Harlie Gunther was born upstairs in a brick bank building in Deary, ID, on November 9, 1924 to Horst and Herta Gunther, who were recent immigrants from Germany. One of Harlie’s earliest memories was when he was about 3 years old, a firemen ran up to the apartment, warning the family to stay away from the hot glass windows, because they might shatter due to a hotel burning across the street. The family moved numerous times in Harlie’s early years, as his father, Horst, moved his family to Kendrick, Juliaetta, then Elk River and Lewiston, and eventually to Moscow, where Horst worked at various shops, before finally opening up his own “O.K.” Barbershop.
As to be expected during that era in Moscow, Harlie got quite good at fighting, as did his brother, Herbert. He graduated from Moscow High in 1942 and attempted to join the military, but was deemed too light to be enlisted. He spent some of his favorite times down at “Perd’s cabin,” located on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, where they spent time riding logs on the rapids, fishing and having fun. Those youthful memories are now under hundreds of feet of water, with the building of Dworshak Dam. In September 1943, his only brother, Herbert, died in a horrific fire at the Pullman/Moscow airport, while trying to push a plane out of a burning hanger. After working at Hale Motors in Moscow and learning construction at Farragut Naval Station at Pend Oreille Lake, he went to the University of Idaho for a couple of semesters.
After gaining enough weight, Harlie managed to join the U.S. Army in December 1943, and trained as a Combat Engineer near Austin, Texas, at Camp Swift. He was shipped out of New York in a convoy, which according to him, was the worst experience of his life, as many men became sea-sick along the way to England. Harlie landed at Omaha Beach in September 1944 and became part of the newly created U.S Ninth Army. After some training in Normandy, Harlie was moved up to the front lines through France, then later Belgium, Holland and Germany to help build bridges, clear minefields, set up and operate communication centers and drive as a messenger in a jeep for the #1146th Battalion of the Combat Engineer Headquarters for the advancing Ninth Army. The Ninth Army served at various times under both American and British commands, helping Allied troops cross many canals and rivers by rebuilding the roads and constructing various types of bridges along the Allied-Axis front. He was sent home from the European Theater after Germany surrendered, and going first to Ft. Lewis Washington, and then to Camp Pendleton, CA to work as a guard at a U.S Army prison. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant in April 1946 at Camp Beale, California and made his way back to Moscow, Idaho.
Harlie began working again at Hale Motors, and shortly later met Shirley Jean Gilliland at the Derby restaurant where she worked as a waitress. They were later married on September 27, 1947. In 1953, Harlie switched employers and began to work at the Motor Pool at Washington State College in Pullman, in charge of the college’s fleet of vehicles and eventually became the Supervisor of Heavy Equipment until his retirement in the summer of 1981.
Harlie is survived by his wife, Shirley of Moscow, Idaho; daughters Teresa Davidson of Lake Forest Park, WA and Karen McMillan of Greeley Colorado; sons Herbert Gunther of Hubbert, Oregon, Keith Gunther of Moscow, Idaho and John Gunther of Paradise, California and a sister, Haleen (Tiny) and her husband Don Nepean of Spokane, WA. He has three grandchildren, and three great grandchildren, with one more on the way!
Harlie loved hunting elk and deer with his best friend; the late Wayne Hammond. He loved fishing for cutthroat, enjoyed camping at Priest Lake with the family, and visiting with relatives during the summer. He also traveled back to Europe to visit old WWII sites and to sightsee Europe while visiting his German relatives. Harlie was involved with the local Boy Scouts, the local Moscow Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was on the board of directors for the Latah Care Center, was a life-long member of the Moose Lodge, lent much help to Emmanuel Lutheran Church, and was a driver for the Moscow Meals on Wheels. He graciously gave much of his money to charity. He was a strong supporter of ordinary American ideals and American troops, and let everyone have their say after fighting for their freedom. He fought valiantly for his life, not completely understanding how his sore feet turned into a battle for his life, which ended early on June 10, 2016. When the doctor told him there was nothing more that could be done to make him “well”, he quietly passed in his sleep that very night on his brand new air bed. We thank all of his wonderful friends, cousins, family, and doctors, especially the people at Good Samaritan Village, who made his life more comfortable and cared for him these last few months. Harlie remained a good soldier, and we will miss him.
There will be a viewing on Tuesday, the 14th of June, from noon to 6 p.m. at Shorts Chapel. The funeral service will be on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m., June 15, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, with Pastor Daugs officiating. An early lunch/dinner will follow downstairs at ELC, after a brief graveside gathering.
Come and meet up with some old friends and tell us your stories! Donations in memory of Harlie may be made to the Emmanuel Lutheran Church at 1036 West A. St., and/or to Good Samaritan Village