On October 26th, 1959, Carmelita Dela Cerna Kuehl was born in Minolos, Barili Cebu, Philippine Islands. She was the fifth of nine children born to Pastor and Teodosia Enclunar Dela Cerna. She went to school in the small rural community, loved animals, and always spent as much time as she could with her beloved “Papa.” Pastor died when she was 12, and the family had to struggle for every handful of rice that could be found.
In Carmelita’s early teenage years she moved to a larger city to find work and support herself. She worked in a garment factory, cooked, cleaned homes, operated a taxi-cab business, and became a gifted seamstress making and selling garments especially uniforms for school children.
When Carmelita was 36, she became pen pals with Jeff Kuehl of Elkader. After a 13-month courtship and visits to each other’s respective homeland, Jeff and Carmelita were married on July 8, 1997. The couple made their home near Elkader where Carmelita worked as a convenience store clerk, Lands End employee, and held various jobs in Prairie du Chien, including Wal-Mart, Cabelas, and MPC. The last few years Carmelita spent being a homemaker as she suffered through declining health. She was a fabulous housekeeper and cook, and maintained the acreage with the touch of a master gardener. Her husband’s clothes were always clean, folded, and ready to wear when he needed them. Jeff, being a pretty fair chef himself, always had to admit that any time he taught Carmelita to make an American dish she always made it better than he could from then on. Carmelita loved her home, her pets, her plants, fishing, Fox News (much to the chagrin of her liberal-minded husband) and old Western black and white television shows (much to the delight of her husband).
Carmelita suffered a stroke on April 9th and passed away in her husband’s arms on April 19th at University Hospital, Iowa City. She is survived by sisters Francine, Betty, Recie, Mary Terese, brother Berta, along with many nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends in the Philippines. She is also survived by her husband, Jeff, and her American family, sister-in-law Jolene Kuehl, niece Kelly (Drake) DeFrane, nephews Kirk (Rachel) Vigen, Eric (Angie) Vigen, Jason Vigen, and special neighbors Harley and Joyce Patrick. She was preceded in death by her parents, three siblings who did not live to adolescence, mother-in-law Joyce Kuehl Schultz, and her beloved niece Florame.
A celebration of Carmelita’s life was held at the Elkader Golf and Country Club at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 26, 2014.