Cleta Naomi Kuhns
b. 31 December 1923, Ripley County, Indiana, to Oscar Franklin Kuhns
d. 18 June 2004, San Francisco, California
m. 13 November 1945, Polk County, Iowa
Wilby Lee Simmons
Cleta was born in Ripley County, Indiana, but little is known of her family before that. After her father died in 1931, she and her brothers and two sisters were sent to the Brightside Orphanage in Plymouth, Indiana. They stayed there for about four years and then were scattered into various group home and foster families.
Cleta and her siblings, Eugene Willard, James Lowell, Elsie Rose, and Mary Christine lost track of each other. Only after Cleta’s death did more details of her life become available to the descendants of these orphans.
Cleta attended Washington Township Grade School, Ripley County, Indiana, graduating with an 8th grade diploma on 9 Jun 1938. A Mrs. Dale Smith signed her report cards as her guardian. Her teenage diary, which has been passed down to descendants, is filled with typical memories of a teen in high school — bad hair days, first love and broken heart, listening to the Hit Parade and going to moves and the local fair with friends. Cleta graduated from Holton High School, 24 April 1942 and began her first job at the REMC office in Osgood which lasted until 1945.
On 26 Feb 1945, Cleta enlisted in the WACS and was stationed at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Later that same year, 13 November, she married Wilby Lee Simmons, but they divorced on 15 October 1948. The couple had no children.
The military became her family. She served 23 months with the U.S. Constabulary Force at Heidleberg Military Post in Germany. She also served in Korea and Viet Nam. In the 1950’s she conducted WAC recruiting at Fort Preble, Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.
Cleta received a Joint Service Commendation for meritorious service from 17 February 1961 to 29 November 1963, Joint Task Force Four, Atlantic Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia. A second Joint service Commendation Medal for meritorious service was awarded her while assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency from January 1964 to Novembers 1966.
She is buried in Section 1, Site 1336 of the National Cemetery in Gustine, California.
Anita Smith Jarman