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Donor Spotlight: Kunin Family

Anita Kunin is surprised by her sons and other family members for her 90th birthday party in New York City in May.


Anita Kunin was turning 90 years old this year. In honor of the occasion, her son Bill was seeking the perfect gift.

While searching online to see if funds were being raised for conservation of the coast ranges around Seaside, he serendipitously happened across North Coast Land Conservancy’s Rainforest Reserve project as it was nearing completion.

He suggested to his brothers—Drew, David and Tim—that donating to the project would be a fitting gift for their mother, who grew up in Oregon, and “they emphatically agreed,” Bill says.

Their individual contributions enabled them to invest in an area that has long been meaningful to both them and her.

“Seaside was very much a part of my growing up,” Anita says.

As a child, her parents bought a house in Seaside, and she spent nearly every summer on the Oregon Coast. That’s where she learned to ride a bicycle and went swimming in the salt water baths in the Seaside natatorium, which has since become an aquarium. One summer, she was even given the first Miss Seaside title when the Miss Oregon pageant was established in the 1940s.

Summer visits to the northern coast of Oregon is a tradition Anita then carried on with her own sons while they were growing up in Minnesota. Anita fondly remembers long drives from the Midwest, hiking on Tillamook Head and in Oswald West State Park, picnicking on the beach, crabbing in Nehalem Bay, and picking wild blackberries.

“We know this area very well,” Anita says.

Anita Kunin (née Hochfeld) stands on the sundial on the Seaside Promenade in the 1940s.


On one of the Kunin family’s summer visits, they witnessed logging on Tillamook Head, an experience Bill found disturbing.

“These ancient forests seemed so precious, and their harvest seemed a sacrilege,” says Bill, who now works as a professor of ecology at the University of Leeds in northern England. “That certainly wasn’t the best use of that grand wilderness.”

Over the years, he has returned to the coast a few times with his family, and his children fell in love with the area as well. On his last visit, he was struck by the regrowth of forests in the Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Preserve after a few decades of conservation, and he felt inspired by the vision that Marie Feldenheimer demonstrated in buying up some of the logged-out areas of the mountain in her brother’s honor so that, in the future, they could recover their beauty and biodiversity.

“That seemed to me such a positive and sensible action in the face of environmental destruction,” Bill says, adding it reminded him that rather than simply being outraged, it’s better to take action.

That long-term vision is one he sees reflected in the Rainforest Reserve project, especially as it will contribute to a larger conservation effort between the peaks and the sea along the Oregon North Coast.

“It’s a big piece of that puzzle,” he said. “I was so pleased to see the work you guys were doing and so impressed. It’s great to be a part of it.”

They shared with Anita about the donation they made in her name during a surprise party in New York City in May. All of her sons, plus two grandchildren and two daughters-in-law, showed up for a birthday dinner.

“It was a huge surprise,” Anita says. “And I loved the present they got me.”


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