He was the kind of character a novelist might have dreamed up: a crusty, profane, mustachioed, cigar-chomping, lovable old bastard limping around the State Capitol with his cane and a take-no-bullshit attitude toward one and all.
Now that George L. 'Doc' Gunther has left us, Connecticut's political landscape will be a hell of a lot duller.
Doc died this weekend at age 92. He holds the record as the longest-serving state lawmaker in Connecticut history. He may also hold the record as one of the best lawmakers during that 40-year stretch.
He was irreverent. He liked to make politically incorrect jokes. It was probably a good thing he was so ugly because a handsome Doc Gunther would have been a seriously dangerous and outrageous charmer of the opposite sex, and he got into enough trouble without that.
Doc loved the environment and was one of the best friends Long Island Sound ever had.
He fought for the lobstermen. He fought for the fish, and the fishermen. He fought Big Energy when they wanted to blanket the seabed with pipelines and cables.
He was a Republican and one of the least partisan politicians in Connecticut. He fought Democratic governors when they wanted to short-change environmental programs. He fought Republican governors when they wanted to short-change environmental programs. He fought his own GOP caucus if he thought they were out of line.
Judges and sheriffs and legislators who kowtowed to them for political reasons found Doc to be an unrelenting critic. He wouldn't vote yes for judicial appointees because he didn't think anybody should get that sort of job without at least someone in opposition. He thought Connecticut's incredibly politicized sheriff system was a disgusting and outdated hold-over from the era of political patronage and he finally lived long enough to see it reformed.
Doc used to give out the "Rubber Chicken Award" every year to the lawyer-legislator he thought had gone into the tank most often for the judges and the judicial system. He once stood up in the state Senate and announced he was giving a "Yo-Yo Award" to a rookie conservative who was always bouncing up to talk endlessly about everything and anything.
Reporters he respected he treated as equals, swearing at them with enormous goodwill and enjoyment. Reporters he didn't respect, well, let's just say they were aware of where he stood.
Everybody was always aware of where Doc Gunther stood. Unlike 95 percent of his fellow pols, Doc didn't care for weaselly political half-truths. He told it like he saw it, and if you didn't care for his version of reality, then you could go screw yourself in the most expletive-deleted method possible.
Yep, we're going to miss that old bad boy.
Connecticut was a richer place for having known him for all these years.