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Another Tall Texan from Reagan, Falls County, Texas

Jean Kubiak Cundieff, long time resident of Farson, Wyoming, wife of Newton B. Cundieff, and beloved sister of Leonard, Dan, L.B., Richard and Shirley (Stewart) Kubiak of Rockdale died of breast cancer complications in May of 1997.

Jean was born in a sharecropper s shack near the little town of Reagan about 30 miles south of Waco, the daughter of John and Connie Kubiak. Jean attended Reagan and Marlin elementary schools until 1955 when the family moved to Rockdale. Jean graduated from Rockdale High School in 1961and attended the University of Texas at Austin. Jean earned all of her college expenses and received her BA in education from the University of Texas.

Jean taught school at Sealy and then became librarian at Blinn College. While working at Blinn, Jean and a friend of hers decided to go to a dude ranch in Bandera, Texas. There, she met a dude, a young ex-marine named Newton Cundieff who just happened to be there the same weekend. This bare-footed little girl hanging her toes in the water intrigued him.

After a whirlwind romance, the two were married and moved to Alvin where Jean worked as a schoolteacher and wrote a series of educational articles for the local newspaper. For a while, they lived in a cabin on log pilings that swayed when the wind blew. A ping pong table in the middle of the cabin got quite a workout. Jean was very competitive and hated loosing!

Then one day, the young married couple visited Newton's sister in Farson, Wyoming. Jean had never in her wildest dreams seen so much wild game and experienced the low humidity cool summer nights as she did on this first visit to Wyoming. The couple fell in love with the place. They hurried back to Texas, quit their jobs and packed up all their belongings on the backup of a pickup with camper. They gave away what wouldn't go on the truck and struck out for Wyoming. Jean quickly landed a job at the Farson-Eden Valley school on the outskirts of the small village of Farson, Wyoming, population 25. The school provided an on-campus cottage for the teachers so they didn't have to worry about commuting over the snow covered highways.

Jean loved everything about her new home in Wyoming. She taught English and reading for all grade levels 1 through 12. She brought enthusiasm and a high energy level into the job that rubbed off on her students. She organized Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter pageants for her students and encouraged an excellence in reading. That was the key to success. A huge percentage of her students went on to get college degrees and time, and time again, came back to thank her for her help and encouragement.

But it was not always work. After school,on weekends, and during school holidays, the couple rode horses into the Windriver Range Mountains, camped out under the stars, fished for trout in the cold, clear mountain streams and hunted the abundant game. Jean also loved photographing the wild animals and all of her family and friends received countless pictures of the antelope herds, deer, and moose.

Jean loved the snow, the mountains, the wildlife and virtually everything about that wonderful country except that it took her away from her beloved family back in Texas. She loved it when her family and friends came up for a visit and she never tired of taking them to Jackson Hole and to the Windriver Range and the sands where signs of the historic Oregon Trail could still be seen.

Jean was an outstanding teacher and educator (named Teacher of the Year twice) and made a big difference in the lives of her students. In her own life, Jean always pursued excellence and was a deeply religious person. She continued her education obtaining a Masters degree in Education from the University of Wyoming and working on a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Then in the early 90 s, Jean got an indication that something was wrong. Her doctors in Salt Lake City informed Jean that she had breast cancer. She took a medical leave of absence from her teaching job and the couple flew back to Texas to deal with the crisis. After a second opinion at Seton Hospital in Austin, Jean went to MD Anderson in Houston for surgery and then underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments to try and beat the dreaded cancer.

Just two days after surgery at MD Anderson, Jean was back on a horse and ready to continue with the rest of her life to the amazement of us all. Before long, Jean returned to her teaching job in Farson Wyoming. For the next year, she lived life to the fullest. Then she was blessed with two grandchildren whom she thoroughly enjoyed. Things were going well once more until the breast cancer reappeared. Once more, Jean flew to Texas to begin additional treatments.

Her lungs and heart cavity were filled with fluid and her chances of surviving the night were low. Her husband, Newton drove down from Wyoming but managed to find a pilot in Witicha Falls that flew him into Austin to be there before Jean went in for surgery.

Once more, Jean bounced back and the cancer was back in remission. Jean s energy level rose once more and she and her nieces and nephews and younger sister got involved in her brother, Dan s reelection campaign that spanned some five counties. She loved every minute of the campaign and her brother was reelected by a narrow margin! She also managed to write a book, Happiness is Teaching Reading . During this time, Jean continued cancer treatments and organized a support group for other area cancer patients. She also started a weekly inspirational newsletter and continued her work on her Ph.D.

During Jean s final two months, she was hospitalized in Seton's Hospital in Austin. Although racked with pain, her beautiful smile was an ever-present inspiration to us all. A few weeks before her death, Jean received her sheepskin diploma (Ph.D. in Education) from the University of Southern California.

Jean never lost her courage, spirit or faith and to this day continues to be an inspiration to us all.

Dear Mr. Kubiak:

My name is Andrew Johnston, I was a long time student of your sisters, and happened to come across your website while at work one day.

Mrs. Cundieff was a great inspiration to me and my older brothers while we were in school back in Farson, and I was glad I was able to visit with her in the summer of 96.

While I was stationed in Germany my mother had informed me of her passing and I regret not being able to offer my condolences to her family. She was a phenomenal teacher, and prepared me more than any other professor for the rigors I now face while I attend the University of Houston. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that I have done well in every single English class I have taken (A's) and that can only be contributed to her hard work and concern for her students.

I probably took too much of her teaching to heart, I married a Texan from Bryan, and now live in Texas myself.

Mrs. Cundieff was, and continues to be, an inspiration to me. She was a true friend to the students, faculty, and community of Farson. I don't believe that anyone could ever fill her shoes, as a professor, as a person, or as a friend.


Andrew Johnston

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