Memorial to Norman David Gruenzner 1938-2023

norm gruenzner

MPHS began 2023 with the loss of another of our Society’s giants. In fact, Norm (member number 1039; there are now only 5 members with lower numbers), was literally the father of the Military Postal History Society, previously known as the War Cover Club prior to its incorporation as MPHS. More significantly, though, Norm provided decades of selfless service to this Society, and his research and writing have inspired those still working today.

articles of incorporation

Above from the MPHS Articles of Incorporation filed 6 October 1993.
Norm was our sole incorporator.

From Zerlene Gruenzner, who also noted, “MPHS was such an important part of his life.”

Norman David Gruenzner was born on August 6, 1938, in Chicago, IL, and died on January 19, 2023, at the age of 84. His survivors include Zerlene, his wife of 59½ years, two sons and their wives and five grandsons. Norm graduated from high school and immediately joined the Army at the age of 17. He was sent to Public Information School, then assigned to the Far East Network on Okinawa for 2½ years. One of his responsibilities was to be a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Network show, ‘The Rice Paddy Roundup,’ where he was known as the ‘Rice Paddy Ranger.’

After getting out of the Army, he enrolled at Sam Houston State College (now University) in Huntsville, TX. He graduated in 1963 with a degree in Speech and Drama. After graduation, he began working at numerous radio and TV stations in Southeast Texas before being hired by Harris County as an Executive Assistant to the Commissioners and later as Administrative Assistant for Harris County Mosquito Control until his retirement in 1995.

Norm was introduced to stamp collecting as a teenager when his mother gave him her collection. As years passed, he became focused on collecting wartime military postal covers and researching their historical importance. His research developed into a book, Postal History of American POWs in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, published by the American Philatelic Society in 1979. After much research and many trips to the archives, he wrote the Combat and Special Operations of United States Motor Torpedo Boats During World War Two , a two-volume set published by MPHS in 2013.

Norm was a long-time member of MPHS and served as Treasurer and on the Board for many years. These annual board meetings took him and Zerlene to many different parts of the US. Although he didn't always agree with ideas proposed by the board, he enjoyed meeting with all the members, throwing out ideas of his own and visiting over a meal!

And from two of our current Board members:

I first was made aware of the Gripsholm diplomatic exchange voyages in the mid-1980s when I picked up Norm’s 1979 book on American POWs. The few pages he devoted to Gripsholm in text, images and photographs, set me off on a 40- year postal history love affair that is still aflame in the MPHS monograph I’m currently working on. He will find his way onto my dedication page. R.I.P., Norm. Louis Fiset

As a young collector of postal history in the 1980’s , discovering Norm’s book on the Postal History of American POWs was a godsend. I read his book over and over and practically memorized it. I was able to get Norm’s phone number and cold called him to talk about POW topics of all kinds. He was always very gracious and shared with me many stories over the years. Between the time I first called him and actually met him was almost 20 years. I will always be thankful to Norm for helping light the passion I still have for collecting postal history. Kurt Staufffer

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Updated 24 April 2023