Chapter 18: A Tribute to Baldemar (Marty) Gutierrez
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A Memorial Tribute to Baldemar Gutierrez
(March 12, 1941-March 5, 2001)
One mainstay of my childhood was the many visits of my Uncle from Arizona. I can remember looking forward to the visits with happiness and anticipation. Baldemar (Marty) Gutierrez was my Grandma Estella's brother. He had been in the U.S. Air Force for 6 years and met my Aunt Olga in Tucson, Arizona. They lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. My mother recalled visiting them several times. He worked for the Corpus Christi Army Depot, where I attended my first Civil Air Patrol meetings in Corpus Christi and where Norma's Uncle Bob works (life has a funny way of using the same setting for different stories).
My earliest memories of his visits go back to when I was in Kindergarten in the early 1980's. He, his wife Olga and their two daughters (Annette and Christina) would come down to visit Texas. They would stay at my Grandpa Cat's house for most of the stay and visit the surrounding friends and relatetives throughout the vacation.
When I was in about the fourth grade, we searched through my great-grandmother's old house for a Halloween costume. It was then that I first saw the air force uniform. It was too big to be used and would remain in that house for many years. From time to time my brother and I, who would play in the dirt at the small gardens my Grandma Stella planted around her trees, would sneak into the old house to see the uniform. We would always, despite parental orders not to, go in the old structure and search for the ďair force hat.Ē We never found it.
I had noticed, each time we ventured into the house, that moths and other insect too unspeakable to be described here had ravaged the rest of the clothes. I was sure that it was only a matter of time before the insects would damage the uniform. Still, being a child, I was given to permission to save it.
The uniform remained in my mind for years and I formulated plan after plan to wear it. Finally, when I was in High School as a senior the uniform finally fit and I wore it to school on a "Dress-up" day. It was a big hit. Everyone at school loved it. When the day ended, my mother was all for sending it back to "Ama's House." I protested that it needed to be preserved. My mother's objections were based on the fact that the insects might still inhabit the uniforms and eat all our new clothes. The uniform had to be saved. So with out any knowledge toward my parents, I took it from the old house and stored it in the closet. I dusted it off and insured that I was aired our on a regular basis. Additionally, we began to use it in a series of short films we produced. This had the effect of restoring it to a presentable state. The wearing of the uniform released decades of dust from within the fabric and insured those would-be insect diners would not cause any further damage.
My decision to join the Civil Air Patrol was partly influence by my Uncle Balde's service in the U.S. Air Force.
Uncle Balde was always a treat to listen too. He always had a story to tell us. He told us about how he had trained guard and attack dogs in the air force and about how he had done many other things all over the country. Once, when my brother and I began collecting coins and old dollar bills, Uncle Balde told us about the coin he had seen and owned. He told us about a twenty-dollar bill that he had that said "HAWAII" on the back. This sparked some research on my part and I learned that such dollars were issued in World War II so that, if Hawaii fell to Japan, they could not use that currency against us.
Once he visited when the John F. Kennedy assassination was big in the news. Oliver Stone had released his feature film on the event and the media was explaining new theories on the assassination. Uncle Balde added his input. I remember him vividly saying that, "Lyndon Johnson was the crookedest man that ever lived" and that "he had something to do with it." My Uncle Balde was the most outspoken man I ever met. This is a quality that I try to imitate in my own life. His ability to spark interest in me and my brother about how thing are and why things are a quality that we must all strive to develop.
On one of his last visits to South Texas, an Easter, there was a great celebration. Happiness echoing back through pictures shows the last great happy moment of the 20th century for our families. Soon after, Grandma Stella would pass away and everyone would begin the "drift." That sad moment when a close family breaks into several smaller close families.
That Easter will always be vivid to my family and me. It was wonderful. Hundreds of colored eggs and good feelings mixed with the ignorance of the evils that the next years would bring. It was at my grandmother's house in the early spring. Balde and his family came down and we decided to spend the weekend there, instead of anywhere else. My cousins from Dallas, Monica and Marcos, were there. So was my cousin Anna Mariah from Falfurrias, Texas. From my Uncle Balde's family was Nettie and her husband Henry.
Henry will probably always remember how I accidentally hit him in the head with an Easter egg. It was not on purpose. I had intended to break an egg with a tennis racket. I threw the egg up in the air and hit it with the racket. The egg, instead of breaking on the racket, instead sped through the air and headed for...well...it hit him just off center on his forehead! This left him with a small lump.
I am grateful for the happy memories. I feel that God gives us little funny moments to help to take away the pain we feels when a loved one passes away. With these small stories we can recover from any loss, defeat and depression and repair any rift we might experience.
Uncle Baldemar Gutierrez passed away in March of 2001. He will never be forgotten as long was we hold him in our hearts. My only regret was that I never got to visit with him in Arizona. We never really traveled anywhere when we were growing up. That was a shame. If I had been able I would have gone in a heartbeat, but a child with no reliable car and over protective parents has no ability to manifest his own destiny and head west.
It is my goal to travel in the summers, when a teacher recovers, to visit all my relatives and see the United States. Arizona will be foremost on my list. I want to see the things my Uncle Balde told me about, I want to meet the people he knew and the musicians that he described. Then and only then, can I find some solace.
The following poem came to me when I was teaching class. Itís hard to mourn the loss of a loved one in our modern world. There is work to do and meeting to attend. There is music to play and students to teach. God has mercy on me at such times; he has given me poetry to release the pressure.
Lines to my Uncle
By Joe Ely Carrales, III
April 9, 2001
The winds of the desert tend to blow,
The leaves of our God to and fro,
But in the heat so sharp and so grand,
We follow it meekly, our heart in our hand.
When a leaf from us is parted,
We all stand the wind broken hearted,
Yet, none are ever so lonely,
If they stand with memories only.
To us our dear one is not hear us,
But be sure that he'll always hear us,
When we need peace, love or assistance,
He will be heard, from a distance.
But, winds of our deserts will always know,
The man we miss here, in heaven's sweet glow.
What can be said when you lose a loved one; many people live their life and never find the right words. We are gifted with long lives and have to remember those who have gone before us. We must preserve them with our memories and make sure that we pass on their bits of wisdom. For Uncle Balde, I intend to continue his spirit in my life and let posterity know who he was and how great he was.