Title: Naval Reservist, World War I, Lieutenant Commander, World War II, Korea
Birthdate: Jun 7, 1898
Death Date: August 1, 1975
Plot Location: Naval 4, Row 4, Grave 35

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The Guthries were from western Illinois but John’s father, Fred, pursued post-graduate work at Rush Medical College in Chicago and became a physician. Unfortunately the patients shared their diseases with the doctor and he died when he was 43 and John was 16.

Like his father, the son graduated high school and went to the University of Illinois in 1917. There was no Reserve Officer Training Corps on college campuses until 1926 but there was a Naval Reserve Force. John was a Reservist while in school from August, 1918 to September, 1921. This is a freshman-year photo of him in uniform.

John’s story is notable because he was one of only a very few service members at Mount Moriah to have been in the armed services during three wars. His record is also unusual in that no documentation shows he ever served overseas during two of those wars. He joined the active list of Reservists in November of 1942 as Lieutenant Commander. He took his retirement at that rank in October, 1960, with just one newspaper story (below) stating that he was in South American waters during World War II.

There’s no list of the ships and places where he may have served, but Reservists did indeed serve. The number of them swelled to 3 million by 1945, making up 84 percent of the Navy at that time. During the Korean conflict a massive mobilization of “Weekend Warriors” filled out the complements of ships pulled from mothballs. John remained a stateside Reservist in the 50s. 

The other noteworthy side of this man was the number of times he was unsuccessful at cleaving to a wife in holy matrimony. While in college he married the teenage daughter of a wealthy Chicago banker who had grown up having the daily chores of living handled by two servants. That union was destined to fail after a couple of years.

By 1924 he was living briefly with his mother in suburban Oak Park. Late that year he became engaged to another girl of some means. Dorothy Funk  was about his same age and from the same town. Her father was vice president of a brokerage house who employed three domestics to maintain their standard of living. Her wedding portrait here is obviously not her best smile but the curls were typical 20s. The couple honeymooned in Atlantic City in the spring of 1925. John’s occupation was a salesman, then a clerk. Two springs later they welcomed a son named Donald. 

John seems to have skipped out of the 1930 census as well as his family. Dorothy was listed that year in their Oak Park home as head of household but still married, with son Donald, and assisted by a servant. By 1935 she was divorced and remarried.

Next up for John was a frequent subject of the society pages, a debutante named Helen Pope who dabbled as an actress for charity events. Her father was a coal company president who left a half-million dollar estate after his death in 1929. They were wed in 1935 and lived in the upscale Chicago suburb of Highland Park, but he made some decisions she apparently found distasteful.

First, his February 1942 draft card says they moved to Antioch, Illinois on the Wisconsin border where he became a farmer. Later that year he enlisted in the Naval Reserves as a Lieutenant Commander. Helen’s desires were for the cultural life, not the agricultural, not to mention the military. She preferred her mother’s second home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts and wintering with Mommy in Mexico, which resulted in this news story from a Chicago courtroom in 1946. 

John remained in the Reserves as Lieutenant Commander after the war, making his home in Oakland, California and then in Santa Barbara. There he met a young widowed mother named Freda who understood the pride and the price of serving. Her father was a Colonel in World War I. Her late husband, Colonel Douglas McNair died on August 7, 1944 in Guam. His father, Lieutenant General Lesley McNair, was killed two weeks before that in Normandy.

She brought her four-year-old daughter to her marriage with John in 1947. He started a real estate agency in Santa Barbara, and Freda was listed in city directories as a secretary there until 1957. Some documents list similar names in Pasadena and Los Angeles but cannot be confirmed to be the same people. A Santa Barbara city directory in 1962 lists neither of them, but it does show Freda’s 19-year-old daughter, Bonnie Clare McNair, who was a student. She lived in California the rest of her life.

Questions remain about the senior years of the old Reservist. Did his last marriage last for the rest of his life, or was it just longer than the previous three? Eventually he made the decision to enter the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, so perhaps at this point he was on his own again. After his heart stopped for the last time, the Hospital had this marker placed over his grave in the Naval Plot in 1975. Freda died in Santa Barbara in 1991.


Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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