Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John Gunther Jr. - People Who Are Famous For Having Died (Part 2)

John Gunther Jr. 
1929- 1947
Ferncliff Mausoleum
Hartsdale, New York
John Gunther Jr. was just a boy when a brain tumor ended his hopes of doing some good in this world. His father's account of his sickness and death went on to become a seminal memoir of grieving and loss. That's all I really have to say about Johnny. The book at first seems too cold and straight-forward, but it is one of the first of its kind and is memorable for the way Gunther conveys his son's optimistic character throughout the ordeal.

When he uttered that childish wish – “to do some good for the world” – he was reflecting all the gifts that had been given him, of goodness, gentleness, and warmth of spirit; he was one of those who thought earnestly that he owed the world a living, not vice versa. But he never got a chance, and the world is much the poorer for it.
                -- John Gunther, “Death Be Not Proud” 

No fear of Death, no fight against Death, no enmity toward Death, friendship with Death as with Life. That is – Death for myself, but not for Johnny, God, not yet. He’s too young to miss all the other parts of Life, all the other lovely living parts of Life. All the wonderful, miraculous things to do, to feel, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to taste, to experience, to enjoy. What a joy Life is. Why does no one talk of the joy of Life? Shout, sing, write of the joy of Life?
–Frances Gunther, Johnny's mother  

The title of John Gunther's book about his son is the opening line from John Donne's Holy Sonnet X. His son's epitaph are that poem's final words...
Unbeliever’s Prayer
Almighty God
forgive me for my agnosticism;
For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical,
nor a bad influence.

And O!
if Thou art truly in the heavens,
accept my gratitude
for all Thy gifts
and I shall try
To fight the good fight.

--John Gunther, Jr. May, 1946


  1. I read this book for a book report, and I loved it!!!!
    It made me cry at the end.

  2. I have read this book many times, and each time I read it, I get something new out of it. I have also watched the TV movie based on this book, and it is well made, nothing overdramatic about it.

  3. I read "Death be not Proud" when I was in high school maybe back in 1970 or so. It has had a profound lasting effect on me and now, over forty years later, I still sometimes think about John Gunther Jr. Tonight is one of those times. A story about the goodness and brilliance of a child, his struggle with brain cancer and his ultimate death all while keeping his spirits up and rarely descending into despair. He lived in his short life the way we all should live. He fought the good fight.

  4. I remember reading the book in high school, and having tears in my eyes throughout. What a cruel irony in 2006, when my 12 yo son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died almost two years later. Very sad, and I'll never get over it...

    1. Im so sorry to hear about your loss, my son was only three days old when he passed, no mom should know such a loss

    2. There is no God Johnny. No loving Creator would have done such a thing. Rest in peace my dear son. Yes, the world is truly poorer for not having witnessed your life to its full potential.

  5. Merry Christmas Johnny! If there's truly a heaven, then you're there with Einstein discussing the next scientifc breakthrough:) Rest in peace my dear son.

  6. Happy Thanksgiving Johnny. Never forgotten and always an inspiration.