by ELIZABETH FISHER
A native of Dayton, George I. Gunckel grew up at 527 West 2nd Street, an affluent and formative neighborhood in the city. He was recognized as a member of a pioneering and influential family in the community. Gunckel’s father, Oliver I. Gunckel was considered a “man of affluence in Dayton” and “represented one of the old pioneer families” of the region. His grandfather and namesake, George W. Gunckel, at the age of 83, was depicted as the second oldest pioneer resident in the Village of Germantown in the Dayton Daily News on August 2, 1904. His death in 1909 was documented “as the last [member] of this famous family, which has done so much for Montgomery County.”
It was a flourishing time in military dentistry and an unsettling period in the Southern Philippines. Gunckel and his wife, Romie, spent the first three years in Southern Philippines among the Moro people. The Muslim or Moro population were resistant to foreign occupation since the Spanish-American War. Regardless, the Gunckel’s had respect for the people and culture. Over 260 objects in the Gunckel collection at the Dayton Society of Natural History represent the Philippine culture and Moro people.
Enlistment dental standards, until WWII, “only required enough teeth to bite off the end of the cartridge so that the gunpowder and bullet (ball) could be loaded into a muzzleloader rifle.
Following his prosperous adolescence, George I. Gunckel earned the title of D.D.S. in 1899 from Ohio Medical University, after graduating from Ohio State University and Orchard Lake Military School. One year later, he married “Greenville girl” Romie Elizabeth Turner. After establishing a private dentistry practice, in 1904 he joined the U. S. Army Medical Corps as a Contract Dental Surgeon. Shortly afterward, George and Romie sailed for the Philippine Islands for the next three years. Lieutenant Colonel Gunckel served as a dental surgeon for the U. S. Army Medical Corps from 1904 to 1919.
Gunckel concluded his military service after WWI and traveled the world with his wife during retirement. They eventually returned to Gunckel’s childhood home in Dayton, where they resided until his death at 61 on April 17, 1937.
After his final retirement from dentistry, George and Romie Gunckel traveled worldwide visiting places like Alaska, the American Southwest, Western Indians, South America, and Mexico.
In 1946, Mrs. Romie Gunckel transferred the Gunckel collection to the Dayton Public Library Museum, or Dayton Society of Natural History (DSNH) as we know it today, in memory of her husband. These included Japanese samurai armor, Spanish armor, swords, spears, baskets, musical instruments, shields, woven garments such as sarongs and sashes, and much more.
Romie sold their home to the American Red Cross during WWII and returned to Greenville where she passed away on September 6, 1948.
Elizabeth Fisher is Collections Manager and Registrar for the Dayton Society of Natural History.