December 2012


Joe Gutenkauf1

Josef C. Gutenkauf
(October 13, 1925 – December 8, 2012)

Josef Charles Gutenkauf, 87, a 30-year resident of Plainfield, NJ, died Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at JFK Medical Center, surrounded by his loving family.  Born October 13, 1925 in Chicago, he was the son of Joseph and Martha (Madison) Gutenkauf, and spent much of his childhood on the family farm in Clifton, IL.  A World War II Army veteran, he served during the liberation of the Philippines and in the occupation of Japan.  After the war, he attended the University of Chicago, where he received a B.A. in History.

Active in the Civil Rights movement, Joe joined the Socialist Party in 1944, and in 1948 served as executive secretary of the Chicago branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), working with Bayard Rustin, Michael Harrington, Norman Thomas, and many other noted political and intellectual luminaries.  He was a founding member of what is now Democratic Socialists of America.

At Southern Illinois University, he met fellow Sociology graduate student Dorothy Miller, and they were married in 1964. Joe enrolled in the graduate program at Syracuse University in 1966, joined the faculty at Ithaca College, and later taught at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University).  After moving to New Jersey, Joe worked at the NJ Treasury Department’s Affirmative Action Office until his retirement in 1992, and was a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the Communications Workers of America. He was an avid WWII historian, a voracious reader, and a terrific cook, and loved classic films and European history.

An active member of the Plainfield community, Joe worked on political campaigns for school board and for candidates for local, state and national office.  A member of the Democratic City Committee for many years, Joe worked to abolish the death penalty, achieve marriage equality, and keep – and later restore – Plainfield’s Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.   He received awards for his commitment to social justice from the Plainfield Area NAACP and Garden State Equality.

Joe is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Dottie Gutenkauf; his daughter, Polly Armour and her husband, Jay of Gardiner, NY; and his son, Jon Martin and his partner, Craig Roseberry of New York City.  He was the beloved brother-in-law of Alice Gutenkauf of Morton Grove, IL; uncle of Diane Gutenkauf and her husband Michael Hassan of Elmhurst, IL, and Karen Gutenkauf of Broken Arrow, OK; grandfather of Sarah and Josh Armour; and cherished friend to Joan Hervey and Linda Geczi and to his loyal canine companion, Sheba.  Joe was predeceased by his dear brother Martin.

At his request, his remains have been donated to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. A memorial gathering will be held at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Plainfield Rescue Squad at P.O. Box 707, Plainfield, NJ 07060, and to the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players at 302 West 91st St, New York, NY 10024.

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February 15, 2010:

I’M BACK! Sorry for the hiatus–a hard drive crash in December rendered me helpless for a long time. Ah, the wonders of modern technology! Thanks to the diagnostic skills of Dave at T2 on Park Avenue (deservedly recommended by Bernice), the extended warranty I purchased from Dell when I bought the laptop (a great investment), and the help of our son John in getting the data recovery accomplished (an expensive proposition), I can now post again–that is, if I remember how to do it (smile). But so far, so good. And I have published some new poetry.

It’s been a crazy time. Joe was in the hospital for a week in January with bronchitis…I had pneumonia…and Joe’s brother passed away in Chicago in early February. Thanks to Joan Hervey and Linda Geczi for babysitting with me, helping with the house, and setting up a skype session between Joe and his brother while Joe was in the hospital. Our daughter Polly went out to Chicago to help in Martin’s last week, and John spent a lot of time with me. It’s great to have family–and the good neighbors who helped clear all that snow from our driveway and sidewalk–what would we do without them?