Lakeside Icon Edna Kouns Celebrates 104 Years

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It may not be too much of a stretch to say that if you live in Lakeside, you have heard of Edna Kouns.

Edna is an icon of the community and its most senior citizen – and she recently celebrated her 104th year.

This past weekend, a close group of friends and family gathered to honor Edna at her Lakeside home of 82 years where she still resides. The party could have been ten times larger, but the family takes care not to wear out the longtime resident.

It may not be too much of a stretch to say that if you live in Lakeside, you have heard of Edna Kouns.

Edna is an icon of the community and its most senior citizen – and she recently celebrated her 104th year.

This past weekend, a close group of friends and family gathered to honor Edna at her Lakeside home of 82 years where she still resides. The party could have been ten times larger, but the family takes care not to wear out the longtime resident.

However, Edna keeps a pretty regular schedule, including a weekly visit to the archives of the Lakeside Historical Society, an organization she helped create and has supported and nurtured for more than 46 years.

“Amazing” is a word often used to describe Edna, but that word barely begins to describe this lady.

The story of Edna has been often told, but it never gets old.

She was born Edna Swink, in her maternal grandparents home on 28th Street in San Diego. Her family moved to the El Monte valley (outside Lakeside) when she was an infant. The Great Flood of 1916 literally chased her family from the valley. They fled the roaring waters as their house and farm animals floated away down-river. The family moved to Seeley in the Imperial Valley and stayed there for a few years. Edna likes to tell a story of how it was so hot there that her father would hose down the beds every night so they would be cool enough to sleep on.

The family eventually returned to San Diego and, after a couple of years in Ocean Beach, moved back to Lakeside in 1927. Edna has been here ever since. She attended local schools and graduated from Grossmont High (the only high school in the area at the time). Edna was off to Northern California for two years, at the University of Redlands, before returning to her hometown to graduate from San Diego State Teachers College.

From that point, Edna’s life became one of family and community. Her service has been with Lakeside schools and children and her involvement is nearly too lengthy to list, but included numerous PTA’s (some of which she founded), school boards, substitute teaching, athletic leagues, church groups, community organizations – the list goes on and on. Sometime during all that, Edna married Erman Kouns and raised three children.

At this time in her life, Edna has slowed down some, but her attitude and personality have not wavered. She is an incredibly upbeat and pleasant woman who loves social interaction, often discussing volunteerism and how to get involved with the community.

Talk with her and you will eventually hear her simple message: “If you just have a positive attitude, anything is possible.”

Edna enjoys speaking of her late husband, Erman, and her home, which he built in 1936. That house has now been placed on San Diego County’s Local Register of Historic Resources. It is another great story in Edna’s life.

Erman and Edna co-owned the Silver Grey Granite Company of Lakeside, the same quarry that supplied the granite block carved into the “Guardian of Water” sculpture, which faces San Diego Harbor on the Embarcadero in front of the County Administration Building.

Erman used “seconds” from the quarry, described as pieces of granite that were byproducts of the mining operation.

The original part of the Kouns house was completed in 1936, the year Erman and Edna were married. As their family expanded, two more additions were built on, which is typical for this type of house.

The structure is considered of the “stone vernacular” style of architecture, built from local materials in stages (as the family grew and needed more space).

Last year, the Kouns family approached Johnson and Johnson Architecture with a desire to have the family home historically designated. The firm belongs to Paul and Sarai Johnson, themselves Lakeside residents. The project was a labor of love.

“This was the most thrilling project I have ever worked on,” Sarai said. “Being able to interview Edna and work with her and her family was a career highlight.”

The Johnsons presented their Historic Nomination Research and Report to the County Historic Site Board for consideration in April 2018. The recommendation was approved.

The County decision not only designates the Erman and Edna Kouns House as a locally historic site, but also recognizes the Kouns couple as historically significant people, important to the community development of Lakeside.

“They helped to build the Lakeside community through their locally owned businesses, occupations, family life, social groups, cultural and community work,” said the Johnsons in their report. “Their contributions are lasting and recognized by the community they helped to build.”

For her part, Edna is happy to have her husband and her home remembered. She loves history and historic things.

Truly a living legend of Lakeside, Edna is a remarkable woman and an exemplary human being. We are blessed to call her a friend of Lakeside.