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Melvin James Gauntz

1937 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Melvin James Gauntz Obituary
MELVIN JAMES GAUNTZ was born in Pennsylvania in 1937. His family moved west to Lake Elsinore, California to run a small restaurant when Mel (called "Jimmy" by family) and his brother Wayne were very young. The family later moved to Riverside, where Melvin Sr. was a bartender at the Coachman and Mel's mother Dorothy worked for the telephone company for many years. Mel attended Poly High. Activities included vice-president of Barons Hi-Y, debate team, playing football and sports editor of the Poly Spotlight. Mel started early as a journalist - He was still in high school when he went to work for the Riverside Press-Enterprise in 1955. He married his high school sweetheart, Carol Schott, in 1956 - They would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this September. In 1958, they wandered across Europe for many months hitch-hiking and staying in youth hostels, seeing the sights, soaking up the history and collecting a treasure trove of wonderful memories and amazing stories. Later, Carol became a travel agent, allowing them to continue their travel adventures. They celebrated Mel's 50th birthday in Australia - He was so enamored by the country's history, sights and people (and BEER), he returned to visit 3 more times with friends and family. Mel and Carol were both avid golfers and golfed at many courses locally (many fond memories of the 'golf tournaments', complete with wacky awards, with friends at the Boulder Creek Golf Course) and abroad, encountering turtles on a South Carolina course, alligators in Florida and kangaroos in Australia! Mel attended Riverside College and was editor of the Tiger Times. He moved up to San Jose State, going to college while working for the San Jose Mercury-News. In 1959, the young couple had a baby girl, Rachel. After graduation (journalism degree), the family moved to Shell Beach in 1965 (next door to golf great, Olin Dutra, as Mel would often brag) where Mel went to work for the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune. His favorite interview (and photo op) was with Jesse Unruh. He was successively a reporter, news editor, and managing editor. He often reviewed movies, wrote a regular trivia column for the Saturday magazine, chased fire trucks and took the occasional photo for the paper. A jack of all trades! While in the Shell/Pismo Beach area, Mel performed in the local playhouse, acting in a number of well-received Little Theater plays. He learned to 'belly board', his pale Pennsylvania skin glowing with zinc oxide in the surf. And with the wonderful lifelong friends they made there, the legendary poker, monopoly, scrabble and Fred C. Dobbs ('We don't need no stinkin' badges!') parties were born! Always looking for new challenges, in the early 70s, Mel helped to start-up a grassroots newspaper in Pismo Beach then did the same in Bellevue, WA. He tried his hand at working in politics, as a campaign speechwriter for candidates Tuohey for Congress and Palmer for Assembly. He started as editor of the San Diego Sentinel newspaper in 1973 and was known particularly for training young reporters and copy editors, some of whom he remained in contact through the years. Mel was rehired in 1976 by the San Jose Mercury-News sports department. He worked there for many years, covering the sports he so loved and serving as president of the Newspaper Guild union and as Grievance Committee mediator. He retired from the SJMN in 1995. After retirement, Mel was a substitute teacher for the San Jose Unified School District, wrote a column for a senior publication, Arizona Senior World, authored an [unpublished] novel and volunteered as a census taker. He also managed a fantasy baseball team, the 'Zagnuts', played Texas Hold 'Em poker online ('Poker God' has winnings of over $228,000!), was a voracious reader and a scrappy Scrabble player. Mel was also a tremendous history and movie buff. He was especially fond of war and spy stories and Native American lore. He was an expert at trivia, covering a wide range of topics, and had an encyclopedia-like memory for movies, actors and song lyrics. He loved all kinds of music, quoting snippets from Phoebe Snow, Willie Nelson, Les McCann/Eddie Harris ('Real compared to what?') and his karaoke stylings will be missed. A great wordsmith and quick witted, Mel always had a great story or joke at the ready. Mel battled throat and lung cancer for the past 18 months. He joked that if he had skipped the radiation and chemotherapy, he could at least have continued drinking martinis and eating chili dogs for another year. The various nurses and social workers assigned to his case remember him showing up for treatments in his Big Bang Theory 'Bazinga' tee shirt - A small rebellion against a monster disease. Mel Gauntz died peacefully July 14, 2016. He is survived by his wife Carol; their daughter Rachel and her husband Chris Stephens of Crescent City, CA; Mel's brother Wayne Gauntz and his wife Judy of North Bend, OR; in-laws Barbara and Chuck Hillman of Orange, CA and Pat Tinguely of Walnut Creek, CA and many nieces and nephews and their families. At his request, there will be no memorial, but Mel will be remembered always. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea August 4th, 2016. " And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, and quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over." (Sea Fever by John Masefield)

Published in Press-Enterprise on July 31, 2016
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