Coatings and ink industry veteran, potter, father
Steven Williams Guntner, a longtime Claremont resident, died on September 28, 2012 after a brief illness. He was 63.
Mr. Guntner was born on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve in 1948 in Menomonie, Wisconsin to Harold and Velma Guntner. His father was a hospital administrator and his mother was a homemaker. His older sister and brother, Susan Brenner and Lawrence Guntner, remember him as a happy boy who, at age 4, entertained himself by running imaginary bases around the yard, all by himself. He didn’t have a ball, but swung a small bat furiously and argued with the umpire after sliding into home at the base of a birch tree.
Menomonie is a small town on a large lake surrounded by dairy farms and maple-wooded hills. Mr. Guntner grew up fishing, skiing, skating, canoeing, enjoying Friday-night fish boils and playing baseball and football. He was a good student who played trumpet in the school band and sang in the church choir.
Mr. Guntner was heavily involved in scouting but while he eventually earned Eagle Scout status, he was once sent home early from Philmont Scout camp in Arizona for exploring outside the camp limits. He often enjoyed recounting his youthful transgression, which his wife said was a positive reflection of his adventuresome spirit.
After graduating from Menomonie High School, Mr. Guntner headed for St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. With the ‘60s in full swing, the liberal arts college opened enrollment in modern dance and home economics to men. Mr. Guntner enthusiastically plunged into both, while pursuing a double-major in history and art.
After painting the walls of his dorm room from eggplant purple back to the original shade of white, he was allowed to graduate, but a major detour awaited.
In spring of 1971, during his senior year, Mr. Guntner was drafted. For the next 2 years, he performed alternative service as a paramedic in his hometown. While it was a rewarding experience, it only confirmed his desire to return to the arts. He returned to Northfield and partnered with a classmate to form a pottery company, called Fox Lake because they originally operated from a farm in the Minnesota township of Fox Lake with a decidedly communal spirit. As their business grew, the artisans of Fox Lake moved to Northfield and built the largest kiln in Minnesota, which they used to make beautiful dinnerware as well as 3000 beer mugs yearly for the Renaissance Festival.
“Steve looked great in tights,” joked Susan Guntner, who met Mr. Guntner at a party hosted by one of her Carleton College art professors, of her husband’s Renaissance Festival days.
After a while, being a potter ran its course for Mr. Guntner and he pursued a master’s degree in manufacturing management in Menomonie at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. After graduating, he married Ms. Guntner on December 15, 1985. The couple moved to Claremont in 1986, where Ms. Guntner got a job as a graphic designer at Scripps College and Mr. Guntner was hired by an industrial design group to sell their small laboratory mixer design, among other things, and that put him on his career path. Mr. Guntner made further inroads to the coatings and ink industry when he was hired by Scott Turbine Mixers in the 1980s.
“Steve loved his new field. He was still involved in the making of things, but the things were bigger and more complex and each unique,” Ms. Guntner said. “He loved working with engineers and chemists and never ceased to be amazed by the highly technical and beautifully manufactured equipment built from the ground up.”
Mr. Guntner spent a decade at Hockmeyer Equipment Corp., from September 1991 to October 2001, where he concentrated primarily on sales into Asia and the west coast of the United States.
Most recently, Mr. Guntner served as sales manager at Myers Engineering in Los Angeles. He loved the travel involved in his work, opening up new business in Pacific Rim countries from New Zealand to Korea. He also attended conferences in England, Spain and Germany as well as throughout the US.
“These trips, I think, more than anything, made him into the gentlemanly and graceful professional he was,” Ms. Guntner said. “It helps a great deal to love not just your work but to love where you work, and Myers Engineering was the perfect place for Steve.”
Friends and colleagues remember him for both his technical knowledge and his winning personality.
“Steve Guntner was one of this industry’s leading experts on the application of mixing and blending equipment,” said Cary Buller, vice president of Myers Engineering. “He was an incredible team player who worked well with customers and vendors. The people he worked with will all miss him tremendously.”
Mr. Guntner was rarely still and never silent, his family shared. Humming, tapping, thumping and singing were a constant when he was near. He applied his inborn surfeit of energy to his favorite thing in life, spending time with his sons Sam and Erik, supporting them in activities like scouting, soccer, speech and debate. He could also be counted on for an array of shared activities: skateboard ramp-building, assisting in the care of assorted reptiles, birds, cats and dogs, Halloween costuming, playing board games and trips to the beach, the mountains and the Los Angeles County Fair.
“Guntner means ‘warrior’ in German and I always thought of him as Samurai-like,” Ms. Guntner said. “He was well-versed in the arts and music and he loved a good book and a trip to a museum, but he was also ready to abandon any activity that interfered with watching a Packers game or Brewers baseball.”
Mr. Guntner is survived by his wife, Susan; by his sons, Sam and Erik; by his brother, Lawrence Guntner of Wolfsburg, Germany; and by his sister, Susan Brenner of Menomonie, Wisconsin.
In acknowledgement of Mr. Guntner’s love of ceramics, a memorial has been set up in his name at the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Contributions can be mailed to AMOCA at 399 N. Garey Ave, Pomona CA 91767.