Dr. Gordon Marlow Nunnelly passed away on Saturday afternoon, July 6 after a fall at his home near Dutchtown. Dr. Nunnelly was born on April 21, 1927 in New Florence, Missouri. He was the second son of Ethol and William Gordon Nunnelly and the younger brother of Wilford Eugene Nunnelly. His high school years were spent filling in for servicemen who were called to duty during World War II. He worked at Dawson’s Clover Farm Store as a stock boy and clerk and as a printer’s devil on the Montgomery County Leader newspaper as a teenager. He had a keen interest in photography often serving as a wedding photographer for families in New Florence and Montgomery County Missouri. His interest in cameras lead to experimentation with early home movie cameras. He captured events and scenes in central Missouri during the 1940’s including the historic 1944 “St. Louis” World’s Series between the Browns and the Cardinals played at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.
He graduated from Montgomery City High School in 1945 and was immediately drafted for service in the US Army near the end of World War II. He did his basic training at Camp Crowder in southwest Missouri. Singled out from a battery of tests by the U.S. Army, he was initially stationed at Army Intelligence Headquarters based in Vint Hill Farms, VA outside of Washington, DC. He shipped out to Bremerhaven, Germany after the war’s end as part of the U.S. Occupational Forces. He was stationed in Frankfort, Germany during his foreign service.
Following his military service he returned to his hometown in New Florence, Missouri and to a hometown girl, Marjorie Ruth Hillebrand. He began his undergraduate degree as a part of the GI Bill with 24 hours of GED credit at Missouri University in Columbia, Missouri. He later transferred to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where he received his B.A in 1948.
He married Marjorie Ruth Hillebrand on August 15, 1948 at the First Presbyterian Church in New Florence, Missouri. The young couple moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Nunnelly began his medical school studies at Washington University. He graduated from medical school in 1954. Three children were born during Nunnelly’s medical school years: Barbara in July of 1949, Carol in January of 1952 and Bruce in October of 1953. Following an internship at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, the Nunnelly family relocated to 1432 Themis Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on July 1, 1955. Dr. Nunnelly started his private general medical practice in the Medical Arts Building on Broadway in the summer of 1955. Paul Nunnelly, the couple’s fourth child was born in December of 1957.
Dr. Nunnelly designed and built a new office in 1957 at 1924 Broadway. He first shared this office with Dr. Blake, a local dentist and subsequently with Dr. Dale Blankenship. Marjorie Nunnelly started working as Dr. Nunnelly’s receptionist and office manager in 1958 following the birth of their fourth child. Mrs. Nunnelly worked for Dr. Nunnelly until he closed his private practice in 1989.
In 1969 Dr. Nunnelly envisioned a new type of medical and health services facility for the Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri area. He proposed a “doctor’s park” where patients could come to a one-stop medical facility located with easy access to Interstate 55. Working with 20 medical colleagues, Nunnelly arranged to buy 20 acres in the west end of Cape near I-55 with loans from Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank and 1st National Bank. The doctors came together to form the Doctor’s Park Corporation and hired the St. Louis firm of Peckham and Guyton to create a sight plan and the original medical buildings. Dr. Nunnelly made a scale model of the proposed development and designed the Doctor’s Park logo. He served as the board’s first Treasurer with fellow officers, Dr. Charles P. McGinty as President and Dr. Gene Chapman as Secretary. Though Dr. Nunnelly never moved his own practice to the Doctor’s Park, he was gratified to see the concept become an important medical facility for area doctors and patients. Dr. Nunnelly also served as President of the Cape County Medical Society where he contributed articles to the Cape County Medical Journal for which he designed the logo.
Dr. Nunnelly had wide ranging interests. He was an accomplished weaver, tailor, architect, chef, vintner and musician. His interest in tailoring developed following his desire to make suits from the cloth he wove on his 8-harness hand loom. He was a self- taught tailor, learning professional tailoring techniques from books about tailoring and pattern making he obtained from the P. Jackman Tailor Supply store in St. Louis. Marge Nunnelly often read from the books at night after the children were in bed as Nunnelly mastered pattern-making and tailoring. After discovering Winstons, a St. Louis fabric store that carried European couture fabrics, he began making dresses for his wife Marjorie and clothing for his four children. Soon the entire family had wardrobes of clothes designed and made by Dr. Nunnelly including prom dresses for his daughters, designer wear for his wife, ski clothing for the family, suits for his sons, majorette uniforms for Central High School and custom-designed jackets for the Otahki Girl Scout Council representatives to the Senior Girl Scout Roundup in Farragut, Idaho in 1965.
The prestigious Hand Weaver and Craftsman Magazine noted Dr. Nunnelly’s unique talent in an article in 1963 and touted him as one of the few people in the world who could “shear the sheep, spin the wool, weave the clothe, design the garment and tailor the final product.” Fabric store owner Mr. Winston encouraged the St. Louis Post Dispatch to carry a Sunday Magazine feature about Dr. Nunnelly and his tailoring, weaving and clothing design for himself and his family. The article appeared on February 16, 1964 and featured photos of the entire family in clothes designed and made by Dr. Nunnelly as well as a vest he made for the Post Dispatch photographer David Gulick. Dr. Nunnelly and his wife were also featured on the St. Louis television program hosted by Charlotte Peters in the 1960’s.
Gordon Nunnelly’s interest in architecture and viticulture came together when he bought 40 acres of land near Whitewater, Missouri in April of 1974 and envisioned a vineyard, winery and family home. He began making wine from cuttings of wine grapes brought to Missouri by Marjorie Nunnelly’s ancestors from Germany in the 1820’s and with information obtained from the viticulture department of the University of California at Davis. In his research he learned that Missouri had a thriving wine industry before prohibition. Nunnelly was determined to inspire a vineyard and wine-making renaissance in the state. He ultimately planted 3 acres of grapes on his new property that he named The Cloister Vineyard. He experimented with classic varietals as well as French hybrids and introduced Cloister wine in 1985. The Cloister was a bonded winery from 1985 – 1990. Nunnelly worked with other Missouri vintners and inspired Jerry Smith in the founding of River Ridge Winery in Commerce, Mo. Smith dedicated the River Ridge Music Pavillion to Marge and Gordon Nunnelly in April of 2002 in tribute to their role initiating and inspiring the modern wine industry in the state. The Nunnelly vineyard continued to supply grapes to River Ridge Winery through 2010.
Dr. Nunnelly designed the family home at the Cloister in 1979 and oversaw its construction as the general contractor, as well as working with his wife and the crew to execute the building while establishing the vineyard and grounds. Dr. and Mrs. Nunnelly left Themis Street in January of 1980 and moved into their new home at the Cloister. The home caught fire in March of 2018 from an electrical circuit problem. The resilience of Dr. and Mrs. Nunnelly in dealing with the loss of their beautiful home and the subsequent rebuild was an inspiration. They had just moved back to their home a week ago.
Dr. Nunnelly continued in private practice until 1989 when he joined the staff of Southeast Missouri Hospital’s Emergency Room. He completed his medical career as a member of the Emergency Room staff of Missouri Southern Healthcare in Dexter, Missouri 1992 – 2002.
Gordon Nunnelly had a lifelong interest in gourmet cooking. He and Marge Nunnelly planned their Cloister family home around a large, professional style kitchen where he delighted friends and family members with many memorable meals including unique gourmet pastries and candies.
Dr. Nunnelly believed in lifelong learning as exemplified by his return to the study of German building upon his college German courses in his retirement years. He and Mrs. Nunnelly enjoyed a memorable trip to Germany in the winter 1997. He was an accomplished pianist and enjoyed a wide range of music from classical to musical comedy and from jazz to the Beatles.
Dr. Nunnelly was preceded in death by his parents and his older brother Wilford. In addition to his wife Marjorie, he is survived by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The Nunnelly family will not be holding a visitation, funeral ceremony or memorial, but rather a private family remembrance. Please send condolences to Dr. Nunnelly's wife Marjorie Nunnelly by signing this tribute page, emailing her or sending her your own personal message by mail. The Nunnelly family has been deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support by our family, friends, and former patients of Dr. Nunnelly at his sudden passing. The family requests memorial contributions in his memory to: The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri https://semopets.org/ or Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center http://www.cgcohealthdept.com/
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