Idaho State Journal, 10/07/12
MERIDIAN — Karla Bullock Gunnell, a loving wife, mother, and grandmother passed victoriously from mortality at home in Meridian, Idaho. She possessed a remarkable combination of inward and outward beauty and talent. Karla was born in Pocatello, Idaho, to Edwin Kenneth Bullock and Melba Ernfelt Bullock on July 1, 1943. Her early years were spent on a farm north of Pocatello.
Karla was a very intelligent little girl. She has learned to read even before she started school and became an insatiable reader which continued throughout her entire life. In elementary school she was asked many times to mentor other students who were having trouble reading. The mentoring carried on even through the upper levels of schooling. Almost being self-taught, she graduated early from high school and continued with education.
Karla started taking piano lessons early from Margaret Gardner and progressed rapidly receiving awards. At age 13, she had four students of her own and was making some of her own spending money. Thus started a career of piano teaching and performing. She taught with the aim of teaching a love of music to her students and not for monetary gain.
She had many opportunities to play and became an excellent accompanist, always in demand. There is a great difference between a piano player, a pianist and an accompanist. She was good.
She met a young returned missionary at a friend’s wedding reception and from the beginning of this chance meeting they had the feeling they had known each other somewhere in time. They shared a mutual love and were married on July 28, 1960, in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple. They soon left for Tempe, Arizona, so he could finish the last semester at ASU and graduate.
While there, they participated with the Arizona State University choir. After graduation, they moved to Seattle, Washington, for a short time to work. Pending another move, they found themselves back in Idaho for the summer, where Karla took classes at Idaho State University and prepared to go to Washington, D.C., for four more years of education.
In Washington, D.C., Karla went to work at the Pentagon in the office of the Air Force Civilian Personnel. After several months, she upgraded to a job with the newly created Defense Intelligence Agency, which required a top secret clearance conducted by the FBI. These were tense and interesting times during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A year later, she went to work in the office of Sen. Frank Church, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In the senator’s office, she sat at the front desk answering phones, screening calls, and greeting visitors. The years of piano playing made her an excellent typist and the ability was greatly utilized by all the staff. Karla’s devotion to reading gave her an unusual command of all the English language and therefore she was asked to proofread much of the correspondence that was sent out.
As a Senate staff member, she had many privileges and of course, access to the Library of Congress, a book readers’ paradise. She could request any book she wanted to read and it would be hand-delivered to her at the office with an open return date. What an opportunity for a dedicated book worm. She also took classes at George Washington University.
Following her husband’s graduation, they returned to Idaho and completed their family with Karla relishing the time to be a stay at home mother of two girls and a boy, Jill (John) Edens, Kaye (Brannon) Cheney, and Thomas (Deidre) Gunnell.
She was a kind, understanding heart, who had suffered many disappointments, but never gave up. In Boise, she worked regularly as a private secretary to Bethine Church. With her working and close association in Washington, D.C., she became the daughter that Bethine never had.
She continued with her music studying with Adelaide Anderson Marshall and several others, including Del Parkinson at BSU. She was a longtime member of the Boise Tuesday Musical. Through the years, she has had over 300 students, which included some of the fellow members of the musical. She freely accompanied school choirs and other musical performances where and when needed with no remuneration.
With the government experience and English language proficiency, she was asked to judge speech and debate contests at all levels. Karla was a board member of the pageants for Miss Boise, Miss Idaho, and the state coordinator for the Junior Miss Pageant. She was on the list of preferred judges for pageants and judged in Idaho, Washington, and Utah. She enjoyed working with the young women.
Karla was an active lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and enjoyed every position she was called to serve in, whenever and wherever she was needed.
As a lady, she was a class act. She endured much and whenever anyone would ask “How are you?,” the reply was always “doing fine” with a smile on her face.
Health issues had insidiously begun as a pre-teen. They continued to increase and consequently became a lifelong challenge which she courageously dealt with. Her husband was her health-care giver. Their love story is unequaled. Walking through life by her side had been a gracious thing.
She is survived by her husband, Dr. Richard T. Gunnell of Meridian, Idaho; two daughters, Jill (John) Edens of Shelbyville, Tenn., and Kaye (Brannon) Cheney of Eagle, Idaho; one son, Thomas (Deidre) Gunnell of San Antonio, Texas; nine grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; one sister, Eddy Davis of Pocatello, Idaho. She is preceded in death by one sister, Cherie Peterson.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, October 8, 2012, at 1 p.m. at the Meridian Fifth Ward LDS Chapel located at 2555 Stoddard Road in Meridian. A viewing will be held prior to the services from noon to 12:45 p.m. at the church. Graveside services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, 2012, in the Fairview Cemetery in Soda Springs, Idaho. Services are under the direction of Relyea Funeral Chapel.
Memorials may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.