Gunnar Albert Boehnert
May 8, 1932 – April 1, 2021
Gunnar Charles Albert Boehnert, of Cambridge and previously Guelph, Ontario, passed away on Thursday, April 1st, 2021, at the age of 88. After several months of declining health, Gunnar died peacefully at Cambridge Memorial Hospital with his beloved wife Krystyna by his side.
Gunnar was born May 8, 1932 to Erna and William Boehnert in Edmonton, Alberta. Gunnar’s family moved from Canada to Germany in 1936. The struggles he faced as a Canadian child in war-torn Germany and occupied Poland defined his entire life.
Gunnar’s experiences of the war was a subject he carefully avoided. The one war story he enjoyed telling was the story of his 13th birthday which fell on 8th of May 1945. Gunnar and his mother were in northern Germany when allied tanks arrived on VE Day.
After the war, Gunnar lived in Munich on the American military base and attended American high school. Gunnar returned to Canada as a teenager where he eventually studied pre-medicine at University of Edmonton and ran the 800-meter sprint for the Canadian Team. He joined the Canadian Air Force and he piloted B-25’s in Search and Rescue missions in the Canadian North. This career path came to an abrupt end when the military discovered he was motion sick.
Gunnar then studied German Literature and completed two Masters’ Degrees. It was during this period that he met Joanna Bartlett at Middlebury College, Vermont. Gunnar and Joanna were married and moved to Guelph, Ontario Canada in 1968.
Gunnar was awarded a PhD in History in 1977 at University College London. His doctoral thesis, titled Sociography of the SS Officer Corps, 1925-1939, documented demographic details of SS officers in Nazi Germany.
Gunnar was Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Guelph. During this time he also served in the Canadian Army Reserve as a Major and was a defense analyst and former director of The Atlantic Council of Canada, a NATO organization. With a focus on disarmament, Gunnar and colleague Henry Wiseman hosted the Strategies for Peace and Security in a Nuclear Age conference in 1983 at the University of Guelph, where Pierre Trudeau gave a keynote speech.
Starting in 1993 and lasting nearly two decades, Gunnar spent the fall semester at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, teaching in the department of Journalism. He also taught the history of Auschwitz to North American students and conducted 31 tours of the Nazi concentration camp.
Gunnar was enthusiastic, joyful and passionate about all aspects of life. He was friendly and talkative with strangers. He was a popular professor and enjoyed his students.
Gunnar, a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather, is survived by his wife, Krystyna; daughters, Joanna (Jody) and Jennifer; brother, Detlef; sister-in-law; Ulrika; step-children, Monika, Isabelle, and Peter; grandchildren, James, Owen, Charlie, and Ilyse; and family through marriage, Joel, Beth, Curt, and Dawn. Gunnar is preceded in death by his former wife and mother of his children, Dr. Joanna Bartlett Boehnert. His ashes will be buried with Joanna’s on her family plot in Vermont.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Gunnar Albert Boehnert
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April 20, 2021
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Gunnar. The memories I have of him far outweigh this sadness. Skiing at High Pond in Brandon, cookouts at the Bartlett farm in Randolph, family dinners hosted by mother Rose in Rutland; just to name a few.
And now rest in peace Gunnar and know that you are fondly remembered .
My loving thoughts are with Jody and Jennifer and family.
April 14, 2021
My deep sympathy on your loss of a man who was a vibrant raconteur, a compelling historian, and a good friend. From earliest days at the University of Guelph, Gunnar and Joanna were stout friends to me and my husband John, who was also Joanna's colleague in the Psychology Department. Gunnar and I were companions laboring mightily on Ph.D. dissertations in the depths of the University Library, and spent many hours encouraging each other over cups of bad coffee. The world is poorer for losing him.
April 13, 2021
It is not easy to say good bye. And it is especially hard because we learned to know you so well.
The incredible invitation from the two professors to their house, Gunnar and Joan Boehnert, came to his pupil with their request to bring along her husband, to share some wine and cheese. That evening marked the beginning of a wonderful experience. An experience that we cherished, were able to repeat for many years and evolved from the professor pupil relationship to that of friends. It has been one of those experiences that made us feel so good, so lucky, so privileged.
We are so sad to see him go, but we feel his friendship has enriched our lives and we are thankful for it.
May the greatness of his soul stay with us and his body rest in peace.
Our deepest condolences to Krystyna, Jennifer and Jody
FLOR MARIA BUITRAGO
Mary Ann Evans
April 12, 2021
I send sincere condolences to Gunnar's family and especially to Krystyna whose sorrow I well know is immeasurable. I saw Gunnar in the hallway of the Mackinnon Building a number of years ago when I was still on faculty in the psychology department of U of G. He was so happy to tell me of his marriage to Krystyna and I am glad that they had these last several years together. My heart also goes out to Jodi and Jennifer over whom both Gunnar and Joanna glowed. It is watershed moment for all of you and my thoughts are with you.
Mary Ann Evans, Professor Emeritus
April 12, 2021
I had a lot of talks with Gunnar when we lost Joanna. He was really someone you could respect and talk easily to. Always so kind and gracious. I am so, so sorry for your loss Jennifer and Jody. Linda
April 8, 2021
As a graduate student I used my husband's office at the top of the U. of G. library in the 1970s and Gunnar was working on his Phd. next door. We had numerous chats about his childhood experiences in the concentration camp during the war. He became friendly with John Carson, a colleague of Henry Wiseman, and through John became involved with The Atlantic Council of Canada. They shared an interest in European government and WWII. I am sure that the Polish students learned much from him as he was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.
In sadness, celebrate the man.
April 8, 2021
Gunnar was my first, and favourite, history professor at the University of Guelph many decades ago. He handed me my diploma at graduation. Later, we worked together desktop publishing his course manuals and collected essays on Krakow. His enthusiasm was truly infectious, his knowledge and experience vast. He really was one of a kind and I’m very glad to have known him. My sincere condolences go out to his family.
April 7, 2021
I was a colleague of both Gunnar and Joanna at the University of Guelph. I had the pleasure of visiting Poland while Gunnar was there and sharing not only stimulating conversation and cheerful dinners but also a moving and disturbing visit with our students to Auschwitz - Birkenau. We all learned a good deal from Gunnar on that occasion and I have never forgotten it.
My condolences to his family. I’m sorry I lost touch with him but I recall him with respect and appreciation.
Dr James Shute
April 5, 2021
He was such a nice man and was a joy to deal with. Sorry for your lose.