Joseph Matthew Guhin
September 21, 1954 – February 16, 2021
Joseph Matthew Guhin, a retired Air Force Officer and father of five, died suddenly on February 16, 2021. He was 66 years old.
Joe was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on September 21, 1954, the sixth of nine children. Soon after, his parents, Richard and Margaret (Pusl) Guhin, moved to Bettendorf, Iowa, where they remained for decades. Joe attended local public schools, graduating from Bettendorf High School in 1973, where he was involved in choir, stage crew, cross country and track, winning state-wide honors for his skill at distance running, showing the love for the arts and stubborn tenacity that would characterize him for his entire life. Unlike most students, he had a plan when he attended high school. He was going to be a pilot and do all he could to be accepted to the Air Force Academy.
He succeeded at reaching this dream, and upon high school graduation, was a proud member of the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1977 in Colorado Springs. His degree was in engineering mechanics. When not studying and learning to be an officer, he embraced the opportunity to sing throughout the country as a member of the Air Force Academy Choir, and was a leader in Catholic ministries at the Academy. He spoke fondly of that time, and in particular how much he loved the beautiful Air Force Academy chapel. It was where he first proposed to his wife of 41 years, and he was continually eager to share memories of his time there with his children for years to come.
But his biggest thrill was learning to fly, an experience of joy he felt lucky he could count as a job. He attended pilot training at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, as a new second lieutenant and academy graduate. This is also where he met the love of his life, a Texas Tech student named Carla Thomeer. They met, appropriately enough, at a church: Carla was singing for the Mass and Joe was awestruck. He asked her out the same day. She thought he seemed a bit dorky, but she decided one date couldn’t hurt. They quickly fell in love and married in 1979.
They moved to Minot, North Dakota, for Joe’s first posting as a co-pilot of a KC-135 tanker at Minot Air Force Base. Their first two sons, Jeffrey and Christopher, were born in Minot, and their birth caused Joe to realize his other great love: being a Dad. He was so excited to shovel snow with his firstborn son that he bought him a little shovel before the baby could lift his head (this son, upon eventually gaining the capacity for effectively shoveling snow, did not necessarily share an enthusiasm for the task). While his career as an Air Force officer sometimes took him away from his family for long hours, weeks and even long months, his fierce commitment to his wife and children was unceasing.
In 1983, the young family moved from North Dakota to Wichita, Kansas, where Joe was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base as a Captain, flying KC-135 tankers. Joe and Carla’s third child, Rebecca, was born there. After three years, they moved to Papillion, Nebraska, for Joe’s position at Offutt Air Force base. This is where their fourth and fifth children, Benjamin and Kevin, were born. Joe worked in “the underground” or headquarters for the U.S. Strategic Air Command. When not guarding the red phone, Joe (and Carla) became deeply involved in scouting, helping run troops, host events, and organize large campout excursions. They also caught the Big Red fever for college football. While Carla had already been a sports fan when they met, Joe soon got quite passionate about college (and later pro) football, rooting for the Nebraska Cornhuskers even after the family left Nebraska.
In 1990, the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where Joe attended the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base for a year. From there, the family moved to Nine Mile Falls, Washington, where Joe continued to fly tankers at Fairchild Air Force base. They quickly found new avenues for their passions for scouting and for Catholicism, getting involved at St. Charles Parish in Spokane, Washington, whose school enrolled four of their five children over the family’s five years in Washington state.
While living in Nine Mile Falls, Joe rekindled two of the hobbies he loved the most: going on walks and working with his hands. While he had always been handy (his wife once volunteered Joe to hang all the ceiling fans at their children’s school in Papillion), Joe took things to new levels in Spokane. Joe and Carla bought a home with an entirely unfinished basement and, as their children got older, bigger, and more obstreperous, the need for additional space only increased. Rather than hiring someone, Joe taught himself how to do it all. In an era well before YouTube tutorials, he bought books, read carefully, and made sure he always measured twice. After a few years, the entire basement was finished, complete with a family room, two bedrooms, a study, a laundry room and a bathroom. Joe did it all himself: the plumbing, the wiring, the sheetrock, painting, and wallpaper. He did occasionally have help from his prepubescent children, but the degree to which this was actually helpful remained a subject of debate for many years within the family.
The Spokane, Washington area is also incredibly beautiful, and the family enjoyed many long walks and trips to local mountains and the Pacific coast. Joe loved to ride mountain bikes through the trails and go on the occasional ski trip with one of his older children.
True to their life of never living anywhere more than five years, in 1995, the family returned to Offutt Air Force base and Omaha, Nebraska, this time settling in the suburb of Bellevue to be closer to the base. Again, Joe and Carla found scout troops for their children and a Catholic parish they could call their spiritual home. Jeff left home for college while the family lived in Bellevue, and during his time at Offutt, Joe worked in maintaining nuclear preparedness. It was in Omaha where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after having served 23 years in the United States Air Force.
Joe wasn’t sure what to do after the Air Force, but he finally settled on a job on the east coast, working for Atlas Air in Purchase, New York, in operations support and process improvement, which he started in 2001. Joe embraced the challenges of his new job, quickly developing his skills at managing safety, compliance, and security for airlines. Meanwhile, he and Carla bought a beautiful home with a large pond in Shelton, Connecticut. While the commute was fairly intense, they enjoyed all of New England’s natural beauty and being closer to New York City, where four of their children, in different moments, would go on to live.
Joe and Carla loved seeing plays and trying new restaurants in New York, but most of all they loved seeing their family there and exploring the city with them. Joe’s children, Chris, Becky and Ben left home and started college while the family lived in Shelton. Meanwhile, Joe continued to take on new projects to improve their home, always eager to bring along one of his children – and occasionally their friends – to join in the work and share what he’d learned.
In 2006, Joe, Carla, and Kevin moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania (a suburb outside of Philadelphia), where Joe worked for five years as the director of safety and regulatory compliance at USA3000 Airlines. It was there where Kevin graduated from high school and went on to college, and also where Joe learned that rooting for the Eagles can be almost as fun as supporting the Cornhuskers.
The next decade was like the ones before – full of moves. Joe worked for one year as a director of safety and security at Dynamic Airways in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, settling with Carla in Winston-Salem. From there, they lived in Lafayette, Louisiana for four years, where Joe worked as a data manager for Petroleum Helicopters International and developed a deep appreciation for Cajun food. Then it was back to North Carolina in 2016, this time settling in Greensboro. At his death, Joe worked as Director of Safety at 21Air, a job that brought him more excitement and energy than any he had had since the Air Force. He had only been there for a year and five months when he died.
In North Carolina, Joe and Carla loved exploring the state parks and finding as many secret waterfalls as they could. They were passionate about redecorating and redesigning their new house. A perfect pair, Carla would have an idea for a room or a backyard nook, and Joe would go to the hardware store and get the things to make it appear. They loved living so close to an airport, because it made it so much easier for them to travel all over the country to see their children and grandchildren. In recent months, COVID-19 travel restrictions made such visits impossible, but they still did everything they could to stay in touch over FaceTime and Zoom.
Joe will be missed for so much: his deep devotion to his wife, children, and grandchildren; his amazing ability to make just about anything out of wood; his beautiful, booming singing voice at church that turned heads and never ceased to embarrass his children. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren, and he would talk at length to anyone who would listen about how great they were, to the surprise, joy, and occasional confusion of waiters and grocery store clerks across the continental United States. Joe loved passionately, and so many loved him passionately in return.
In addition to many siblings and siblings-in-law, Joe is survived by his wife, Carla, and his five children and their partners, Jeffrey Guhin and Mary Katherine Sheena of Santa Monica, California, Christopher and Whitney Guhin of Metuchen, New Jersey, Rebecca and Andy Czarnecki of South Bend, Indiana, Benjamin Guhin and Marni Wilhite Delphine of Austin, Texas, and Kevin Guhin and Allyson Kelley of Brooklyn, New York. He is also survived by eight grandchildren, Mila, Aiden, Fiona, Ethan, Joseph, Dorothy, Evelyn, and Liam
A Mass of Christian Burial at St. Pius X Catholic Church
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Joseph Matthew Guhin
February 23, 2021
It was a small bar on the corner of 18th and State St in Bettendorf, Iowa. At that time of night, it was the only place open for us to meet. You see, Joe had surprised me four years earlier when he announced right before High School graduation that he had been accepted to the Air Force Academy.
My jaw dropped and I staggered out, “What? When? How? I then learned a very important lesson in goal planning: the planning and scholastic performance required to achieve that appointment was something that I lacked. Not Joe.
I had learned that Joe was in town, having graduated from the academy. I was anxious to hear about his deployment,
“Hey, Joe!” We shook hands, but I got right to the important question. “Ya gotta tell me…I’m dying to know. What airplane did you get assigned to?!”
“Tanker Pilot! KC-135!” I have never forgotten that evening. I’m still proud of him.
Decades later, in the later part of my professional career, I would find myself pursuing business with or being lead by Air Force Academy graduate pilots, tanker pilots. Often, I would leave a strategy meeting dazzled by the strength of their character, their devotion to duty and country, their love of family and friend, and their absolute desire to perform well at a mission. I could not help but think of my friend Joe and wonder where he was at that moment. And because of that I always looked forward to saying, “Hey, Joe!”
That is the ‘Joe’ we knew in High School. Always family. Always purpose. Always a friend. Always fun. A thinking person whom you could depend on. Never boastful; but always heading toward success.
With the news of last week comes disbelief and an utmost…heartfelt conce for Joe’s family and fellow friends. He will forever be in my heart and memories: one can lose a friend, but not that relationship that was so key to our youth. My thoughts have been with you; I pray that you are surrounded by loved ones on a mission to find peace.
February 23, 2021
So sorry to learn of Joe's passing. We were close friends in high school and if a state track meet hadn't interfered, would have gone to Prom together. May God bring peace to his entire family.
February 23, 2021
We send our sympathies and prayers to the Guhin family.
Joe was an amazing man, co-worker and friend. During our time of working together at I learned immensely from Joe. I always enjoyed the FAA meetings with him. My best memories are when Joe and I would talk about his time flying the KC-135's and his supersonic flights in the T-38's. Joe will be missed.
February 23, 2021
To the Guhin family, I send my heartfelt regards in this time. I pray for your comfort and healing through the love and laughter Joe shared with you. May each memory bring smiles to ease the pain and everlasting love to mend the heart.
Because of Joe, I had the privilege to be a student of his son Jeff Guhin, affectionately known as “Mr. G” to myself and classmates. Thank you Joe for sharing your gifts of life to the world. My life changed in so many way just based on the way you’ve raised your family. I have been indirectly influenced by you. I am eternally grateful. May you have a pleasant journey onward — and pilot heaven. Salute!
Mark and Paulette Walz
February 22, 2021
Our heartfelt prayers and deepest sympathies to Carla and all of my cousin Joe’s family. I’m not sure there are adequate words to ease the pain and loss you feel, but I also know that, like Joe’s strong faith, your own faith and the certainty that God has promised us an eternal life that makes our brief earthly life pale by comparison. I have no doubt that Joe is now in the Heavenly company of Dick, Peg, and brother Dan in Heaven.
Love and prayers to you all,
Mark and Paulette Walz
February 22, 2021
My condolences to Joe and his family. I met him while he worked at Swift Airlines and we sort of bonded over both of us having special needs kids. I didn't realize Joe loved to sing. What a tremendous loss. My prayers are with you all.
February 21, 2021
He will be missed by many. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
February 21, 2021
I'm so very sorry for your sudden loss.
February 21, 2021
I am so sorry to hear about Joe. We were friends in high school. I always respected Joe. He was serious, knowledgeable, and friendly. I remember we had an algebra class together. I wasn't any good at it but a girl came up and asked me how I had solved a problem on our homework. I showed her how I did it. Four steps. Joe walked up and she asked him. He got it in twenty steps. Guess who passed with an A and who slipped by with a D! I was not surprised when Joe went to a military academy. He came up to me once and told me he needed a sport to round out his resume. He suggested he join the football team and asked what I thought. I looked at him and he was skinnier than I was. I passed that quiz when I suggested Cross Country. I've always remembered Joe as a person of dignity and strength. My prayers go out to your family for comfort.
February 20, 2021
To my dear sister-in-law Carla, and Jeff/Mary Katherine, Chris/Whitney, Becky/Andy, Ben/Marni, Kevin/Allyson and all those precious grandchildren-
My deepest condolences on the passing of your husband, father, father-in-law and Pops. I am praying fervently for the peace that passes all understanding to come into your hearts at this time of grief. May your memories sustain you as you navigate life without Joe. He was such a good, kind, loving, giving person. I was always and will always be proud to be his little sister. He was the gold standard for excellence in our family not only growing up but also as a husband, father and grandfather.
God bless you all-
Mary Guhin Whitaker