Helge Liane Gunther, 88, of West Chester, a microbiology researcher who later became a translator of scientific papers, died Friday, July 21, of cancer at the Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester.
A native of Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), she was the daughter of Helmut Hoffmann, a chemist, and Hildegard Bockow, a teacher. Dr. Gunther grew up in Berlin, but during World War II fled to the safety of the Austrian Alps when the Royal Air Force bombed Germany's capital.
After graduation from high school, Dr. Gunther served an agricultural apprenticeship in Germany, then went to England as an au pair, or nanny.
She extended her travel visa to England by enrolling at the University of Leeds. In 1954, she received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture. Two years later, Dr. Gunther earned a master of science degree in agricultural bacteriology.
In 1958, she completed a doctorate in microbiology at Queen Elizabeth College of the University of London. Soon after finishing her studies, she married Wolfgang H.H. Gunther, and the couple immigrated to America. She became a U.S. citizen in 1964.
Dr. Gunther joined the pharmacology department at Yale University Medical School as a research associate. While at the school, she studied the effects of radiation on DNA, a then-new field of scientific inquiry, and juggled her academic life with rearing two children.
When her husband joined the Xerox Corp., the family moved to Webster, N.Y., where she was active as a Cub Scout leader. She also volunteered as a literacy tutor, helping teenagers struggling with English as a second language.
She served six years on the Webster Board of Education, while also establishing a business as a freelance translator of scientific tracts from German into English, and vice versa. When her husband joined Eastman Kodak Co. and was transferred to the Philadelphia area in 1987, she came with him and continued the business in her new home.
Dr. Gunther authored and coauthored several scholarly articles on microbiology and in the field of language translation. She was a member of the American Society of Microbiology and was active with the American Translators Association and the Delaware Valley Translators Association.
She was a director and librarian of Main Line Mac User Group and served as the group's book and video librarian, said Bob Barton, a member of the group.
"She was a real nice lady who I had contact with at our local user group," Barton said. "She came to almost every meeting for the last several years."
On behalf of the user group, she acquired books free from publishers. She also approached producers and scoured libraries for leftover videos that might be of interest to the group.
She maintained the collection for members to borrow from, and made sure the borrowers returned the books and videos, Barton said.
On Thursday, which would have been Dr. Gunther's 89th birthday, her husband reflected that she lived a long, full life, and took advantage of every "fantastic opportunity."
Dr. Gunther enjoyed gardening, walking, swimming, snorkeling, and visiting 50 countries to learn about their history and culture. Once computers became available, she quickly adopted the technology and contacted her friends abroad via the internet.
"There was a computer in the house since 1979," her husband said.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by children Rita Gunther McGrath and Bernard M., and four grandchildren.
A visitation from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 28, and from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, July 29, will be followed by an 11 a.m. memorial service Saturday at the Donohue Funeral Home, 1627 West Chester Pike, West Chester. Interment is in Birmingham Lafayette Cemetery, West Chester.