MCALLEN, RGV – Tributes have poured in for former state Rep. Roberto Gutierrez who passed away Dec. 28, aged 83.
The McAllen Democrat was a key player in legislation to set up South Texas College and the UT Regional Academic Health Center, a forerunner to UT-Rio Grande Valley’s school of medicine.
Gutierrez served 14 years in the Texas House of Representatives, from 1991 to 2005. He also served as a sergeant in the United States Army, 49th Armored Division, being mobilized during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.
Gutierrez was also a teacher, counselor and successful businessman. His late wife Cecilia was a teacher and education consultant.
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of former State Representative Roberto Gutierrez of McAllen. A native and lifelong resident of the Rio Grande Valley, Representative Gutierrez was a dedicated and committed public servant,” said state Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
Hinojosa pointed out that Gutierrez also served Texas National Guard for ten years.
“As a state representative, Rep. Gutierrez was involved and a key player in beginning the process for what is now the UTRGV School of Medicine. His service and contributions to our district helped make the RGV a better place to live and raise our families,” Hinojosa said.
Former state Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine came into the Texas House with Gutierrez in the Class of 1991.
“In our second term, we moved our desks to the main aisle. He sat in front of me for the next ten years,” Gallego remembered.
“Roberto had already had a distinguished career as a school teacher and counselor, business owner, and bank director before he got to the House. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word – and a person you could always count on.”
Gutierrez was succeeded as member for Texas House District 41 by state Rep. Veronica Gonzales. She in turn was succeeded by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra. Guerra said of Gutierrez: “He proudly represented McAllen in the Texas Legislature for over a decade.”
Former UT-Pan American President Blandina ‘Bambi’ Cardenas said of Gutierrez: “He was a good man who cared deeply for education for our kids.”
McAllen civic leader Pepe Cabeza de Vaca said of Gutierrez: “An amazing guy and selfless public servant.”
Doug Matney, regional Vice President of Universal Health Services, said of Gutierrez: “A true gentleman that set the stage for others that followed him.” For a time, Gutierrez served as vice president and board member of McAllen Medical Center, which is part of UHS.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said of Gutierrez: “Surely a pioneer in state public service… but even a better gentleman.”
Gutierrez sponsored the legislation that converted the former Texas State Technical College branch campus in McAllen into South Texas Community College in 1993. When honored by STC in 2012, Gutierrez said he was “privileged to be part of the creation and evolution” of the community college.
Lobbyist Michelle Romero got her first job at the state Capitol thanks to Gutierrez.
“He was such a good man and a dedicated public servant. It was an honor to be part of his legislative staff and I am forever grateful to him,” Romero said.
Rick Sooskiasian, former director of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus said Gutierrez was “a nice guy and the sharpest dressed man” in the Texas legislature. “We had a big laugh once when I told him that if he wasn’t married I would introduce him to my mom.”
Rosalba Hernandez-Martinez also worked for Gutierrez at the state Capitol. She said she called him Mr. G. Hernandez-Martinez said she was “blessed” to have worked under such a great mentor. “He was more than a teacher, almost like a father to me,” she said. “Having him as my boss brought out the best in me.”
Gutierrez served as a director of El Milagro Clinic in McAllen for a number of years. “Representative Gutierrez was also a friend, former board member and great supporter of El Milagro,” the clinic said.
Gutierrez received a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Pan American College and a Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling from Pan American University.
Here is the official obituary for Roberto Gutierrez:
Roberto Gutierrez, 83, passed away on December 28, 2019, peacefully in his home. He was a loving husband to his wife, Cecilia prior to her death and remained committed to sustaining the beautiful union they had by caring their values forward. Roberto was a great father, grandfather, uncle, brother, and an accomplished leader. He will long be remembered for his strong work ethic and his commitment to the community.
Roberto was a distinguished gentleman, easily recognizable by his silver hair. His strength and can-do attitude will remain in our hearts forever. He taught us that everything and anything is possible with hard work, dedication and passion. Roberto ended many of his learning moments with the phrase “Dale Gas.”
Roberto was born on June 11, 1936 and came from humble beginnings. He was a Sergeant in the United States Army – 49th Armored Division; in addition served ten years in the Texas National Guard. His focus and drive for success is evidenced in his educational accomplishments such as his Masters in Education. As a teacher, we will fondly remember him for his commitment to help students with his teachings to assist them in vocational careers. He later used those skills to become a successful businessman but never forgot his humble background by serving his community in various civic clubs. This commitment to helping others led him to pursue city and state-wide positions so he could make a difference for everyone everywhere.
Roberto served 14 years as State Representative of District 41. He was the embodiment of the saying, “Together, we do more.” He concentrated his efforts to expanding education in the Rio Grande Valley, promote public safety for children and improve access to health services. State Representative Roberto Gutierrez authored and passed the House Bill that created South Texas Community College, his position on the State Appropriations Committee allowed him to increase the funding for the University of Texas – Pan American (now UTRGV). He pioneered the idea of a medical school in South Texas with the implementation of a Regional Academic Health Center and a UT Biomedical Research Facility. Additionally, Roberto championed an early diabetes detection program for Texas school-age children, passed a bill for bicycle safety, and created laws such as Joey’s Law to protect our youth. His involvement and sponsorship helped create several bills and laws that remain in effect today.
He was an incredible role model and inspiration to all. The words of wisdom he gave everyone he met will run deep within the community, and especially with his family. Roberto’s legacy will live on through his children and grandchildren. His son Roberto (Kelly) Gutierrez, Jr. and their children Roberto Daniel, A. Cecilia, Iris Isabelle; Roberto’s daughter Gilda (Joel) Romero and their child Joel Roberto; and Roberto’s daughter Sara (Mark) Gonzales and their children Sarita Cecilia, Gabriela Marie, Andrea Renee. He is also survived by his brother Henry Gutierrez.
Visitation will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. with a 7 p.m. rosary, today, Monday, December 30th at Kreidler Funeral Home, 314 N. 10th Street, McAllen. Funeral service will take place at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, 1108 West Hackberry Avenue, McAllen. Interment will follow at La Piedad Cemetery in McAllen.
The Gutierrez family offers sincere gratitude to the wonderful friends of Roberto that have called and sent their condolences. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to La Piedad Cemetery where Roberto and Cecilia have provided their support over many years. La Piedad Cemetery Office Number is (956) 686-1281.
Funeral services are under the direction of Kreidler Funeral Home in McAllen.