Founder of the Wisconsin Speleological Society

                                        Moments In Spelean History

                       

                                      by Gary K. Soule, Grotto Historian

 It is indeed a great honor to pay tribute in my column this month to none other than the very founder of the Wisconsin Speleological Society! All too often we fail to recognize the key people who have brought us to the point where we are at today. I salute Richard “Dick” P. Kuhlen, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, for having the desire, inspiration, and ability to become the founder of the Wisconsin Speleological Society. What follows is history on the forming of the WSS as well as its great founder.

In early February, 1960, Dick Kuhlen, who at the time lived at 824 Regent Street in Madison, Wisconsin, consulted with C. Lee Holt, who was the District Geologist for the Ground Water Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey. Dick decided to form a club for cavers. On Wednesday, February 24, 1960, the very first meeting and founding of the Wisconsin Speleological Society took place. The meeting was held in the State Historical Society building in
Madison. The original WSS Constitution, including seven goals of the WSS, was decided upon.
In March of 1960, the WSS Constitution and By-laws were ratified; officers elected; and the various committees appointed. Dick was elected and became the very first Chairman of the WSS.
In August of 1960, the first issue of the WSS Newsletter was published, and in September of 1960, the first issue of The Wisconsin Speleologist was published. On Friday, December 2, 1960, the WSS was incorporated by Dick Kuhlen under the laws of the State of Wisconsin as a nonstock, non-profit organization. On Wednesday, July 26, 1961, at the WSS Board of Directors
meeting it was unanimously decided to hold a general election by return postcard to determine whether or not the WSS should become a chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS).
Friday, September 1, 1961, was the deadline for the votes. Of a total of 38 postcards sent out to voting members, 22 were for becoming a grotto of the NSS, three were against becoming a grotto of the NSS, and 13 did not reply. On Saturday, September 16, 1961, our application was sent
in. We were accepted, thus officially becoming the 101st grotto of the National Speleological Society. The WSS Constitution was also revised at this time. WSS membership was only $2.00 a year, or just $1.50 a year if you only wanted to subscribe to the two WSS publications. On Saturday, March 25, 1972, the WSS hosted the 100th recorded NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!WSS Newsletter was published, and in September of 1960, the first issue of The Wisconsin Speleologist was published. On Friday, December 2, 1960, the WSS was incorporated by Dick Kuhlen under the laws of the State of Wisconsin as a nonstock, non-profit organization. On Wednesday, July 26, 1961, at the WSS Board of Directors meeting it was unanimously decided to hold a general election by return postcard to determine whether or not the WSS should become a chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS). Friday, September 1, 1961, was the deadline for the votes. Of a total of 38 postcards sent out to voting members, 22 were for becoming a grotto of the NSS, three were against becoming a grotto of the NSS, and 13 did not reply. On Saturday, September 16, 1961, our application was sent in. We were accepted, thus officially becoming the 101st grotto of the National Speleological Society. The WSS Constitution was also revised at this time. WSS membership was only $2.00 a year, or just $1.50 a year if you only wanted to subscribe to the two WSS publications. On Saturday, March 25, 1972, the WSS hosted the 100th recorded NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!The Wisconsin
Speleologist was published. On Friday, December 2, 1960, the WSS was incorporated by Dick Kuhlen under the laws of the State of Wisconsin as a nonstock, non-profit organization. On Wednesday, July 26, 1961, at the WSS Board of Directors meeting it was unanimously decided to hold a general election by return postcard to determine whether or not the WSS should become a chapter of the National Speleological Society(NSS). Friday, September 1, 1961, was the deadline for the votes. Of a total of 38 postcards sent out to voting members, 22 were for becoming a grotto of the NSS, three were against becoming a grotto of the NSS, and 13 did not reply. On Saturday, September 16, 1961, our application was sent in. We were accepted, thus officially becoming the 101st grotto of the National Speleological Society. The WSS Constitution
was also revised at this time. WSS membership was only $2.00 a year, or just $1.50 a year if you only wanted to subscribe to the two WSS publications. On Saturday, March 25, 1972, the WSS hosted the 100th recorded NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!was published. On Friday, December 2, 1960, the WSS was incorporated by Dick Kuhlen under the laws of the State of Wisconsin as a nonstock, non-profit organization. On Wednesday, July 26, 1961, at the WSS Board of Directors meeting it was unanimously decided to hold a general election by return postcard to determine whether or not the WSS should become a chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS). Friday, September 1, 1961, was the deadline for the votes.
Of a total of 38 postcards sent out to voting members, 22 were for becoming a grotto of the NSS, three were against becoming a grotto of the NSS, and 13 did not reply. On Saturday, September 16, 1961, our application was sent in. We were accepted, thus officially becoming the 101st grotto
of the National Speleological Society. The WSS Constitution was also revised at this time. WSS membership was only $2.00 a year, or just $1.50 a year if you only wanted to subscribe to the two WSS publications. On Saturday, March 25, 1972, the WSS hosted the 100th recorded NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!st grotto of the National Speleological Society. The WSS Constitution was also revised at this time. WSS membership was only $2.00 a year, or just $1.50 a year if you only wanted to subscribe to the two WSS publications. On Saturday, March 25, 1972, the WSS hosted the 100th recorded NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin.
This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!th recorded
NSS Board of Directors Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the first and only time such a national meeting was ever held in Wisconsin!

NOW LET’S MOVE ON TO OUR WSS FOUNDER.

Richard “Dick” Kuhlen was born in Milwaukee on July 20,1938. He was the son of Paul and Dorothy Kuhlen, who lived in La Porte, Indiana. He graduated from Central High School in
1956. His photo, left, shows him as he graduated from high school. His 83 year old dad, Paul, wanted me to have the photo for historical reasons. His mom, Dorothy, had passed away
since, but as his father said, she would have been very proud to know that her son would be remembered as the founder of the Wisconsin Speleological Society so many years later!
He then attended the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse for two years. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1960. He was a District Executive
for the Boy Scouts in Indianapolis for three and a half years and in New York for a year. He married Barb “Bobbie” (Masse) Kuhlen, who, by the way, hand made our very first WSS patch.
The July, 1967, NSS membership lists him as NSS 5810R. He then taught at Memorial High School in Madison for two years and had been teaching at Verona High School in Verona,
Wisconsin, for three years. He received his Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1970. On Saturday, July 17, 1971, at 9:51 P.M. a terrible collision of two cars took place in Madison. Dick, who was the driver of one of the vehicles, received severe head and internal injuries. At 10:16 P.M. he died at the age of only 32. His funeral was held at 11 A.M. on Wednesday, July 21, 1971, at the Sletten- McKee-Hanson Funeral Home in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Rev. Edwin Sheppard officiated. He was buried at the Mormon Coulee Memorial Park in LaCrosse. I visited his grave on Friday, June 14, 1996, and took the photo shown nearby of his flat, bronze grave marker.
 We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his forward thinking and had it not been for him, we might not have had over 50 years of progressive, organized caving here in Wisconsin!