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Journalist, socialist, Quaker activist

Joseph Francis Gunterman ’34

A picture of Joseph Gunterman

Joseph Francis Gunterman ’34 died in December, 2014, in Sacramento, California. He was 101.

Joe spent his early years in Calexico, California, where his father, a German immigrant, worked at the German Bank. Perhaps to take advantage of the high standards of culture and education available in Germany in the mid-’20s, Joe and his two older brothers were sent to live with their paternal grandparents in Kassel for three years, he told Jacque London Ensign ’53 and Eloise Rippin Bodine ’58 in an interview in 2000. He graduated from high school in Santa Barbara, and came to Reed after studying at Pomona and Santa Barbara State Teachers College (where an instructor encouraged him to consider Reed). Joe roomed with Franz Baumann ’35, whom he had met at school in Germany. (Joe came up with funding sources to assist Franz in emigrating from Germany, and years later Franz became a pediatrician and cared for Joe’s children.) 

Joe was interested in journalism and became editor of the Quest. He also did hashing in commons and yard work in Eastmoreland. He earned a BA from Reed in general literature, and went on to UC Berkeley, where he audited classes before moving to New York City. There he reconnected with Reed friends who were at the Bank Street School for Teachers. He completed certification at Bank Street and spent two years as a teacher at the Greenwich Country Day School before returning to California to await the draft.

A Quaker who supported social and political justice throughout his life, Joe connected with the Los Angeles Socialists. In this setting, he met Emma (Emmy) Hartog, whom he married in 1942. Joe was a conscientious objector during World War II, and spent more than three years working for the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon, Michigan, and California. Their daughter Karen A. Gunterman ’64 was born in Portland, where Emmy worked for the Oregon Health Department.

After the war, Joe and Emmy moved to Gridley, California, where they built a home on five acres. Joe became a reporter for the Chico Enterprise-Record and moonlighted for several other papers, including the Cascade Labor News and the Inland Empire Labor Review. He also worked as a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on Legislation on issues such as free breakfast and lunch for children, the Rumford Fair Housing Act, the creation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board alongside the United Farm Workers (UFW), and the protection of prisoners’ civil rights.

Joe and Emmy eventually moved to Sacramento, where Joe continued to lobby for the Friends. In retirement, he took college classes, volunteered for the Friends, the California Tax Reform Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union, and did freelance editing and writing. Following Emmy’s death in 2014, Arturo S. Rodriguez, UFW president, and Paul F. Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, wrote to Joe, “Cesar Chavez used to distinguish between those who are of service and those who are servants. Many decent men and women engage in daily acts of altruism or charity. But a relative few become servants, totally dedicating themselves to the most needy among us. By that definition, Emma Gunterman was a genuine servant. So are you.”

Joe was predeceased by his son, Stanley, and his sister, Cecilia (Tete) Gunterman Wollman ’37. Survivors include three children, Karen, Joan, and Tom; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and a brother.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2015

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