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Veteran of Valor: Robert J. Gunton

Posted on November 11, 2023

“Things like that only happen in books I thought.” Little did Bob Gunton know when writing this letter home his life would be just that – one for history books and fairy tales.

Eager to chase his dreams and uninterested in waiting for his draft number to be called, Gunton enlisted in the United States Air Force as soon as he graduated from Dyke Business College. Gunton’s service took him on a journey from training in rural Idaho to the skies of the European Theater and back to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho where he finished his enlistment. Piloting a B-24 Liberator, Gunton flew 35 missions over Europe. The B-24 Liberator carried a crew of up to 10, boasted a wide diversity of armaments not yet seen in American military aircraft, and holds the record as the world’s most produced bomber in history. A letter to Gunton’s wife, Beth, dated June 6, 1944, reads, “Planes, planes, I’ve never seen so many planes in all my life.” It was in the pilot seat of the Liberator’s cockpit that Gunton’s love of aviation was realized.

In the same letter, on what we know today as D-Day, Gunton wrote to Beth with great hope: “It shouldn’t be long before I come sliding home to you.” Another letter, written after a trip to London, detailed Gunton’s dreams of traveling with Beth by his side: “You and me on a trip around the world couldn’t be beat. Someday I’m telling you things are going to pop for us.” Just shy of six weeks later, Gunton’s letter brought news of his impending return to the United States, “…there’s still a great day coming, and that’s the day I get back to Boise.”

Each of his letters to his beloved highlighted a courtship that would blossom into a seven-decade-long love story between Bob and Beth. For Bob and Beth’s children, Gary, Jeffrey, and Susan, finding a box full of letters their mother had saved was an opportunity to take in just how poignant their parents’ love story was. For his five grandchildren, the letters were a beautiful reminder of who their grandfather had always been – even-keeled, loving, and a role model for the family.

Though aviation was his passion, Gunton also saw great professional success alongside his brother, Bill,

as an owner and co-President of the Gunton Corporation, the company started by his father in 1932. For 50 years, the Gunton brothers were on the cutting edge of research and development around windows –much of their work is now common practice in the fenestration industry. The Gunton Corporation is now the largest distributor of Pella windows in the country. When Gunton decided it was time to retire from the executive suite, he moved into the board room serving as co-chairman for another 20 years.

Even a burgeoning business career could not hold Gunton to the ground. He remained an avid private pilot and could often be found on the flight deck or in the air. In 2001, he partnered with a young man much like himself to found Sky Quest, LLC., a private aircraft, charter, and management company. When approached with a business plan in need of an airplane, Gunton saw an opportunity to share his love of aviation by offering use of his plane. Gunton’s intuition was spot on: Sky Quest LLC. is now the most successful aircraft, charter, and management company in Northeast Ohio.

All his successes were minor in comparison to his love for his family, however. Gunton’s five grandsons were of special interest to him, keeping him young with their antics and adoration. When speaking at his funeral, his grandsons all echoed the same sentiment – Gunton was a man of great wisdom with a keen sense of humor and unconditional love for his family.

Gunton pictured front row, second from the right, with his flight crew.

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