On January 20, 2019, Marilyn Nagel Gurnee lost the love of her life,
Daniel Stryker Gurnee, Jr. Daniel passed away with his family near,
after a short illness.
Dani was born in Glendale on March 14, 1926. He grew up in Glendale and Granada Hills. His mother and father, Lily and Daniel, had four children: Duane, Rupert, Madeline and Daniel. Together they built the Gurnee home … a large, beautiful Spanish-style redwood house complete with a large central courtyard, fountain, family sized hammock and amazing gardens with a beautiful pomegranate tree. Dan followed his brothers in the fight against the Axis, having his father sign for him to join the United States Navy’s “Fighting Seabees” at 17 years old. He ended up helping to construct what was then the “largest airport in the world” on the island of Tinian, with a force of 269 B29s. He never wanted to fly after witnessing the takeoffs and landings of those aircraft. When asked if he was there when the Enola Gay took off for Japan, he said, “No, I was on the other side of the island.” It was only four by nine miles.
After the war, Dan followed his brother Duane to Arcata to major in music at what was then Humboldt State College. He soon found himself playing classical music with Charles Fulkerson and the Humboldt State Symphony and jazz in local nightclubs and dinner houses with the Jerry Moore Quintet. It was during this time that Daniel was in line at HSC to sign up for his GI Bill tuition benefits. Our grandfather Scott Nagel, a Navy veteran, was employed by the Veterans Administration to oversee GI benefits. His daughter Marilyn came along to help her dad by typing forms. She spotted Dan in line and immediately thought to herself, “this is the man I will marry.” Two weeks later they had their first date and a year later were married. Their first home was in The Village, married housing on the HSC campus. They started a family and ended up on Humboldt Hill for many years.
After graduation, Dan became a sought-after piano technician/tuner and a renaissance man, able to tackle virtually any challenge repairing any and all musical instruments. He was hired to take care of the pianos in the HSC Music Department in 1964, and retired after 30 years as a piano technician/tuner/ instrument repairman from Humboldt State University. He was also inventive, making many of his own tools and building a harpsichord. He created one of the first electric basses, dubbed “The Gurnevarius,” a beautiful five-string redwood bass designed to sound like an acoustic bass. He routinely did double duty, playing his bass with the left hand, while playing the electric piano with his right during their jazz gigs – think Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Daniel coached for many years at the summer Chamber Music Workshop at HSU. He also played in many local chamber groups, including The FaDa (Father/Daughter) String Quartet with Charles and Julie Fulkerson and Dan’s daughter, Annette.
Dan loved to sail, a love he shared with his son, David. He frequently went over the Humboldt Bay bar where he sailed and fished for king salmon. Later in life he would take off to the northern Humboldt Bay mud flats giving salute to the oystermen, then dropping his centerboard in the mud for a lunch of Kipper Snacks and a cup of chianti. Dan was famous for leaving his outboard motor up and sailing up to the dock, back winding the sails and backing into his slip.
Dan was a stalwart Democrat, a long-time Unitarian and a vehement Mark Twain “proselytizer.” We spent many an evening “enjoying” his frequent readings.
Daniel was a wonderful husband to our mother, Marilyn, for 68 years, a fine father to David and Annette, and a loving grandfather and great-grandfather. He now joins his mother and father, his siblings, and many dear friends, in our hearts. At the end he was able to say his goodbyes to friends and family including his grand- and great-grandchildren.
A special thanks is due Hospice of Humboldt and Humboldt Bay Fire Engine 8113 for their help in his final hours. In lieu of donations the family requests everyone do their best to further the flourishing of democracy in our wonderful country. Dan would love that.
The Gurnee family invites all friends and family to a memorial service at the Humboldt Unitarian Fellowship at 24 Fellowship Way, Bayside, on March 24 at 3 pm. You are free to bring cookies, finger food and a story.
He lay down in his boat and drifted over the bar. Rest in peace, Daniel