Saltwater Portrait

John Gauger: Inspired by helping others

Volunteer serves Rehoboth city government, library, church
John Gauger has stayed busy in retirement, serving as a volunteer on the Rehoboth Beach Streets and Transportation Committee, Epworth United Methodist Church and at the Rehoboth Beach Library. BY RYAN MAVITY
April 16, 2014

For someone who’s supposed to be retired, John Gauger has a lot of irons in the fire.

He recently finished two terms on Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission and serves on the streets and transportation committee. He volunteers for Rehoboth Beach Public Library and Epworth United Methodist Church, and all that doesn’t include his hobbies: reading, bicycling, boating and fishing. He’s also taking classes at Wilmington University on Rehoboth Avenue in photography and drawing.

“I said to my wife the other day, ‘How am I going to schedule myself this summer? I have drawing and photography and boating and fishing and the beach. How am I going to get that all in?’” Gauger said,

Gauger, 77, fell into serving in city government. Wanting to stay informed, he began attending Rehoboth commissioners’ meetings. Gauger’s house on Laurel Street is two houses down from planning commission Chairman Preston Littleton, who urged Gauger to volunteer to serve.

“I came here from Pennsylvania,” Gauger said. “I was a member of the school board for 10 years, and I was on a planning commission for eight years. Never ran for anything I’d get paid for. My wife would say, ‘Why don’t you do something you’d get paid for?’ It was natural for me.”

Friendly and grandfatherly with a bald head and glasses, Gauger said the most satisfying aspect of his work is getting things done, such as a citywide bike map produced by the Streets and Transportation Committee, which also developed the scooter parking program.

Gauger has been coming to Rehoboth since 1954; a native of New Castle County, Gauger spent most of his professional career as a teacher of government and history at Lehigh Carbon Community College near Allentown.

“I’ve always been interested in government,” he said. “When I taught local government in the college, my students were required to go out and visit a couple of committees. As I point out to them, you hear on TV all the time about what’s happening in Washington, but you seldom hear about what’s going on locally. After all, they’re the ones who could put a shopping mall in your backyard without you knowing.”

Gauger said he studied mainly political history with the Civil War being his favorite subject.

Gauger met his first wife, Sandra, to whom he was married for 48 years, in a church play. The Gaugers were frequent visitors to Rehoboth, with one notable visit after the storm of ’62.

“We came down to see the damage,” he said. “It was bad. Where they are putting the swimming pool now (at the Atlantic Sands) was all collapsed. The Boardwalk was pretty much gone.”

The couple had bought a house and planned to retire together in Rehoboth until Sandra contracted ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She died four years ago.

“We knew what it was,” he said. “What happens is the muscles get worse and you can do less and less. We never did retire here together.”

For Gauger though, lightning struck twice, when he met his current wife, Patricia, similarly, at a church function.

“Church is a good place to go to get married, to meet good women,” he joked.

Church is also one of the places he volunteers in helping to feed the homeless who come through Epworth looking for a meal.

“Just the fact that I can help. That inspires me to do that,” Gauger said. “It’s very rewarding knowing you can help people.”

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