Hinckley-Big Rock schools mourn loss of longtime teacher

Gunier, who taught full-time for 30 years, was killed in crash Tuesday

Mary Gunier was one of those teachers who would remember a person’s name years after they’d come through her classroom, and knew how to make people feel special, Jennifer Klambauer said.

Klambauer was a freshman at Hinckley-Big Rock High School in 1979 when she had Gunier as a science teacher. Klambauer’s three children would later be taught by Gunier as well. They were just a few of the host of students whose lives Gunier touched in her more than three decades teaching at the school.

“You always felt you were her favorite class,” Klambauer said.

Gunier retired in 2010 after more than 30 years teaching in Hinckley-Big Rock schools. On Tuesday morning, she was killed in a crash at the intersection of South County Line Road and Route 23 west of Somonauk. She was 66.

Visitation for Gunier will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Turner-Eighner Funeral Home, 13160 W. Route 34 in Somonauk. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 320 S. Depot St. in Somonauk, with the Rev. Kevin Butler officiating. Burial will follow in Elerding Cemetery in Sheridan.

She is survived by her husband, Charles Gunier, her mother, Rosemary (Hughes) Hanley, and her three sons, David, Matt and Brian Gunier.

Gunier’s death came as a shock to many, including those at Hinckley-Big Rock schools who remembered her for her dedication and caring nature.

Jay Brickman, principal of Hinckley-Big Rock High School, said Gunier had continued to substitute teach in Hinckley-Big Rock schools after retirement. While working full time, she taught high schoolers biology and chemistry and coached students for the Academic Bowl.

“Mary was an incredibly warm and caring person,” Brickman said. “She always put the kids first.”

Gunier graduated from Illinois State University and received a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

Brickman said Gunier was a highly professional and skilled teacher whom everyone regarded as a team player.

“She was the embodiment of what an educator should be,” he said.

Brickman said a feeling of loss was shared by many at the high school Wednesday morning after news spread of Gunier’s death.

“We truly lost a member of our family,” he said. “We feel it today. She will always be remembered.”

Denise Curran, a former English teacher at Hinckley-Big Rock, said that for the first 12 years Gunier taught at the school, they would carpool to work together from Sandwich.
"She was one of the most kind, dedicated teachers I knew," Curran said. "She literally bled Hinckley-Big Rock blue."

Gunier was known for wearing royal blue and cheering on student-athletes at games as well as chaperoning the high school prom every year.

Curran said Gunier loved to laugh and was always genuine; she also was an “avid crocheter” who won awards for her crafts at the Sandwich Fair.

Curran said the number of students, colleagues and friends who have been sharing stories about Gunier on social media is evident of her impact as a teacher.

“All the research shows, it’s the human being behind that teacher who makes learning exciting and fun,” Curran said.

Jay Streicher, superintendent of Somonauk School District 432, said Gunier was president of the sports booster club and helped with fundraisers for Somonauk schools when her sons were enrolled.

"She was a great, great lady,” Streicher said. “I know that she is going to be missed by her family. Her contributions here will be remembered for a long time.”

emorials may be directed to the family for a future scholarship at Hinckley-Big Rock High School. For information, visit www.EighnerFuneralHomes.com.