Over the past 18 years in Tucson, Gunther Marx and his wife, Margot, have racked up more than 10,000 volunteer hours with organizations ranging from Tucson Medical Center to the Tucson Botanical Gardens to Project Linus. The Marxes began spending winters in Tucson in 1995 and moved here full-time in 2007. Their penchant for volunteering started in Chicago, where Gunther, now 89, worked in the jewelry business and was an advisor for high school Key Clubs, the student-led service clubs supported by Kiwanis International. He was also a volunteer at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
In Tucson, he currently volunteers at the gift shops at TMC and St. Joseph’s Hospital, as well as at the botanical gardens and Kiwanis, where he’s assisted at relay races for middle school students — including the event this year on April 13 — and helped disadvantaged youngsters buy Christmas presents. Previously, he’d volunteered at the gift shops run by El Dorado Hospital and Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, which no longer exist. He also served as a tutor at Hudlow Elementary School, through the Oasis program for adults 50 and older, for about 10 years.
Volunteering, says Gunther, “is what we’re all supposed to do. We’re supposed to help others.” But he adds that volunteering has done “as much for me as I’ve done for it.”
Margot also likes the idea of giving back “to the community at large.”
But she has a specific reason. “When I came here as a young girl from Germany, the country was very good to me and I felt it was time for me to give payback time,” she says, explaining that her family came to the United States in 1936, when she was 12, escaping the Nazi regime.
Gunther also came from Germany, but not until after World War II began. After fleeing Germany in 1940, his family spent 10 months making their way through Russia — Gunther spent his 17th birthday on a trans-Siberian train — to China, Korea, Japan and Panama, before they settled in Chicago. Gunther recently wrote his life story, says Margot, and gave a copy to the Jewish History Museum. The pair also recorded their histories in 1996 with the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg (now the USC Shoah Foundation).
Like her husband, Margot volunteers at TMC, with a sewing group on Tuesdays and in the vascular lab on Wednesdays. She makes quilts that she sends back to Chicago, where they are distributed to children with terminal illnesses, and in Tucson, she knits sweaters and afghans for Project Linus, which provides them to children in need. She also knits for the babies in her own family — she and Gunther have two children, six grandchildren, one great-grandchild and another on the way. In Chicago, she was active in her synagogue and volunteered with the Jewish assisted living home where her mother had lived.
Being active in community service comes so naturally, says Margot, she can’t imagine life without it. “It’s just part of my life. I’m happy about that.”