George “Doc” Gunther could say just about anything to anyone and get away with it. It’s probably because he never concerned himself with choosing words carefully. He told governors to kiss off, reminded reporters they were full of crap, observed to women their skirts weren’t short enough. He was a doc, right?–he could say those things. No, he was Doc Gunther, with a twisted sense of humor. The longest-serving state legislator in Connecticut history died Sunday morning in hospice care. He was 92.
Doc was a naturopathic physician long before the practice was embraced by modern medicine. Doc preached diet, exercise and lifestyle. And that included working tongue and mind. Born in 1919, Doc was raised on Pembroke Street on Bridgeport’s East Side. A Republican, he served Connecticut’s 21st State Senate District from 1966 to 2006 representing Shelton, Stratford, Monroe and Seymour. Gunther, however, accomplished what so many public officials aspire to, he transcended politics. He worked with Republicans, he worked with Democrats and Doc would say sometimes he got more done with Democrats.
Although a resident of Stratford, Gunther never lost touch with his Bridgeport roots. A fierce environmentalist, Doc was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the city’s aquaculture school located on the campus of Captain’s Cove Seaport where his friend Kaye Williams turned a city marina eyesore into an eye-opening attraction. Proud of his German heritage, Gunther trumpeted the accomplishments of German-born aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead who some historians claim flew an aircraft in the Bridgeport area two years before the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.
Gunther’s mind was sharp in his latter years, often calling OIB to rail against something or someone he didn’t like. His intellect was strong but as he often stated it was his body that betrayed him.
George “Doc” Gunther was a political marvel.
Statement from Governor Dannel Malloy:
“Doc Gunther served the citizens of Stratford and the state with an unwavering passion and commitment to public service.
“Even if you didn’t agree with him, Senator Gunther was an independent thinker respected by his colleagues and constituents for fighting to protect our environment and preserve open space. His advocacy and service to our state will be remembered and will continue to benefit future generations.
“Cathy and I send our heartfelt condolences to Senator Gunther’s family during this difficult time.”
Statement from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal:
“Passionate, smart, and courageous for causes he championed, Doc Gunther was a fighter who readily put aside partisan differences for a larger public interest. He was an original and independent thinker. I valued his friendship and our work together in fighting to preserve Long Island Sound and protect the people of Connecticut. Doc could be unsparing in criticism, but also unstinting in compassion. My condolences go to his family.”
Statement from Mayor Bill Finch:
“Having sat next to Doc Gunther for seven years in the state Senate, I was able to learn a lot from the man who authored Connecticut’s environmental policy act, and admired his steadfast support for local environmental issues. While you may not always have agreed with Doc’s point of view, you had to respect his independent thinking, and his commitment to public service.
“He championed many causes in his lifetime, and one in particular–his support for the state’s aviation history–helped shine a light on Bridgeport’s many contributions from Igor Sikorsky to Gustave Whitehead, all of which will live on for future generations to appreciate.”