Remembering Papa – A hero and Loving Family Man

This post is dedicated to “Papa,” Gunther Karl Hetzel, who passed away on January 10th at age 88. He was the patriarch of the BIG Hetzel clan – nine children, 27 grandchildren, and 20 great grandchildren. Among this bunch is my amazing father-in-law, Artie (his son), Jennie Mae (his granddaughter – who I’m proud to call my wife), and our two wonderful daughters (his great-granddaughters). To say the Hetzel’s are a close-knit family would be an understatement. Think Norman Rockwell meets the Griswold’s (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).

Two attributes (of many) that stand out about the Hetzel’s are love and patriotism.


I’m always amazed at the love this family shows each other on a daily basis – whether celebrating the everyday and ordinary, going out of their way to do something kind for another, at family gatherings, or coming together during the most difficult situations. If you could choose a family of love to be a part of, this would be the one! I consider myself lucky to have married into to such a wonderful family.

My wife came across this letter below, which Papa wrote the eve of his wedding – 66 years ago this month. As is evident in the letter, the love Papa had for his soon-to-be wife (Theresa) was deep and everlasting. In his last days, he most looked forward to joining her on the other side, as she predeceased him by almost 2 years.




Love of country, service, and family define Papa, as well as Theresa. This attribute has been passed down through their family the same way genetic traits are passed down from generation to generation. Through actions, deeds, stories, and memorabilia, I’m pretty sure this family’s blood is red, white, and blue.

The video below underlines the depth of Papa’s love of country: a radio interview conducted by Tim Philbin with Papa on Memorial Day 2010. Papa tells the story of his arrival to the US from Germany as an infant, enlisting in the Navy as a 16 year-old boy, his USN service in WWII in the Pacific theater, how he met his wife of more than 60 years (his nurse following an honorable discharge and bout with malaria), and many other stories and reflections of his life.



Papa’s obituary is available here.  Rest in peace, Papa. Your love lives on through your amazing family.  Tony

2 Responses to “Remembering Papa – A hero and Loving Family Man”
  1. Jen Silbert says:

    Grateful. Blessed. Forever changed for the better, having loved him goodbye these past several weeks. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What an inspiring interview and wonderful remembrance. His stories are such a demonstration of what is inside so many if we ask about their lives. Lovely.

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