Obituaries » Richard S Gunther
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May 6, 1925 - May 25, 2023
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Husband, father, philanthropist, activist, businessman, investor. Richard spent his first seven years in Portland, Oregon. When his father died in 1933 he and his mother, Bertha Germain, moved to LA where he lived the remainder of his life. A 300 bowler as a teenager, Richard was drafted at 18 and served for three years in the Pacific. Upon discharge from the Army he reentered UCLA and graduated with an accounting degree. A telephone conversation fortuitously overhead by his mother led to his first job with LA developer Dick Diller, who then sent twenty-five-year-old Richard to Hawaii, with his young wife Lois Goldberg and their 8-month-old son, to direct a residential development for the Navy. Upon his return to LA he spent the next ten years building housing primarily in the San Fernando Valley. He also began his long association with Jewish community causes, joining the Board of the Brandeis Bardin Institute, where he served for 25 years.
An encounter with cancer at age 34 set Richard on a new path of family, travel and personal growth. By now a father of 3 sons, Richard found new success as an investor, gaining more family time and deepening his engagement with progressive Jewish and political causes. He served as a delegate to the 1968 Democratic convention; his donations landed him on Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list. Of his broad service in the Jewish community, Richard was most proud of his role as the first chair of Project Renewal, a successful partnership between the LA Jewish Federation and Jerusalem’s Musrara community. He served lengthy terms on the Boards of Americans for Peace Now, where he was President, at New Israel Fund, and the LA Jewish Federation. He led the LA campaign to fund the exodus of Jews from Soviet Russia in the 1980’s. Richard was an early investor and Board chair of Grameen Foundation USA, supporting the pioneering Bangladeshi microlender.
As Richard’s means increased so did his philanthropy, leading to investments such as the Gunther Depths of Space exhibit at the Griffith Observatory and the Gunther/Hirsch Building, the first permanent home of Jewish Family Service of LA. In mid-life, Richard engaged in disciplined self-exploration, spending time at Esalen Institute, earning a Masters in Liberal Arts with a focus on mid-life from USC, co-writing “Who Needs Midlife at Your Age?” a humorous book, and participating in a men’s peer counseling group of 30+ years duration. Richard loved to exercise, running a marathon at age 53 and skiing, playing tennis and riding his bike into his 80’s. He travelled extensively with his wife and family, including dozens of bicycle touring adventures, three high-altitude treks in Nepal and Peru, and a trip to Antarctica. Richard also deeply valued personal relationships, mentoring numerous young people and maintaining lifelong friendships with his and Lois’ LA cohort. His memoir, “How High Is Up,” was published in 2009. At the end of his life Richard was deeply grateful for the life he led and above all his 75-year marriage.
Richard is survived by his wife Lois, three sons Daniel, Mark (Anne Krantz), Andrew (Teresa Burns Gunther) and three grandchildren Sophia, Aaron and Sam (Melissa Philley). His granddaughter Eva predeceased him in 1997. We are blessed to have known him as husband, father and friend. Donations in his honor can go to New Israel Fund, Jewish Family Service of LA, or the Democratic candidate of your choice.
Funeral will be at 11 AM Tuesday, May 30 at Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles, California
Burial will be at 1:30 PM Wednesday, May 31 at Home of Peace Cemetery, Colma, California