Saturday evening, May 23, 2020, John Raymond Gurtner, Jr. slipped the surly bonds of earth to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings to rejoin loved ones in our Lord’s Promised Land. Born August 12, 1923 to John R and Zora Gurtner, Sr. in North Carolina this only child of a preacher, moved often through the middle of the country but fell in love with the expanses of New Mexico. His early life was filled with cowboying and a love of the western lifestyle and open spaces, which he carried with him all his days.
At 20 years old, world events pulled John, like many young men of the Greatest Generation into WWII. John drove tanks and served in the Army infantry before joining the Air Corps Cadet program. He served in the 78th Infantry Division in Europe and drove his father, an Army Chaplain, throughout Europe. John married Betty Harned in 1946. They welcomed daughter Jane and son John R.III into their world. John’s 15 years of military experiences was a perfect fit for Boeing aeronautical design beginning in 1958. John and family moved to Bellevue, WA in 1988 where John retired from Boeing after more than 30 years.
John and Betty rejoiced in John III 's daughter Elizabeth. John III’s life was tragically cut short in 1990 but that loss began a special bond between Elizabeth and her Papa. Tragedy struck again with Betty's death in 1992. Jane and husband Neil brought joy back to the family with the birth of their children Louise and Edward.
John was blessed to find love again in Helen Nobles whom he met and married in Bellevue, Washington in 1998. They chose Valentine’s Day to honor that love. John and Helen came to Hamilton in 2004 to be closer to the Nobles’ family and return her to her beloved Bitterroot Valley. They joined the United Methodist Church family in Corvallis where John served as a Layman beginning in 2004. His fierce bidding on Pecan pies during the annual pie auction will not soon be forgotten! John was active in Corvallis American Legion Post 91. He was honored as a Grand Marshall in the 2018 Memorial Day parade. They resided at Sapphire Lutheran Homes where John set up a workshop and swiftly became the residents’ handy man. John's generous nature had him building wooden toys and giving them away as quickly as he could produce them.
John and Helen did not let dust accumulate under their heals! With trips to sleuth out a myriad of air museums and the whole world to explore and visit family along the way, they loved to travel. Who but John would parasail at 85? He was a strong supporter of the local arts. Weekends would find them attending concerts, seeking out museums and donating to many causes. A big heart, a zest for life for his family and his country is a legacy that John leaves.
John is survived by wife Helen; daughter Jane/Neil, their children Edward and Louise/Andrew, great grandson Chayton John; granddaughter Elizabeth/Luke and children Alexis and Dominic.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you donate to their United Methodist Church PO Box 37, Corvallis, MT 59828 or to a charity of your choice. A military funeral will be conducted later this summer.
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