July 19, 2024
Local News

With a genuine love for all people

Robert Romero epitomized the American dream come true.

His family emigrated from Mexico to Chicago when Robert was a young boy. As a man, Robert enjoyed not one, not two, but three very satisfying careers.

All three involved helping people.

“He was the type of guy who’d give the shirt off his back for anybody,” said Ron Romero of Joliet, Robert’s son. “He was a good man, that’s for sure.

“I think the main things that stick in my mind are his genuine love of people, his sense of humor, and the way he cared about everybody. He gave everybody a chance.”

A draftsman during World War II, Robert later worked for U.S. Steel in Chicago and became a union steward, which eventually inspired him to pursue his second career.

“He went back to school to become a paralegal,” Ron said. “And then he went to work for an attorney in Chicago and helped people.”

According to Robert’s obituary, Robert worked with attorney Nathan Notkin, specializing in immigration law. Ron said Robert, who was bilingual, assisted people with their taxes and acquiring citizenship.

“He helped people with their paperwork,” Ron said. “And he took care of anything they needed to become a U.S. citizen.”

Ron said he’s certain his father would have opinions over the current immigration controversy.

“He’d say, ‘They’re coming here to feed their families. They’re desperate and doing what they can do to survive. They’re in survival mode,’ ” Ron said. “ ‘If we can help them in way, that’s what we need to do.’ ”

On the other hand, Ron said Robert became irritated when these same people flew the Mexican flag.

“He’d said, ‘They’re in the U.S. now and should be proud of where they live,’ ” Ron said.

Robert had a philosophy about business cards: never hand out just one. Hand out two or three instead “because they always come back to you,” Ron said.

Ron recalled the man from France who came to see Robert because he wanted to become a U.S. citizen. The man had Robert’s card, given to him by a previous client, Ron said.

“Talk about a small world,” Ron said. “He helped someone from Mexico and then he helped someone from France.”

Ron said he loved visiting his father at his office because Ron never knew whom he’d meet on that particular day.

“A majority of his clients were from Mexico or South America,” Ron said. “But there were people who came in with all sorts of accents from all over the world. My dad loved meeting new people, and he loved learning about other cultures and where they were from.”

Ron said Robert helped the man who began Giordano’s Pizza become a U.S. citizen, even though the man later sold the business and moved back to his home country.

“I remember being in the office and he’d walk in with a deep dish pizza for dad,” Ron said.

At age 68, after Robert retired from his paralegal job, he started his third career, working with Spanish-speaking students at Shabbona Middle School in Morris, a job Robert worked for about 10 years.

“He would teach the kids how to speak English and he tutored them with their math,” Ron said. “My dad had a brilliant mind with math. You could ask him a question about math or algebra and he’d show me how to do it. He understood it like second nature.”

Robert’s mathematical mind made him a phenomenal chess player and musician. Not only did Robert love classical music, he played the trumpet, flute and clarinet, even playing trumpet in a jazz band back in the 1940s, Ron said.

“I remember Sunday mornings he would rise and shine early,” Ron said. “I’d wake up to the smell of bacon and pancakes. He was the best pancake-maker. That was his thing, making pancakes for us. And he’d play his Mario Lanza classical music at almost ear-deafening volume. He’d wake up the whole household. And the food would be ready. He loved to do that.”

In the late 1960s, Robert and his family (which included Robert’s wife, Wanita Romero, Ron and his other children, Rick Romero and Becky Montero) began spending vacations in Goose Lake, eventually moving there in 1971. One of Robert’s jokes about Ron and his height, “He must be corn fed.”

“Goose Lake has a lot of corn feed out there,” Ron said.

After Robert retired for good, he and Wanita moved to Arizona. But they missed family and moved to Coal City after three years later, Ron said. In Robert’s last year (he died Nov. 16, 2017, at age 95, he lived at Heritage Health in Dwight.

Robert didn’t always recognize Ron when Ron came to visit. But when Ron reminded him, Robert would say, “He must be corn fed.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.