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John C. Hunter

Posted April 22, 2015 in Des Moines West, Obituaries, West Des Moines

John Carpenter Hunter, 92, died on April 16, 2015, at WesleyLife Health Center in Des Moines, Iowa. A Memorial Celebration will be held Sunday, June 21, at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

John C. Hunter

John C. Hunter

John was born in Des Moines in 1923, the second child of Edwin B. and Ilia (Carpenter) Hunter. After attending Callanan Junior High and graduating from Roosevelt High School, John was in his sophomore year at the University of Iowa when he enlisted in the Navy. He started Naval Training School at Harvard University, finishing at Lawrence College in Wisconsin. Serving as a Lieutenant Commander in Communications aboard the mine sweeper USS Execute, he participated in the initial infiltration into Tokyo harbor at the end of the war. Armed with a B.A. in Economics eventually attained at Iowa, he and his younger brother, Edwin Jr., joined forces with their father in Des Moines at the E.B. Hunter Insurance and Iowa Investment, Mortgage and Loan Co.s. A quiet community leader, he and his brother went on to invest and develop many interests in downtown Des Moines and elsewhere, many in partnership with John Graham. The brothers were instrumental in expanding the Highland Potato Chip Co. and remodeling the Hotel Fort Des Moines. On a blind date set up by his older sister, Margaret Ann O’Meara, at a Cedar Rapids Country Club dance in 1949, he met his soulmate, the love of his life, Ellen Montgomery. Married in 1950, they had three children for whom he modeled many qualities: modesty, generosity, patience, common sense, tolerance and truthfulness. Aside from his passions for reading — primarily biographies and history, John treasured big band and classic jazz, canoeing in Canada, the family cottage on Lake Okoboji, crossword puzzles, rum and coke, sailing, tennis, golf, mushroom hunting, hiking and handball. John loved to travel and explore the world and cherished doing so with family and friends.

His lightening quick wit and penetrating humor were his calling cards. When asked by a young family friend if it was all right to give John’s daughter a ride on his motorcycle, John inquired about a helmet for his daughter. The young man said that she could wear his. “And what about you?” John asked. The young man replied that Iowa law didn’t require a helmet. “What about the law of averages?” John asked. The ride was brief and conducted very carefully.

John is survived by Ellen M. Hunter, his beloved wife of almost 65 years, his children, John M. (Hannah K.) Hunte, Phoebe R. (Kay Whitlock) Hunter, Thomas C. (Annie) Hunter, two dear grandchildren, Ben and Elizabeth Hunter, sisters-in-law, Carolyn Hunter, Cornelia Montgomery, Elizabeth (Gordon R.) Neumann and many adoring nieces and nephews, some of whom found in John a second father or a surrogate grandfather.

Memorial contributions may be made to Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Central Iowa, The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, the Brenton Arboretum or a charity of one’s choice. The family wishes to extend a heartfelt thanks for the kind care and expertise provided by WesleyLife Health Center. Please share memories of John online at

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