Scott R. Gunther, a history and literature buff, spent his entire adult life as a coin dealer.
For the past 40 years, Gunther either worked at or operated the Shorewood Coin Shop, a fixture on N. Oakland Ave. since its founding in 1974.
Like many kids, Gunther got the coin-collecting bug young, when he was about 7, after discovering a box of old coins hidden in a laundry chute in his grandfather's basement. Unlike most, Gunther made coins his profession.
Gunther died at age 63 last week, after a bout with lung cancer.
For the past 20 years, Gunther owned the Shorewood shop, buying and selling rare coins and jewelry but just as often simply talking politics or history with an extended community of friends.
His political views were on the far left, according to one of his daughters, Dream Gunther-Nettesheim. But her father wasn't one to push his views on anyone.
"He didn't try to shove his politics down anyone's throat," said Jeff Skaros, a longtime friend and former business partner at the coin shop. Gunther was good at putting customers at ease, Skaros said.
"There was no high pressure, no pushiness to him at all," Skaros said.
Gunther was patient and welcoming to people with limited social or intellectual skills, when they would come to the shop, said Keona Jacobs, another daughter of Gunther's. She got to see that side of her father while working with him one summer when she was in college, Jacobs said.
"He treated them special," she said.
Gunther was a Milwaukee native and Brown Deer High School graduate, who studied English literature for two years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
He maintained a lifelong interest in history and reading, a helpful background to his coin business, Gunther-Nettesheim said. He read history and fiction and loved Stephen King, she said.
With a low draft number and the Vietnam War raging, Gunther volunteered for service in the Army Reserve. That was a strategy that kept him stateside working as a cook, Gunther-Nettesheim said.
He used to joke about getting promoted and demoted seven times while in the service. On one occasion, Gunther barked at someone he glimpsed who had come into his kitchen without a hat on.
Gunther told him to "put your (expletive) hat on when you're in my (expletive) kitchen," Gunther-Nettesheim said, repeating a story she heard from her father. The visitor to the kitchen turned out to be a three-star general, and Gunther's wisecrack earned him one of his demotions, she said.
"He's not one who trusted authority easily," she said.
Skaros, who initially was Gunther's boss at the Shorewood shop, said Gunther was a steady presence from the earliest days — even when he wasn't being paid.
"There were times I couldn't afford to pay him, but he still showed up," Skaros said.
Gunther became well-versed in obscure coins and tokens, including Civil War tokens used in lieu of currency and bar tokens from the early 1900s, Skaros said.
His sense of whimsy was displayed by the names he chose for his twin daughters — Dream and Keona. Dream came from the classic Everly Brothers song, and Keona purportedly was an American Indian name meaning beautiful woman that he got from a movie, Gunther-Nettesheim said.
In addition to his two daughters, Gunther also is survived by five brothers, Rory, Kim, Lyn, Rick and Guy Gunther; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Heritage Funeral Home Altstadt-Tyborski-Johnson-Reiss-Klemmer, 4800 S. 84th St. Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home.
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