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Walter Guthrie Brunner

Died: January 20, 2011

As a joke, Walter Guthrie Brunner ran for class president at the Wheatley School on Long Island, won, and became “a first class, diligent president,” according to a classmate.

An obit from the St. Croix Avis, perhaps largely self-authored and the principal source of this piece, claims he was a founding member of SNCC (he was 17). After a year off, he attended VMI for a year, then got a Navy ROTC scholarship at Yale. Injured while on a summer cruise, he was honorably discharged. He spent sophomore and junior years with us at Yale, then ran restaurants in NYC. His girlfriend, Donna, a model, got tired of NY, went to St. Croix, Virgin Islands to visit, and never returned. Walter followed her in 1970 and started a restaurant in the Dansk Hotel in Kristiansted. She organized political campaigns and was murdered, the case never solved.

In the Virgin Islands Brunner left his mark as a political consultant, restaurateur, reporter, television programmer, athlete, advertising and media producer, and promoter of arts and culture.

With his first restaurant barely a year old, Brunner became a reporter September 6, 1972, being first on the scene at the Fountain Valley Mass Murders (turbulent times in the Virgin Islands); William Kunstler defended the accused. Brunner covered the highly-publicized trial.

In 1974 his radio program V.I. Political Roundtable subjected candidates to rapid-fire questioning by the local press corps. Expanding into television, Brunner covered Caribbean stories for ABC, CBS, and NBC, produced TV programs, and reported for the St. Croix Avis.

Then Walter ran political media campaigns for over four decades, counting among his clients four governors and three delegates to Washington, six lieutenant governors, six V.I. senate presidents, Ruby Margaret Rouss, the first black woman to lead a state-level legislative body, and Margaret Stapleton, the nation’s longest serving Democrat Party state chair.

In the 90s Brunner helped artists design seven outdoor sculptures for a racetrack, a police command center, and public spaces in Fredericksted and three “Conch Blower” sculptures placed throughout the islands. Under a grant from the V.I. Council on the Arts, he conceived and ran a “Lottery as Art” project, depicting cultural events and historic figures on bi-weekly drawing tickets. He then conceived and designed governor’s medals for freedom and for the arts. After Hurricane Marilyn, he helped produce a restoration poster that, after 30,000 printings, was selected for the cover of Travel Weekly magazine.

Brunner owned and operated three restaurants, among them Guthrie’s, a gas-lit, saxophone and clarinet-jazzed restaurant at Christiansted Harbor, selected for the territory’s first national TV ad campaign.

For seven years, Brunner was a partner in a New York based firm that represented NBA players and NCAA coaches. And as a member of the 1974 Virgin Islands Olympic Wrestling Team, he had competed in the 100-kilogram class at the Caribbean and Central American Games in the Dominican Republic.

In 1999, hobbled by diabetes, he retired to Greenwich Village, where he lived another twelve years. Walter Guthrie Brunner died at 67 of neurological disease.