George Guntermann was among the leading Santa Barbarans of his generation. Others had more influence in business or government, but few touched the lives of as many young people.
George was a man completely without pretension or guile. He remained, to some extent, a child to the end. He looked at the world with wide-eyed wonder and, though not a religious man, lived his life according to the golden rule as much as anyone I have known. He inspired thousands of Boy Scouts and students through his dedication to the principle of service to others.
George was the heart of Boy Scouting in Santa Barbara County for a period of some six decades. He became a Boy Scout in about 1929, when he was 12 years old, and he first attended Camp Drake as a scout that year or the next.
George loved Camp Drake. Located near what is now Cachuma Lake, Drake was the center of scouting activities in Santa Barbara County until the acquisition of nearby Rancho Alegre in 1964. After a few years as a camper, George became a member of the summer camp staff at Camp Drake, and he continued in this role through the 1950s, following service in World War II as a merchant marine.
Within scouting, George’s focus was the Order of the Arrow’s local Canalino Lodge. The Order of the Arrow is scouting’s national brotherhood of honor campers. George was one of the 12 charter members of Canalino Lodge 90 in 1936 and was the lodge’s third chief in 1939 to 1940. I knew George primarily through the Order of the Arrow. He was the lodge adviser when I was chief from 1976 to 1978. My father had, at this time, recently passed away, and there is no question that George filled a paternal role in my life.
George taught at La Cumbre Junior High as an industrial arts teacher for many years. Here, too, he inspired many young people. The 1965 La Cumbre yearbook was dedicated to him. The words of the students, though they may seem overstated to an outsider, were completely true in George’s case: “Mr. Guntermann’s example … his words, his ideas, and his ideals have been projected into the future to live forever in the lives of others. … He has seen his opportunities as a teacher as the freedom to create, build, and strengthen young minds to seek worthy goals. … He has been our friend. He has lifted us up, he has encouraged our efforts, and he has set an example that is a guiding inspiration.”
George loved the outdoors. Few people knew the Santa Barbara County backcountry as well as he did, and he also greatly enjoyed the beauty of the Sierras. In addition to his students and Scouts, George was devoted to his wife, Audrey, and to their children, Gary and Patty. Patty and her son, Dylan, survive George, as well as two of George’s brothers and many nephews and nieces.
George used to take Patty, one of his nieces, and some of their friends on an annual spring backpacking trip. This is perhaps the best image by which to remember George. He loved to camp and hike, and as he hiked, he frequently sang “The Happy Wanderer:”
I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back.
Val-deri, val-dera, val-deri, val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
Val-deri, val-dera, my knapsack on my back.