Lois Elizabeth van Löben Sels Bunse passed away on December 26th, 2020. She was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1940, to Maurits Justus van Löben Sels and Amy Elizabeth Sutherland van Löben Sels. After living in Fort Lewis, Washington, and Montreal, Canada, her family returned to Maury’s home state and settled in Menlo Park, California in 1946. As a child, she grew into the nickname, Loie, and tested the boundaries of the creeks, playgrounds, and her parents Maury and Beth. Later, it is rumored that while at her first job, she lost whole cones in the Foster Freeze chocolate dip, and worked one summer at Sunset Magazine. She remains “Loie” to her sisters Dorothy van Löben Sels Malutta and Sally van Löben Sels Malast and their families.
To her cousins she was Lobby the trickster who was up for just about anything. Loie never saw a “No Trespassing” sign that applied to her and there was usually a cousin, like Debi Chamberlin O’Brien, willing to join in the adventure.
She was Lois while at Willamette University where she made many lifelong friends, and fell for art and her former husband Dale Bunse. She graduated in 1962, earned a teaching certificate from Oregon College in Monmouth and then taught elementary school for two years. Loie and Dale lived together for 30 years -- at first in Oregon, then in Arizona and Tennessee, before returning west to settle in Jamestown, California. She is Mom to Meta Bunse and Garth Bunse and his wife Wendy Robinette Bunse.
Living in the Sierra foothills, Lois was inexhaustible and took on numerous titles. She was a dance instructor, librarian, writing teacher, gardener, baker and protector of hens. She waved with equal skill: hammers, paint brushes, sling shots and shovels. In the late seventies and early eighties, she commuted to San Francisco State and earned her Masters in Creative Writing studying with Raymond Carver, Stan Rice and others.
Lois Bunse bloomed into an insightful and well published poet. Eventually she was a Poet-in-the-Schools which she said was her “favorite job, second to teaching dance!” She capped her teaching career by leading creative writing courses at Columbia College. Her best known poem is “Right in ‘The Kalavala’ it Says,” and the body of her poetic work was deep and diverse -- another example is:
The Wings I'd Always Wanted
I, Elki the goat, hooves intact,
fly my little girl over the house
and under a smocked moon.
My neck, warm as a mare's mane,
feels her hands finding my ears.
She holds on as we duck into warm rain.
She, my passenger-sweet-pigeon,
tucks her hands under my hair.
Hang on, I call, and do the barrel-roll.
She hugs me. Her feet, dangling down,
earrings, they brush my cheeks.
Astonishment feathers my plumage full.
Her bare arms bend in the moonlight.
Smooth as skin, her knees tighten
and joy swells the air.
For Eli Robinette Bunse she was Grandma GG-- a nickname chosen by the poet herself. With him, GG was happy to crawl on the floor, make up a song or story or just sit on a hill and talk to a cat.
In her last two decades, Loie Bunse returned with enthusiasm to her first nickname. She loved the Northwest, the Oregon Coast and the fellow writers and artists she found there. In Newport, Loie volunteered at the aquarium, the performing arts center, and the visual arts center. She returned to visual art influences like Carl Hall, became an active member of the Yaquina Art Association and began to paint with a passion. As she studied and explored with paints, she signed her oils and watercolors Loie.
An online memorial is planned for the 20th of February, 2021 via Zoom. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Yaquina Art Association, or the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.
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