Dawn Furniss died in April. She was 83.
Born in 1926 in Baltimore, Va., to a farming family, she loved reading and gardening, and played the organ and violin. In high school, she was noticed for her “perfect smile” and held a full-time job on the faculty at the Institute of Notre Dame. She would later teach nursing at the University of California at Berkeley, where she met Hugh Furniss and started their family, eventually raising their daughter Susan, two sons Joseph and Joseph, one brother, and another, Adam.
While Dawn loved nature, she was also a Democrat who cared deeply about others.
She served on the executive committee of her church, the Resurrection, in Denver, and was president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
In 1971, she met Ted Kohl, who would be her husband for seven years and the father of their three children.
Dawn and Ted moved to Los Angeles to be near their children and new job opportunities, but kept a home in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Dawn worked at the University of Utah’s Graduate School of Management.
Soon, Dawn faced a major health crisis: a heart attack in 1992 at the age of 53, and then another, in 1996, when she was 56. She overcame both attacks, and was back at work at the University of Utah, with Ted, the same year.
In the early 2000s, Dawn and Ted moved back to Salt Lake City, where Ted started the college counseling center at the University of Utah. They would spend many evenings at the Salt Lake Country Club, listening to musicians and talking about their children and grandchildren.
In 2008, when a heart attack was creeping up on Dawn again, she became a Nuffield Senior Care Respite Health Care provider. Her clients were a group of transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were struggling with their sense of self and helping each other.
While Dawn loved nature, she was also a Democrat who cared deeply about others. The dinner she always set out for her clients, more than 30 people, would often be a meal of salmon, salads, and even a wine-tasting to end with a cold beer with dessert. As she got sicker, Dawn had to say goodbye to her home and her table, but she hoped her clients might find comfort at the table.
Her body kept betraying her, as did her wish to spend her last years with her beloved group of patients. Dawn and Ted finally moved to Colorado, away from the Southern California heartaches, so Dawn could be nearer her family. She died on April 3, surrounded by her family.
For many of her neighbors in Salt Lake City, Dawn will always be remembered for her love of nature and for the way she served her patients, getting out the fruit trees and curbing and weeding the gardens. We will also remember her as the woman who never judged. She taught us, she said, to “always be kind.”
A posthumous honorary degree was conferred upon Dawn this summer by the University of Utah. “Her exemplary service to our students, faculty, and community exemplifies her profound life values,” said University President Ruth Watkins.
Dawn’s funeral service was held on July 21, at the University of Utah. Honorary degree honorees from the university included her sister Mable Donahue, the author of The Greening of Old Salt Lake, who was known for her interest in composting, veganism, and writing nonfiction about her immigrant grandmothers; University president’s appointee Wade Pearson, an equestrian from eastern Utah; and a son, Matt Furniss, with the 2017 Sawgrass Conference Leadership Award.