of Note”. Cleo later enjoyed musical partnerships with pianist Dennis Coryell and guitarist Jim Olsen.
She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and moved to Northern Lakes Senior Living in November 2015. She handled this cruel disease with grace and humor and faith, amidst the sadness. Her wit, her ability to accessorize and her light shined until the end of this life. She never lost her childlike wonder and was genuinely interested in every soul on her path. She continued to know us. To Cleo, we were all unforgettable.
Left to cherish her memory are her beloved gentleman friend Jack McAllister; her children, Kris Kuelbs and Kraig Kuelbs; grandsons James Sedahl (Robin Kovarik), Alex Kuelbs and Will Kuelbs; step-granddaughters Staci Headley (Clint) and Lauren Bourassa (Adam) and seven great(step)-grandchildren; sisters Shari Sattinger (Roy) and Jaynee Janke; and an enormous circle of family, friends and former students.
Cleo is preceded in death by her parents; husband, Jim Kuelbs; and sister, Elva Ayers.
A Celebration of Cleo’s Life is being planned at Park United Methodist Church on the afternoon of Friday, July 13th, at 2PM.
Park United Methodist
315 N 6th St
Service Extra Info
Time to be announced at a later date.