George Edward Gaunder, Jr

George Edward Gaunder, Jr, departed this life on Feb. 5, 2015 after a 5-month illness.  “Coach Gaunder” died at home, among his children.

George was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan on February 28, 1923, the second of nine children born to George and Zora (Hosbein) Gaunder.  Known to close friends as “Bud,” George graduated from St. John’s Catholic High School in 1941 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1942.  He served in the Pacific Theater at Bougainville, the Solomons, Philippines, and China, and was discharged in February of 1946.

In January of 1947, George married the former Betty Gast of Baroda at St. John’s Catholic Church in Benton Harbor.  Shortly thereafter, he attended Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois, where he became president of the student body in his senior year and was active in all sports.  Since he loved sports and loved children, George chose coaching and teaching as his lifetime career.

He returned to his alma mater, St. John’s High School, as coach and teacher from 1951 through 1960; Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, California, from 1960 – 1963; Eau Claire High School from 1963 – 1968; St. Joseph High School, 1968 – 1988, including several years of assistant coaching at Lakeshore High School.  Following retirement, George served as head coach at Lake Michigan College, and Lake Michigan Catholic High School.  In 1975 he was named “winningest coach” in Southwestern Michigan and in 1997 was named Laker of the Year by Lake Michigan Catholic High School in recognition of a lifetime of dedication to Catholic schools and students.

George was a member of the Marine Corps League, the American Legion Post 568 of Stevensville, and a life member of VFW Post 1137 of Benton Harbor.  He was a member of the Veterans’ Committee that planned the World War II monument in Lake Bluff Park, St. Joseph, which was dedicated on Veterans’ Day 1995.  He served as Eucharistic Minister, lector and commentator at St. John’s for years.

He is survived by two daughters: Patrice (John) Heeran of Washoe Valley, NV, and Christine Gaunder of Carson, CA; two sons:  Stephen Gaunder of St. Joseph, and Jon (Theresa) Gaunder of Stevensville; seven grandchildren, Sean (Jen) Heeran of Reno, NV, Patrick (Liz) Heeran of Sacramento, CA, Katie Heeran of Sherman Oaks, CA, George Jared “GJ” Gaunder and Jacob, Ryan and Kyle Gaunder, all of Stevensville, MI.  He is survived by sisters Anne Vogelsang of Niles, MI and Kathryn Lee of Edwardsburg, MI, and brothers Joseph Gaunder of Ozark, MO and John Michael Gaunder of Jacksonville, FL, as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his wife Betty (in 2003), his daughter Maureen (in 1998), his daughter-in-law Vicky Layman Gaunder (in 1993); sisters Alice Mae Ferris, Frances Herzog and Mary Jean O’Brien, and brother Jim Gaunder.

His coaching and teaching careers touched three generations of students, and he will be sadly missed by family and many friends.

Visitation will be held on Monday, February 9, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Starks & Menchinger Funeral Home, 2650 Niles Rd., St. Joseph, with a rosary to follow at 7:00 p.m.  Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, February 11, at 11:00 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church, 600 Columbus Ave., Benton Harbor, with Fr. William J. Jacobs, Jr. & Fr. Michael Rejent officiating.  Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery, Benton Harbor with Military Rites conducted by the North Berrien Military Rites Team.

Memorial donations may be made to SS John and Bernard Parish, 600 Columbus Ave., Benton Harbor, MI 49022, or Hospice at Home, 4025 Health Park Dr., St. Joseph MI  49085.