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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Kuhner, 98

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Elizabeth “Betty” Kuhner: a photographer married to photographer Russell O. Kuhner. Contributed photo

Elizabeth “Betty” Kuhner of Palm Beach, Fla., a former Westport resident, died Aug. 24. She was 98.

Born May 8, 1916, in Stamford, she was the daughter of hardware store owner Lorenzo and Annie (nee Zarr) Stottler. As a child growing up in Stamford and Darien, she was a talented artist and athlete.

She met her future husband, photographer Russell Ohm Kuhner, at a fashion show where she modeled a bridal dress. Taking the hint, the couple married in 1939 and moved to Westport.

After the war, her husband opened a photography studio—Russell O. Kuhner became well known in Westport for his work—and one day sent his hesitant wife off on an assignment, creating what she later described as a “photographer by association.”

In the mid-1950s, the couple, by now the parents of three children, took a winter vacation to Palm Beach and while at a beachside motel, photographed the owners’ children at play. The owners showed the album to friends, who made appointments for the couple’s next visit.

“Lilly Pulitzer and her family were my first Palm Beach clients,” Kuhner recalled in an interview.

It was a fortuitous alliance. Pulitzer spread the word about the couple who photographed people not in a studio but “in their element” — at their homes, in their gardens, or at the ocean – generating enough winter business that the couple found it worth their while to buy a home in the North End.

The pair divided their time between Westport and Palm Beach for more than 40 years. Russell O. Kuhner specialized in business portraits while his wife loved to photograph families.

In addition to the Pulitzers, the pair’s clientele included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Basil Rathbone, Harry Belafonte, and Olivia DeHavilland.

The pair retired from photography in the early 1990s when Kodak stopped making the Opel G photographic paper, which they felt lent a special quality to their work. Their daughter, Kate, also a photographer, took over the business.

Russell Kuhner died at their Palm Beach home in 1996 at age 86.

In 2003, she donated more than 100 portraits to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, which honored her with an exhibit of her work called The Eyes of Betty Kuhner: A Palm Beach Family Album.”

She is survived by her twin sons, Scott Granson Kuhner, of Norwalk, and Craig Stottler Kuhner, of Arlington, Texas; and her daughter, Kate Kuhner Broda, of West Palm Beach.

A memorial service will take place Saturday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-By-The-Sea, Palm Beach, with a reception to follow in the Cluett Garden.

Memorials may be made to Hospice of Palm Beach County, 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33407.

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Posted 08/28/14 at 07:31 AM  Permalink



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