Couple finds serenity in Ohio-to-Alaska move

Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2000

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

--Helen Keller

Like the Helen Keller quote on their new business card, Jim and Sue Kuhnsman chose the daring adventure over nothing when they decided to buy a bed-and-breakfast in Soldotna and move to the Last Frontier on a whim.

The couple discovered their new home while on a long awaited vacation to Alaska.

It all began for them 24 years ago when they ran a canoe livery. Through the livery, they met a man named Dean Yeasel from Alaska. His description of his home state turned Jim onto Alaska right away.

However, Alaska was put on the back burner when the couple started a family and when Jim began his career in Ohio. For the years that followed, the couple would live in Galloway, Ohio, while Jim worked as a special education teacher and a counselor consultant, and Sue received a degree and began working as a substance abuse counselor.

Careers and three children kept the Kuhnsmans busy, but the dream of Alaska never faded.

The dream came true on May 15 of this year when the couple departed on a Princess cruise ship to Alaska. As an added celebration, the Kuhnsmans renewed their wedding vows on the ship. The couple also bought new rings, to symbolize their renewed vows, made of Alaska gold and quartz.

They visited Seward, Anchorage and stayed in the Kenai Princess Lodge during their visit. They took a boat ride at Kenai Lake and for the first time saw moose, black bears, eagles and Dall sheep.

When the lake trip was over, it was 10:30 p.m. and the sunlight amazed the couple.

"This is just incredible," Sue said, "Dark for us is at 9."

Prior to the trip to Alaska, Jim had tried to contact Yeasel but found out he had died two years earlier. His widow, Phyllis, answered. She put them in touch with a Realtor friend of hers so they could look at property during their visit.

The Kuhnsmans met with an agent who took them through 15 homes on the central Kenai Peninsula.

The couple agreed their ideal was a log home on a lake.

They spent only 20 minutes in the second home they toured, a 2-acre property with a log bed and breakfast on Denise Lake in Soldotna.

Jim videotaped the tour and said Sue kept repeating "I love this place."

They went on and toured other homes, but continued thinking of the one on Denise Lake.

They made an offer on the bed and breakfast that night. The next day the Kuhnsmans traveled to Anchorage. When they returned to their hotel room, a message was left by the agent that the offer was accepted.

"It was amazing," Jim said.

"This was the one," Sue said, "We didn't have a clue about a bed-and-breakfast, we just wanted a home."

Upon returning to Ohio May 28, they immediately looked into financing, using the Internet.

Though Sue was worried about leaving her kids for the dark winters and all the bugs in Alaska, the couple realized their spur-of-the-moment decision was a good one.

"This was the right thing to do," Sue said, adding she thought maybe they were too comfortable in Ohio and they needed a change.

Before leaving, the Kuhnsmans held a party to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, another chance to renew vows and to say good-bye.

They left Ohio Sept. 1 for their 12-day journey back to Alaska where they would settle down and begin business as Alaskan Serenity Bed-and-Breakfast, formerly known as Aalaska Tree Top Bed-and-Breakfast.

"It was a really nice trip," Sue said.

Along the way, the Kuhnsmans met a couple in the Yukon. The couple followed them down to Soldotna to stay the night in their new home and business.

When arriving, Sue walked out on their deck overlooking the lake. As she gazed out, a loon crooned, and she began to cry.

"That was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard," she said.

The bed and breakfast has five guests rooms located inside the main log cabin and two larger guest cabins. The couple said they plan to offer special packages for area residents, as well as tourists.

"We would like to get to know the locals and for them to get to know us, also," Jim said.

They plan to stay open year-round and accommodate tourists interested in winter sports.

As the couple sat in front of their window looking out on the lake Sunday, both looked comfortable and at peace with their decision.

"Every day it just grows a little more on me," Sue said. "This is home now."

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