Saralee McClelland Kunde -- a truly amazing, warm and wonderful woman -- left us on Sunday, January 26. She spent her last days just as she had her entire life, surrounded by the family and friends she loved and nurtured. Over the past 15 months, she fought an extraordinarily brave battle against the cancer that finally took her from us. In her signature style, Saralee spent her final moments inspiring others and promoting the people and county she loved. She will be dearly missed and never forgotten by her family and legions of friends.
She was born Saralee Marin McClelland on Jan. 4, 1948 in San Rafael, Calif. She grew up on a dairy in Novato and moved with her family to a ranch in Two Rock in 1965. Her first passion was the family ranch and the cows that grazed in the pastures. Her life on the family ranch instilled a deep love for agriculture, which she worked tirelessly to promote and preserve over the last 40 years. As a girl she was a leading member of the 4-H, showing her prized cows including Echo, a beloved Holstein that would come to her from the field whenever she called her name.
From 4-H she transitioned to working in various fair premium offices, eventually taking over the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. It was there she met Richard Kunde. The couple married in 1982 and together Richard and Saralee became a dynamic force for Sonoma County agriculture.
In 1988 Richard and Saralee purchased land in Windsor and turned the silage fields into premium vineyards. They transformed a poison-oak infested stand of oaks into an unparalleled event space and called it Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard. In 1995, they turned a hop barn built in 1900 into their residence. The ranch became both their family home and the site of countless fund-raising events – all with the goal of promoting the county and community she loved.
Saralee touched the lives of everyone she met, instantly making everyone feel like a dear friend. She guided her family, friends and businesses with an irresistible charm and compassion paired with a sheer force of energy that made it a joy to work with and for her. She was a leader who drew people to her and she gave back with all her heart to organizations including the 4-H Foundation, Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association and as a member of the Sonoma County Fair Board.
Saralee, who became a legend in her lifetime, received many awards and honors including Friend of Agriculture by the Harvest Fair, Farm Bureau Hall of Fame, Shining Star Award from the 4-H Foundation, Leadership in Agriculture by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and numerous others.
Saralee will be dearly missed by her adoring husband Richard, son Matthew and daughter Catherine “Catie” all of Windsor. Loving sister Rebecca Wade and her husband Allan, brother George McClelland and his wife Dora, sister in-law Jane Kunde. Cherished nieces Carmel Brown and her husband Travis, Robin Wade Kunde and her husband Kurt, Jennifer McClelland-Jonkman and her husband Roel, Jana McClelland and nephew Robert McClelland and his wife Jolynn, great nephews Larry Brown, Collin and Luke McClelland and Walter Jonkman, loving cousin Suzanne Wilson, godson Will Tesconi, cherished friends Christine Margetts and Tim Tesconi, and numerous cousins. She was predeceased by her parents Robert and Lillian “Sweet Lil” McClelland and brother Robert Wilson McClelland.
A celebration of her life, loves and the community she inspired will be held on Sunday, February 16th at 1:00 pm at the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa, California. If inspired, in the spirit of Saralee, please wear a hat, men and women. The family suggests donations be made to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County, c/o Saralee Kunde Fund, 250 D. Street, Suite 205, Santa Rosa, CA 95404; Richard and Saralee Kunde Scholarship at UC Davis, Department of Viticulture and Enology c/o Kunde Scholarship, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; or Saralee McClelland Kunde Farm-to-Table Culinary Scholarship, in care of the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County, 970 Piner Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.