Gylfi Gunnarsson 1939-2013

gylfigunnarssonÖrn Bárður Jónsson


Gylfi Gunnarsson

printer, sailor, pilot

Florida , USA


Cremation took place in the U.S. and a memorial service at Fossvogur Chapel Reykjavik where his urn was buried on January 30, 2014.

You can listen to and read the eulogy here below by clicking on the play button:

The peace of God be with you all.

We gather here together to honor the memory of Gylfi Gunnarsson who died in Florida in the United States on October 19, 2013. His cremation took place there but his urn has arrived to the country where he was born and will be buried in Icelandic soil today.

We sang together the famous hymn Nearer my God to thee which is known among Christians in many countries around the world. Many people connect the hymn to Titanic, the unsinkable ship, the cruiser that sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. The ship’s band played the hymn while the ship was sinking. The hymn gave people comfort and serenity in the face of their fate.

Gylfi knew the dangers of the sea and when he was a member of the crew on the Swedish cruiser Kungsholm he fell overboard into the Gulf of Mexico abut 60 miles from Acapulco. He and his friend were standing at the railing and the friend fell overboard. Gylfi seized him but he was to heavy to heave onboard again and dragged Gylfi with him into the sea. They were tossed to and fro in the waves for 24 hours or so but the crew had no idea that they were gone until much later. Mexicans in a small canoe finally found them, but they had fought hard for their lives. They stayed 12 days in a hospital in Mexico and went to New York and back to the ship. They got paid extra month from the company and were given a joyful reception as being back from the land of the dead.

Gylfi was an adventurer. After he had learned printing in Iceland, he sailed the seven seas and flew about in the blue skies.

Gylfi was born in Reykjavik Iceland and grew up in the the Westman Islands.

His parents were Vilborg Sigurdardóttir f . February 9,1913 d. November 13, 2005 and Gunnar Sigurmundsson f . November 23, 1908 d. June 18,1991. Vilborg was born in Reykjavik and Gunnar at Stapadalur in Arnarfjordur, West Iceland. His father was Sigurmundur Sigurdsson and mother Gudný Gudmundsdóttir. They were not married. Gudný later married a widower, Kristjan, a farmer in Stapadalur. They had six children.

Sigurmundur was a medical doctor at Breiðamýri, then Laugarás and later in Bolungavik in the Westfjords. His wife was Anna Eggertsdóttir, Jokkumssonar from Skogar in Thrskafjordur. Annas uncle, Matthias Jochumsson, a famous priest and hymn writer translated the hymn Nearer my God to thee into Icelandic. They had six children. Sigurmundur had another son before marriage, Ágúst, a sculptured and woodcutter in Reykjavik who among other works made a Christ Statue which is in Neskirkja where I serve.

Vilborg’s parents were Sigurdur Kristján Gíslason , f . 23.5 . 1884 , d . 8.3. 1974 and Ólafía Ragnheiður Sigurþórsdóttir , f . 28.11 . 1887 , d . 11.19 . In 1977.

Vilborg was an effective young woman who went to Denmark where she studied sewing and tailoring. She was one of 10 siblings. Gunnar and she met before she went to Denmark and he waited for her, and they got married when she came home. Vilborg taught sewing and worked in the fish industry for years, fought for better conditions and higher wages for her coworkers. Both Vilborg and Gunnar were radical in their political views. Vilborg was chairman of the labour union Snót for a while and among the founders of Iðja a union of a number of labour unions.

Gunnar and Vilborg moved to the Westman Islands in 1945 where Gunnar became manager of a printing company. He was a very good craftsman.

The couple, Gunnar and Vilborg, built their own house at Brimhólabraut 24 and lived there for the rest of their days at the Westman Islands but moved later to Reykjavik and died there.

They had four children: Gylfi, helicopter pilot in the United States, Gerður, an artist and a former flight attendant, who lives in Garðabæ, Gauti, who lives in Spain and Sigurdur Ólafur, an aircraft mechanic who lives in Kuala Lumpur. The brothers send their best greetings to you all.

Gylfi was a jack of all trades. He was versatile and creative. He played the trumpet as a boy and loved music and listened a lot to jazz and blues. He learned printing with his father and went to sea and sailed on Scandinavian ships for a number of years. He studied seamanship and nautics in Denmark and finished with great success and high grades. Earthly work and sailing the seas did not meet his adventurous spirit in full. He had to reach further and higher and fly through the blue skies. He studied aviation in Oklahoma and worked for years as a helicopter pilot in Saudi Arabia and in Houston, Texas, serving to the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gylfi was a good looking man, a medium high charmer and it is said that women got stars in their eyes when he was mentioned.

Gylfi had two beautiful daughters:

Sigrun, with Bryndís Brynjúlfsdóttir. Sigrun is educated as a professional actress and currently works at the Iclandic Film School as director of the acting department. She also worked as a flight attendant for years and is married to Guðmundur Jóhann Ólafsson, a former captain with Icelandair. Their son is Tómas Gauti. Sigrun met his father for the last time in Florida in 2008, where he enjoyed life and was glad in soul and spirit.

Hanne Sundt, is the younger daughter. Her mother is Grete Larsen. Hanne lives in Norway and her samboer or partner is Jimmy  Hunstad. Hanne is a psychiatric nurse and works in Oslo. In 2012 she and Jimmy and her 2 boys, Linus and Jonas travelled to Florida and spent a day with her father. It was a good time and very precious at this moment of time.

The sisters, Sigrún and Hanne, are meeting for the first time now on this occasion.

Gylfi set up a flight school in Allentown , Pennsylvania where he met Debra, whom he married. She is also a pilot and an actress. They divorced after 18 years of marriage.

Gylfi lived in Florida after he retired. His hobbies were reading books, listening to music, taking photographs and riding the Harley Davidson motorcycle all over the state.

Gylfi was rather reserved as a person who did not wear his heart on his sleeve.

On his travels he often sent postcards and letters to his loved ones here at home, in which he said rather little about himself, but more of the place he was visiting each time. He also sent recordings on cassettes and in the same way as in his letters said little about him self but more abut his surroundings. The tapes are in a sense as good and professional as radio programs on traveling.

Sigrun sought as a teenager to get to know her dad. He invited her to Italy after her confirmation and she went along with Gunnar, her grandfather, and they had a good time in summer and sun, culture and arts. When he was studying aviation in Oklahoma Sigrun went to visit and stayed with him for 2 months. She often filled the void with her own fictional stories like Pippi Longstocking / Pippi Langströmpe / Lína langsokkur did about her father who was a way most of the time. Gylfi was thankful for the good stepfather that Sigrún had, Ísak Örn Hringsson and talked about how lucky she was.

Gylfi was a maverick who speculated a lot about life and all kind of things. He was interested in politics. He had a strong sense of justice in his heart and had strong views on human affairs, had become somewhat to the right politically speaking in old age and greatly influenced by the American culture and way of life. He read a lot through his life, books about everything between heaven and earth.

Gerður sister and her husband Grétar Br. Kristjánsson met him in April 2013. A short while later he was diagnosed with cancer and shared that with Gerður in July and begged them to tell nobody. He did not want radiation therapy or chemotherapy, but relied more on alternative medicine. Gerður travelled again to Florida in October and finally found out that he was staying at a nursing home in Seabring. She hurried there and arrived the next day at 3 o’clock in the afternoon only to find out that he had died at 7:20 in the morning having stayed there for 3-4 weeks.

He was neither baptized nor confirmed but thought more and more about faith as years passed. His neighbor in Florida visited him at the hospital and prayed for him and Gylfi intended to visit his church to thank him and the congregation for their concern. He had a sign of the cross at his door at home and cherished a prayer he had on a wall at his home which goes like this:

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn’t have time to pray

Problems just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task
„Why doesn’t God help me?“ I wondered
He answered, „You didn’t ask“

I wanted to see joy and beauty
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak
I wondered why God didn’t show me
He said, „But you didn’t seek“

I tried to come into God’s presence
I used all my keys at the lock
God gently and lovingly chided
„My child, you didn’t knock“

I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.
Perhaps this is a testimony to the final chapter of his life?

Perhaps he found peace in his soul through faith in God?

I certainly hope so.

We commend his body, soul and spirit to God and to heaven and thank God for his life and work.

God bless you who celebrate his life and memory today. May God grant you peace and strength as you travel through life. And may we all enjoy life while we have the privilege to live in this beautiful world of God.

God bless the memory of Gylfi Gunnarsson and keep him safe in his heaven.

Glory be to God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


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