On the next to last page of the spring, 2015 issue of the CSU magazine for alumni and friends a name in the “In Memoriam” section brought a rush of memories. Hundreds of students and half a hundred faculty members who were in the department sometime between the late 1960s and 1990s remember Lois Hunziker with fondness and gratitude for her work and life ethic, sense of humor and encouraging manner.
From my first day at CSU in August 1973 until August 1990, when I left the department to be interim dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Lois made my duties as chair and as a teacher manageable. She was the first contact for students or professors who had a problem they felt the department chair should know about and help resolve. With her knowledge of CSU’s intricacies and of life in general, she many times sent complainants away feeling good about themselves and about the situation that had brought them to the office. I felt so lucky that she was department secretary.
Lois had a telephone voice that tinkled like a bell. “Good morning, Technical Journalism!” Deans and vice presidents often complimented her cheery greeting that seemed to say the department was a fun place.
For my class of 200 students she typed six-or-eight-page exams onto a stencil in those pre-computer years, ran them off on the mimeograph, collated and stapled them and always had the stack ready by class time. She did the same for the other 14 professors as she was the only clerical and secretarial person the department had. She kept track of the dozen or more work-study students we were able to employ as lab assistants and made sure they filled out their time cards so they could be paid. The department had two IBM Selectric typewriters, hers and mine. Many times I came in after lunch to find her at work making some adjustment to hers with a can of WD-40 lubricant and her trusty screwdriver. In those old days of photographic film cameras, she issued them to students in the basic photography class and inspected the returning equipment for any signs of having been dropped in the Poudre River.
One day while carrying an important document to another building on campus, she stubbed the toe of a shoe on a raised sidewalk joint, fell, hit her upper front teeth and broke one. A distressed phone call informed me and I rushed over to an office near where she had fallen. Her lip also bloody, she insisted she had to return to work. It took great persuasion to convince her that the office would be okay while she went to her dentist.
She knew the names of hundreds of students and knew much about them by the time they graduated. She knew and used their first names, but often would say simply, “Hey, kid” when offering advice. Rowene Danbom, another much-loved member of the department, often jokingly bade goodbye by saying, “Now Lois, stay out of the bars this weekend.” Lois would solemnly agree, though I doubt she had ever been in a bar.
When five o’clock came, Lois would head home in her old Ford F-150 pickup. Then her workday would really start. She lived north of Fort Collins with her elderly mother, a flock of chickens and several sheep, remnants of her young life on her parents’ dairy near Laramie, Wyoming. Over the years I learned a good deal about farm life there: how to keep eggs fresh for weeks by immersing them in a bucket of Jell-O to keep the air out; how to be prepared to help cows and ewes give birth in sub-zero nights; and other ways of being self-reliant when you had to be. Alice and I also lived north of town and sometimes on weekends would bike out along the road when Lois lived. One morning while we were still a couple of hundred yards from her house we heard the sounds of hammering. Just as we rounded the last curve we saw Lois scampering on the roof of a next-door rent house she owned, installing new shingles. I also learned that her parents had moved their dairy to Fort Collins and located it at the corner of Taft Hill and Laporte, across from what is now Poudre High School.
Every weekday morning Lois took a break between 10 and 10:30 and went out to sit in her truck. I never knew exactly what she did out there, but I suspected she read her Bible, for I knew she had a small prayer or two typed and in her desk drawer for ready access in times of stress. I would answer the department phone while she was away. Her mother always called then and when I answered would say, “Oh, Lois isn’t in?” I would reply “She’ll be back in a few minutes, shall I ask her to call?”
One Friday Lois took annual leave to take her mother to the doctor. Saturday afternoon I called asked how her mother was. She said, “I’ve just come back from burying my mother in Laramie.” On Monday she was back at work as usual. Feeling I was prying, I asked if she could tell me a bit more. “I was just getting her into the truck to go to her doctor,” she replied, “when she said she was feeling faint. ‘You’re not going to die on me, are you?’ I asked, and she said ‘Yes, I think I am,’ and fell over.”
Lois was about the most self-effacing person I have ever known. When students and faculty planned a department reception in her honor she refused to walk down the hall and join the party. People asked me to persuade her to take part. It took a mighty big selling job, but she finally came and had some cake.
I believe it was the practice in the Hunziker family to be very private about the loss of loved ones, though they were missed dreadfully. And while I do not know the details of her passing, I think Lois would have wanted to slip away modestly and without fuss.