Tunner was the fourth of five children of immigrants from Leoben, Austria. His father was an engineer and settled in Roselle, New Jersey, where Tunner was raised.
Tunner married twice, the first to Sarah Margaret Sams of Meridian, Mississippi. They had two sons, Joseph C. and Dr. William H. Tunner, Jr. Sarah was diagnosed with in inoperable brain tumor following surgery on November 12, 1945, and remained in a coma for a year and a half. After her death in 1947, Tunner married a former WASP pilot, Margaret Ann (Ann) Hamilton of Enid, Oklahoma in 1951, and had a daughter, Hamilton Suzanne Tunner Hudson.
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