Dave Wunsch has died at the age of 83. He was a bluegrass harmonica and pennywhistle player and also a singer, and was a longtime member of the Northern California Bluegrass Society/Santa Cruz Bluegrass Society. He directed that the following message be sent to his friends:
“This is your notification of the death of David E. Wunsch, formerly of San Jose, California; Orlando and Boynton Beach, Florida; Dallas, Texas; and Galesburg, Illinois. Mr Wunsch died on 11/17/2015. This notice is being sent to you at his request, by one of his survivors. Please take whatever action seems appropriate. Mr. Wunsch has suggested you should have either a shot of good scotch whiskey or a bottle of good beer. Tell your bartender that Mr. Wunsch is buying. Editorial comment: Dave’s estate is not buying. Your bartender will need to go after Dave.”
Dave was a well-known jammer who sat in at performances with many area bluegrass bands including Sidesaddle. His talent and sense of humor made many a bluegrass social gathering glow brightly over the years. Dave was also fond of playing other acoustic music, including old-time, folk, old-time country, celtic, dixieland, and old blues.
Dave was born in 1932 in La Junta, Otero County, Colorado to Aleck Wunsch and Kathryn Mae (Hardy) Wunsch. Dave graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and from Southern Methodist University with a Masters of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He started studying at night for a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, but found it got in the way of his higher priorities, such as playing music with friends.
Dave’s wife Rosemarie (Korajczyk) Wunsch died on December 6, 2015, 19 days after Dave passed. Dave is survived by two sons, Grant and Larry Wunsch, and by two sisters, Jayne (Wunsch) Dye and Margaret (Wunsch) Semple.
Dave was a fantastic Microwave engineer and over his career he set up numerous Microwave radio systems in the U.S. and other places around the world. Later, he taught electrical engineering at San Jose State University.
A joint memorial service for Dave and Rosemarie will be held at a later date.
Dave’s friend Joe Weed wrote about Dave’s musical career:
David Wunsch left us all with colorful memories of his harmonica and penny whistle playing, his unique style of singing, his stories about country musicians he’d known in his days in Houston, and with a gaping void that nobody will fill.
David was passionate about music, and enthusiastic about playing. It didn’t matter what the music was, as long as it was rootsy and expressive. Bluegrass, country, celtic, old-timey, contra, jug-band, pizza parlor favorites — all of these lit a fire in David, and he would play any and all of the above as long as there was an audience. Or even longer.
I met David Wunsch in 1977, when I was playing with Chuck McCabe and Brandy Bento in a group we called the Pensacola Flash. At a gig one lonely weeknight at a bar in Campbell, I noticed an odd-looking guy with a crew cut in the front table. He listened intently to everything we played, and clapped after every tune. Eventually he sent up a round of drinks. So we chatted on the break, and he told us he was drowning his pain in beer, because his wife Rose was in Chicago, taking care of her ailing mother. He said his name was David Wunsch, and he played a little music as a hobby. He was there the next week, and told us he had his harmonicas with him. He asked if he could sit in with the band. Wary, as always, we waited until the end of our 3rd set, and then had him come up and play. One tune turned into 4 or 5, as frequently happened with David. And a friendship was born.
Later, when David learned I was trying to upgrade my fiddle amplification system, he insisted I bring the gear over to his bench at California Microwave after hours so he could help figure things out. Although he was working with microwaves in his current job, he had decades of experience working with analog circuitry, and I believe he relished the opportunity to help a starving musician. Eventually, after we carried my rig into his lab late many nights, when he should have been home relaxing, we made major improvements. He would never accept any pay.
I got to know Dave’s wife Rosemarie, as well as his two talented sons Grant and Larry. Dave became a grandfather and remembered the date of his grandson’s birth because it occurred on the 8th of January, the name of just one of the hundreds of tunes Dave knew and loved. His family all seemed to tolerate the unending line of old mid-sixties Dodge Darts that accumulated in front of Dave’s house, where he would pull parts from many to keep one running.
David and Rose came up to Marty’s and my wedding, which turned into a hellacious picking party at our home. David was probably the 2nd to last to leave — and I know this only because Debby Benton, the very last to go, left the next morning.
The last time I played with David, I invited him to join me with Fra Drumm at a St. Patty’s Day gig in San Jose last year. He loved sitting in and playing Irish tunes. He even sang Danny Boy.
I’ll miss David, and I know that like me, many others will keep a warm place in their hearts for this huge and musical person.
Dave Wunsch Memorial Facebook Page
Rosemarie Wunsch Memorial Facebook Page
– Michael Hall, Grant Wunsch, and Joe Weed