From growing up on a farm in Indiana to serving in World War II, longtime Solana Beach resident Ruth Gunther recounted her past memories, accomplishments and best pieces of advice to St. James Academy students during an interview Nov. 7 in commemoration of her upcoming 100th birthday.
St. James 8th graders Miley Black and Niko Kuhn led the interview with Gunther at La Vida Del Mar, where she currently resides, in front of a group of the senior community’s other tenants.
Gunther, whose birthday is Nov. 22, said her proudest achievements include publishing her first book at age 92, a memoir called “Papa Said,” followed by her second at age 94, in which she details her time with the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Service) during WWII. She said she wished she had started writing earlier in life.
“If there’s something you want to accomplish, don’t let anyone stop you,” she said.
When Gunther grew up on the farm in Indiana, her family owned cows, horses, sheep and a dog who could round up the cattle. One of the tricks to being around so many animals, she said, was to avoid naming the ones they were going to eat. Gunther’s father was a veterinarian; she wanted to be a doctor, but opportunities for women in any field were limited. She attended one year of college before becoming an apprentice pharmacist at a drugstore, a position that did not require any schooling at the time. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, she joined WAVES.
“When you join the service, the people you meet are from all over the country,” she said, adding that she met her husband during her time in the service. “It’s like a big family.”
Gunther’s own family has grown over the years to include two children, six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
The interview also covered some of her other best pieces of advice (“listen to your parents and your teachers and follow their instructions”), to her favorite word in the dictionary (“no,” specifically when it comes to drugs and alcohol), to the things she would change about today’s society (“I think it should be illegal to lie on TV”). She also said there are “so many things” that exist in today’s society that she couldn’t have envisioned when she was a child. From a time when her family’s phone number consisted of three digits, Gunther has seen the proliferation of smartphones, which she said she thinks are “destroying your ability to communicate one-on-one.” She’s refrained from using one though.
“I don’t think I’m smart enough for a smartphone,” she quipped.
After traveling all over the United States and Canada throughout her life, Gunther said a trip to Australia is still on her bucket list.
More of Gunther’s stories and insights are detailed in her books, which are available on Amazon.