Kunde, who died on Sunday at the age of 66, was known for her generosity, her deep roots as a grower, and yes, her lively hats.
The locals will tell you she championed Sonoma County in a unique way, bridging the gap between ranchers and farmers, a devoted member of both worlds as the dairy ranchers’ daughter who became a producer of prize-winning grapes.
For years a parcel of land on Slusser Road, then known as Saralee and Richard’s Grove, hosted benefit events, and I remember thinking on more than one occasion how lucky local organizations were to have the goodwill Kunde turf at their disposal.
The last time I saw Saralee I was sitting next to her at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Night Gala, and she had plenty to say about harvest and hats. She told me then that the late night picking was grueling for the crews, although harvest was going well. As for the hats, she loved to shop for hats, the more outlandish the better. She ate briefly, in-between chatting and shuffling her index cards, rehearsing her speech that would introduce some of the agricultural honorees.
When Saralee got up to speak, she didn’t seem to rely on her index cards one bit; she just improvised, played on her instincts with humor and charmed the crowd with her eye-catching hat.