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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Obituary: Josef (Joe) Gutenkauf

Josef (Joe) Gutenkauf, 1925 - 2012.

Josef Charles Gutenkauf, 87, a 30-year resident of Plainfield, NJ, died Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at JFK Medical Center, surrounded by his loving family. Joe, as he was known to everyone, was born October 13, 1925 in Chicago, the son of Joseph and Martha (Madison) Gutenkauf, and spent much of his childhood on the family farm in Clifton, Illinois. A World War II Army veteran, he served during the liberation of the Philippines and in the occupation of Japan. After the war, he attended the University of Chicago, where he received a B.A. in History.

Active in the Civil Rights movement, Joe joined the Socialist Party in 1944, and in 1948 served as executive secretary of the Chicago branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), working with Bayard Rustin, Michael Harrington, Norman Thomas, and many other noted political and intellectual luminaries.  He was a founding member of what is now Democratic Socialists of America.

At Southern Illinois University, he met fellow Sociology graduate student Dorothy Miller, and they were married in 1964. Joe enrolled in the graduate program at Syracuse University in 1966, joined the faculty at Ithaca College, and later taught at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). After moving to New Jersey, Joe worked at the NJ Treasury Department’s Affirmative Action Office until his retirement in 1992, and was a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the Communications Workers of America. He was an avid WWII historian, a voracious reader, and a terrific cook, and loved classic films and European history.

An active member of the Plainfield community, Joe worked on political campaigns for school board and for candidates for local, state and national office. A member of the Democratic City Committee for many years, Joe worked to abolish the death penalty, achieve marriage equality, and keep -- and later restore -– Plainfield’s Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.   He received awards for his commitment to social justice from the Plainfield Area NAACP and Garden State Equality.

Joe is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Dottie Gutenkauf; his daughter, Polly Armour and her husband, Jay of Gardiner, New York; and his son, Jon Martin and his partner, Craig Roseberry, of New York City. He was the beloved brother-in-law of Alice Gutenkauf of Morton Grove, Illinois; uncle of Diane Gutenkauf and her husband Michael Hassan of Elmhurst, Illinois, and Karen Gutenkauf of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; grandfather of Sarah and Josh Armour; and cherished friend to Joan Hervey and Linda Geczi and to his loyal canine companion, Sheba. Joe was predeceased by his dear brother Martin.

At his request, his remains have been donated to the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. A memorial gathering will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Plainfield Rescue Squad at P.O. Box 707, Plainfield, NJ 07060, and to the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players at 302 West 91st St, New York, NY 10024.

Condolences may be sent to Dottie Gutenkauf at 414 Randolph Road, Plainfield,NJ 07060 or by email to

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Sadly, we all lose another member of the greatest generation. Our sympathy to Dottie and the family.

Mary Burgwinkle and Greg Haworth

Anonymous said...

What is there to say? So much in so little time. We have all lost a wonderful friend and compatriot.
My deepest sympathies to Dottie and the rest of the family! Victor King