Lifelong Resident Elena Gutzmer (1923-2013)
By Mike Walsh
published in the Hartford Courant's "Manchester Extra" section, Thursday, December 12, 2013, page M14
reprinted with permission

Elena Gutzmer, a lifelong Manchester resident who was a member of the Manchester Ambulance Transportation Unit during World War II, died Oct. 7, 2013. She was 90.

Gutzmer began working for the Cheney Brothers as a secretary after high school. It was around that time that she met her future husband, Walter.

Walter Gutzmer said he met his wife through a friend, and that the two only saw each other a few times before he had to leave to serve in the Army in the Pacific during World War II.

"She wrote to me for three years while I was over in the Pacific," Walter Gutzmer said. "Every time she wrote, I wrote back to her. It was a long 33 months. When I came back I gave her a ring."

They were married in 1946 after he returned home. Together they had three children, William and David Gutzmer and Gail Peck.

Elena Gutzmer had her own important role during the war. She was a member of the Manchester Ambulance Transportation Unit. Because of the threat of war, the unit's purpose was to patrol during air raid drills, make sure shades were down and no lights were on at certain times. Her sister, Gilda Kravontka, was also part of the unit.

The book, "World War II History of Manchester, Connecticut," by Archie Kilpatrick, contains a section about the unit. "The outstanding example of voluntary helpfulness of an organization during the war was demonstrated by a group of young women, keen for any activity that would foster the war effort," the book said.

The unit was started by a group of about 20 women after the town's first blackout trial was deemed a failure.

"The girls concluded that if a real disaster was to strike town, there would be confusion and possibly needless loss of life unless some kind of organization, including in its membership qualified female first aiders...were to be formed," the book said.

Elena Gutzmer's family said her desire to be part of the group fit with her caring personality.

"She liked everybody," her husband said.

Kravontka said her older sister was a role model and that she envied her.

Elena Gutzmer cherished the history of her family and her town.

Among the things she saved were school yearbooks and scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings, some of which have been donated to the Manchester Historical Society and the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame.