Joseph Albert Gauthier was born in Corning on March 28, 1951, and died peacefully of natural causes in Omaha, Nebraska on June 28, 2023. Joe lost the love of his life, his wife Beverly Horton, who died on September 3, 2009; but he occupied prominent spaces in the hearts of countless, vigilant friends and family members as he made his final transition.
Like his parents, Paul and Marcia Gauthier, his siblings Nan Gauthier McCreary, Margaret (Peggy) JoAnn Gauthier, and Christopher Allen Gauthier, who all predeceased him, and his brother Anthony Paul Gauthier who survives him, Joe was a child of Corning. They were blessed to live amidst the nurturing support of the Corning and Adams County communities, and to be favored as among the direct descendants of Albert and Grace Gauthier.
Joe’s survivors include his brother-in-law, Jim McCreary; his sisters-in-law, Julie Hansen Jentsch and Joelle Gauthier; nieces, Lynne Howard, Laura McCreary, and Bre Gauthier; nephews Nicholas Gauthier, Alexander Gauthier, and Trevor Gauthier; and twenty or so first cousins and their spouses who loved him like a brother.
Joe is also survived by Theresa West, who cherished him as a lifelong friend. He was a special object of Theresa’s love and caring skills at the Corning Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing where he resided and relished the mutual support of its staff and residents. His abiding interest in their lives and families created deep and durable bonds with them. Their loss is palpable.
Joe spent most of his life in Iowa City and Corning. It was a Corning then where doors were unlocked, keys were left in cars, and everybody knew everyone’s free-ranging dog’s name. Joe flourished in that environment and indulged his fancies to maximum effect.
His peers will remember he pursued 7-UP by the case, long johns by the dozen, and cherry popsicles by the gross, which he kept at the Kennedy locker. And he shared.
As members of the St. Patrick Catholic Church, the Gauthier family flourished under the guidance of many clergy, most prominently the late Fr. Jacob Weiss (“Jake” to his close friends). After he had been at St. Pat’s for a couple of years in the 1960s, Jake observed that “Corning has more ‘characters’ per-capita than any community he had ever experienced.” Joe was prominent on Jake’s extensive list of “characters.”
As one of those “characters,” Joe became beloved by his school peers, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the community at large. Generous to a fault, Joe’s inimitable and distinctive slant on the world around him endeared him to those he encountered and often left them defenseless but with no need of protection.
He was the master of surprise and delighted in watching the bewildered and quizzical expressions his jocular, good-natured commentary elicited.
A natural born prankster, Joe once sent his 10-year-old cousin visiting from California down the street to Mack’s hardware store from the Free Press to fetch some elbow grease and a left-handed monkey wrench.
He once convinced his Chicago born-and-raised, sophisticated, urbanite sister-in-law that the Ozium he surreptitiously sprayed in the car as they drove past Walnut Grove Cemetery was “the sweet smell of death” emanating from the nearby graves.
A selected few will also remember Joe channeling Tom Sawyer and persuading them that making hot lead pigs in the toxic basement of the Free Press to feed the linotypes was not only honorable work, but actually enjoyable. It was, and it wasn’t.
His intimate connections with the top road management of the Grateful Dead took him and Bev backstage to hundreds of Dead concerts over more than a quarter of a century, dozens of which he shared with his own entourage of friends and family. Joe and Bev were married on one of those west coast Dead road trips.
Joe modeled and dispersed the Dead’s iconic musical mantra and values of peace and inclusive humanism based on progressive, apolitical, and diverse American lyrical folklore while leaving nothing behind but footsteps.
The lexicons of the Dead and the Firesign Theatre embellished the communication techniques and bonding experiences he formed with those who shared his unconventional proclivities. YOU know who you are!
Few of his contemporaries, if any, (other than Franny Mack) possessed more knowledge of Corning and Adams County history than Joe. Every word he recalled and spoke (except an occasionally wry tease) reflected his deep affection for the community and all its people. He was far too humble even to notice, much less display, their manifest reciprocation of those feelings.
Joe’s journalistic curiosity was imbedded in him by both nature and nurture. He inherited and visited upon his siblings and friends his parents’ obsession with proper English grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation. He consciously edited and proofread every written message he sent or received. He practiced and perfected those habits in his printing trade, which he plied with extraordinary skill and creativity in Corning, Iowa City, and Anita.
The back room of the Free Press contained numerous inventions Joe devised as an adolescent Edison to expedite and economize the job printing part of the operation. While he never exploited his status as the boss’s son (except when he had pressing business elsewhere), Joe was especially proud of and recognized for his mastery of letterpress and offset printing technology, machinery, and all its accessories.
Still, he was fully capable of surreptitiously slipping into the Free Press an occasional, crafty gaffe (some have become legendary) that tested Paul’s professional patience but tickled (most of) the readers.
On July 8, 2023, at 9:30 a.m., Our Joe will be laid to rest at Calvary cemetery beside his parents and his sisters, Nan and Peg, along with his brother Chris’s memorial. Celebrants are welcome and stories will flow; but anyone who ever met Joe knows they will need their keenest wit and most amenable sense of humor for the occasion.
A celebration of Nan’s life will immediately ensue at the site.
Memorial contributions for Joe may be made to the residents’ fund at the Corning Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.