Gunther (Günter) Karger’s grandmother was Isaac Wolfe Bernheim’s cousin. His family had lived since the 1600’s in the idyllic small town of Schmieheim on the western slopes of the Black Forest in SW Germany. Born on March 16, 1933, he narrowly escaped the Holocaust in Germany when his parents put him on the last children’s transport to Sweden late 1939, at age six, where he would live 7 years in two foster homes and one orphanage. He never again saw his parents or immediate family as they all were killed in the concentration camps. He lost his entire family and became a war orphan.
When the war was over, he was sent to live yet in another foster home in Pensacola, FL where he worked as a bag boy in supermarkets while going to school. At age 17, one year before graduating high school, his foster parents threw him out and he took the bus to New Jersey where he worked cleaning chicken coops. He lived with a distant uncle while he finished high school, graduating as valedictorian.
Gunther joined the Air Force at age 18, graduated from airborne radar school in Biloxi, Miss. where he met Shirley. She was with a group of girls from New Orleans entertaining the troops, during the Korean War in 1951. They married in 1954 and remain married for 67 years as of this writing in 2021. Together, they have embarked on a life adventure.
Gunther left the Air Force in 1955 for university (LSU) in Baton Rouge, La., graduating as an electrical engineer with a major in communications and mathematics. He went on to work for Boeing developing missiles, then to 29 Palms (CA) Marine Corps desert training as an instructor for the Marines in desert operations. He then moved on to Northern New Jersey to work at Bell Labs and ITT, where he also became President of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). While there, he was selected to join President John F. Kennedy’s National Security team in a small group assigned to prepare the country during the Cold War and a possible first nuclear strike by the Soviet Union (Russia). He developed the system that would enable the nation to recover and retaliate destroying Soviet Union. For his work, Gunther was named ‘Outstanding Young Man of America” at age 35.
Gunther and Shirley and their two sons then moved to Cape Canaveral, Fl to work on the Apollo Moon project in communications, where Gunther was elected Chairman of the local Canaveral IEEE (electrical engineers) and worked with the German rocket engineers (Dr. Vernher von Braun) who created America’s space program and ultimately, NASA.
When the Apollo Moon project concluded by America’s astronauts reaching the Moon, Gunther and family moved to Miami to work at Eastern Airlines for 20 years, where he restructured the engineering department and crated a computer model forecasting the company’s revenue. In 1986, his boss, the president of Eastern Airlines, ordered him to raise the corporate revenue by $600 million that didn’t exist to maintain loans. That would have been illegal (cooking the books), Gunther refused and was fired. The airline went bankrupt about a year later when the banks realized the revenue had been falsified.
Gunther and Shirley then founded an investment “Letter” finding undiscovered stocks, appeared on national network TV at Caesars Palace and eventually wrote books on Wall Street fraud including Thieves on Wall Street. Toward the end of his Wall Street career, he served as Certified Arbitrator where he was a judge that heard and settled investor complaints versus brokerage firms and moved on to become the special adviser to the Chairman of the SEC for fraud matters during America’s financial crisis during President Obama’s first term, from 2008-2012. Currently, Gunther continues making a living investing and advising local politicians.
Shirley made a career of being Gunther’s partner in his work while becoming one of America’s most prominent doll collectors with an exhibit at the Louisiana State University Museum for ten years. She became Gunther’s life partner in all they together accomplished.
Since Gunther and Shirley were not blessed with grandchildren to carry on their legacy, they decided to rejoin Gunther’s “Bernheim Family” from Schmiehiem in the Black Forest into eternity by making a legacy gift to Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest and having a memorial bench placed in their honor along the trail leading to “Let There Be Light” where Mr. Bernheim and his first wife are laid to rest.
–Gunther Karger, Age 88, December 9, 2021