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An Extraordinary Life: Former Shorewood man was frugal, faith-filled and witty

But Robert “Bob” Gutierrez was known for his kindness and strength.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength.

Years ago when Joliet native Dr. Daniel Gutierrez was fishing with his late brothers Robert “Bob” Gutierrez and Anthony “Tony” Gutierrez, a sudden storm blew up and Daniel struggled to start the motor.

The waves and wind grew fierce, so Daniel finally appealed to his brothers for help. Instead, they were strapping on life jackets. Daniel, who had none, said he called out, “So it’s every man for himself?”

Although Daniel often retold that story at family parties, Daniel said Bob was, in reality, an even-tempered, kind, diplomatic, faith-filled man who never used profanity and always listened to opinions quietly before delivering a common-sense response “with an element of wisdom and maturity.”

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He is pictured the back row, center, with his grandchildren in the front row. To his left is his wife Barbara Jean and then his daughter Elena Byrne. To his right is son David Gutierrez and David's wife Nikki. Elena's husband Michael is not pictured.

“Bob was never one to think maliciously of anyone,” Daniel said. “I knew he had his own political views, but he rarely expressed his political views. In that, he was very quiet, very reserved.”

Daniel said Bob handled his faith the same way. Bob went to church every Sunday – the family was raised in First Baptist Church in Joliet – but Bob “never wore his religion on his sleeve.”

Bob was also very frugal and “never just threw money away,” Daniel said.

“I used to always kid him that he had the first nickel he earned,” Daniel said.

That frugality led to a comfortable life for his family when Bob married Barbara Jean in his mid-30s. They and their two children, Elena Byrne of Wisconsin and David Gutierrez of Mokena, lived in the home Bob built in Shorewood. Bob was also the executor for his mother and handled her finances, Barbara Jean, now of Orland Park, said.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He is pictured with his wife Barbara Jean and his children Elena Byrne and David Gutierrez.

In fact, Barbara Jean knew shortly after she met Bob that she could trust him and spend her life with him, she said. Bob was a family man, a Christian and a great teacher – Bob taught in the business department at Joliet Township High School District 204, first at the former Joliet East and then at Joliet West, she said.

But that wasn’t what initially attracted her to him.

“He was good-looking, and he played tennis,” Barbara Jean said.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. For many years, he taught in the business department at Joliet Township High School District 204.

An aspiring tennis player, Barbara Jean had gone to hit tennis balls against a wall near Joliet Central High School. Bob, who also coached tennis for District 204, arrived a short time later with his four nephews, who also played tennis, she said.

“He decided to send his nephews off with the car and I had to give him a ride home,” Barbara Jean said. “He gave me little tennis lessons and corrected a lot of my mistakes. That’s how we courted.”

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He loved to play tennis and courted his wife Barbara Jean by giving her tennis lessons.

Bob worked in the Tony Gutierrez Construction Company in the summer. According to his obituary, he also served on the Shorewood Parks & Recreation committee and the board of the Learning & Skills Center; he also delivered Meals on Wheels and was a member of the Stone City VFW Post 2199 in Joliet.

In later years, Bob belonged to Westminster Presbyterian Church in Joliet, and, for the last five years of his life, St. John’s United Church of Christ in Mokena, Barbara Jean said. For many years, Bob sang in church choirs, Barbara Jean said.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He grew up playing a variety of sports and later coached tennis for Joliet Township High School District 204.

Bob also loved jokes and had a “standing joke,” she said. “ ‘How cold was the weather? Cold enough for two icicles to huddle together for warmth,’ he’d say.”

“One day he came inside with the twin icicles and had me take a picture,” Barbara Jean said. “And it’s framed in our house.”

Mostly, Bob was kind.

“Never in all our 53 years of marriage did I ever hear him say anything bad about anybody ever,” Barbara Jean said.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. His wife Barbara Jean said she never heard him say anything negative about anyone.

Bob grew up in a small house on Ward Avenue in Joliet as one of nine children – along with an occasional foster child, too, Barbara Jean said

“They had a mother-in-law living with them as well,” Barbara Jean said. “He used to joke about not getting up in the night; you’d lose your place in bed. And their mother let them play baseball in the house.”

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. In later years, he also loved to travel. He is pictured with his class from grade school.

David said his father’s story is actually in the context of a larger story: a big family of immigrant parents that made “a lot of progress in one generation.” David said Bob also had two uncles living in the area, all part of one of the first Mexican families in Joliet. They came through Texas to Joliet in 1917, during the time of the Mexican Revolution, he said.

He said two of Bob’s brothers were also teachers and one of them, Tony, was vice principal at Joliet Central. David said Bob’s financial responsibility was why Bob never had a mortgage payment, why he paid to send his children and other relatives to college, why he afforded music lessons for David and Elena and why he could travel overseas – including Spain and Hong Kong.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. In later years, he also loved to travel.

“He wasn’t partying and wasting money in his 20s and 30s; he was saving money,” David said. “He didn’t spend money on cars and clothes and vacations and restaurants. He was very frugal because that’s where he came from, he was extremely generous and humble and selfless. And strong.”

And yet, Elena said her father’s nickname of endearment was “easy mark” because he was “so willing to say ‘yes’ to things” – especially when his children were young.

“He was the dad that would take us out for ice cream,” Elena said. “And if we went to ball games, he’d buy us the expensive concession stand food. Because he just appreciated the experience of life fully.”

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He is pictured with his wife Barbara Jean and his children Elena Byrne and David Gutierrez.

Bob loved generic anything, Elena said. One time, to make a point, Barbara Jean asked him what brand of beer he wanted when she went to the grocery story, Elena said. And Bob said, “A beer is a beer,” Elena said.

“She came out and proudly presented a can of generic beer in white cans,” Elena said. “We all had a good laugh.”

Bob helped friends with the taxes and taught Elena how to file, taxes, too, the “old-fashioned way” with paper forms. He played with his grandchildren and advised them on their finances, she said. He took the family on road trips and introduced them to longtime friends from college and from his service in the Army during the Korean War, she said.

Now Bob did enjoy hunting and fishing – as well as cooking and eating wild game, and he was well-read, nonfiction mostly, Daniel said, and Bob loved classical music, especially Gustav Mahler. Bob and David enjoyed White Sox games together, David said.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He grew up playing a variety of sports and later coached tennis for Joliet Township High School District 204.

However, Bob did take “forever and a day to complete a meal,” which was especially annoying when Daniel and Bob were home from college and agreed to play tennis after dinner, Daniel said.

“I’d get through my supper pretty quickly, get dressed and be ready to go. And Bob would be taking his time eating his dinner very slowly,” Daniel said. “I’d be waiting impatiently saying, ‘Come on, Bob, let’s go play tennis before dark.’ ”

Bob was 91 when he died Jan. 7.

Robert “Bob” Gutierrez, formerly of Joliet and Shorewood and later Orland Park, was known for his faith, frugality, wit, kindness and strength. He grew up playing a variety of sports and later coached tennis for Joliet Township High School District 204.

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