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March 23, 2023

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Kuni Foundation matriarch Joan Kuni dies at 88

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

Joan E. Kuni, who was behind one of the largest charitable foundations in Southwest Washington, died Wednesday at age 88.

Her husband, Wayne Kuni, founded Vancouver-based Kuni Automotive in 1970 and created the Wayne D. Kuni & Joan E. Kuni Foundation before he died from lung cancer in 2006. The foundation was the largest shareholder of Kuni Automotive and in 2016 created a $50 million fund for cancer and other medical research and to enhance the lives of developmentally disabled adults — causes that were close to the Kunis’ hearts.

Joan Kuni was a pioneer in advocating for her two sons and other people with intellectual disabilities. “At a time when parents of disabled children were encouraged to institutionalize them, Joan made sure that her two sons had every opportunity that her two other children had. She not only embraced the philosophy of ‘different, not less,’ she quietly blazed a trail of inclusion and lifelong enrichment for individuals with intellectual disabilities,” the foundation said Friday in a prepared statement.

Joan Kuni was particularly concerned with how adults could age in place and researched best practices around the country. In 2013, she helped lead the development of Stephen’s Place, a residential community on Ellsworth Road in Vancouver for adults with developmental disabilities.

The foundation provided funding to construct the facility, named after a member of the Kuni family who died at age 25, and continues to provide general operating support.

“Joan’s determination and advocacy on behalf of her sons continues to have a profound, positive ripple effect throughout a community that is all too often marginalized. The Wayne D. Kuni & Joan E. Kuni Foundation is honored to continue her legacy of compassion, inclusion and advocacy,” the foundation said.

In 2007, the foundation gave $150,000 to New Hope Farms, a home for developmentally disabled adults in the Columbia River Gorge near Goldendale to upgrade its water system and buy a new van. Last year, it donated $5 million to Legacy Health for cancer research and in 2017 $7.5 million went to cancer research at Oregon Health & Science University.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith