Fidencio Gutierrez and wife, Diamantina with oldest son, Roberto Gutierrez, circa 1957, Freer, Texas. Image courtesy of the Gutierrez family.

Editor’s note: A member of the Gutierrez family shared with me the Life Legacy published by the Angelus Funeral Home that tells the story of Fidencio Gutierrez, who died at home Sunday, Feb. 22, and was celebrated at a funeral Mass at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Friday. We asked to republish the remembrance, recognizing it as a story that illustrates how much of San Antonio was built throughout the 20th century by the Mexican diaspora into South Texas, immigrant by immigrant, family by family. It’s a story of how San Antonio became the city it is today.

Fidencio, born in 1933, was a teenage boy who left the family farm in northern Mexico, hitchhiked to Texas, and worked as a field laborer and a janitor. With his wife, Diamantina, a native of the Rio Grande Valley, he educated himself and built a successful career in insurance sales, eventually becoming a district manager. Their children were the beneficiaries, each of his four boys receiving the education their father never enjoyed, each son going on to build his own family and make his own continuing contributions to the city and region. — Robert Rivard  

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Fidencio E. Gutierrez, 81, died Sunday, February 22, 2015 at his home in San Antonio. On the day of his rebirth with God, he left his four boys and their families, Jose Roberto and his wife, Rosie; Ricardo and his wife, Kathy; Ruben and his wife, Alma; state Rep. Rolando Gutierrez and his wife Sarah; and Fidencio’s second wife, Bertha Espinoza Gutierrez, and her two children, Alberto and Alicia Gomez, in addition to 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Diamantina Perez Gutierrez.

Fidencio E. Gutierrez emigrated from Mexico in 1951, leaving his home in General Zuazua, Nuevo Leon. The last of the Gutierrez brothers to leave the family farm, he hitchhiked his way to Texas to find work. In San Antonio, he earned a meager wage doing stoop labor, picking onions and radishes, row upon row, in the fields of the Van De Walle Farms. Working odd jobs, Fidencio cleaned the grease pits at the Coney Island Hot Dogs restaurant downtown, and worked as a janitor sweeping out the backs of grocery stores. Every month he saved a few dollars to send his parents, Maria Sebastiana and Fernando Gutierrez, back home. He never stopped sending them their monthly “ayudita.”

In 1954, he married Diamantina Perez, a high school graduate from Freer, TX. Diamantina and Fidencio made a home and started a family. With help from his wife, he mastered English and obtained a Texas truck driver’s license. He worked the loading docks of National Grocers on the city’s downtown westside. He drove the trucks at Metzger’s Dairy delivering milk to the doorsteps of so many families across a growing city. His personable style, quick-to-learn attitude and determination only honed an instinctive skill and ensured a life’s vocation in the art of salesmanship. And Fidencio could sell anything. Colleagues would say of his abilities, “Fidencio can sell snow cones in Alaska.”

By 1960, Fidencio had taken the licensing exam for the Texas life insurance board. He worked part-time with his brother Ramiro, and joined the Galveston-based insurance firm, American National Insurance Company. By the mid-’60s, Fidencio led his regional office performance in sales. Management noticed. Mr. N.L. Hutson, his friend and mentor, promoted Fidencio to Assistant Manager, and he began to train new agents. His tenacity earned him dozens of awards and Citations of Merit, including all-expense paid sales jaunts to places like New Orleans and Las Vegas and later, to more faraway countries like New Zealand and Switzerland. By 1969, Fidencio had earned the title of District Manager. With a new office to be launched on the far west side of San Antonio, near Lackland Air Force base, he was given responsibilities over a sales staff of thirty agents, most of whom were Mexican immigrants, just like Fidencio. In the early years of his new career, he had realized that the vast majority of Spanish-speaking families on the city’s west side had never been considered a lucrative sales market—until then. Recognizing an opportunity to make available and sell insurance to this growing underserved community, by May of 1971, Fidencio’s office had won the prestigious President’s Award for national sales. Fatefully, that was the year that Diamantina would pass away—leaving four sons to be raised by a single father.

God has a way of providing for those who seek His help. Dad would be joined by a helper, a companion and friend, who married him and served as mother to his 9-month old son, Roland, as well as the other boys. Bertha Espinoza Gutierrez, became Fidencio’s companion for more than 25 years. She was loved by Fidencio for her own hard work and sacrifice for the Gutierrez family those many years. Fidencio never graduated from high school, but his legacy is the patrimony of education that he made possible for all his children.

Viewing and a Rosary was on Thursday, February 26 at The Angelus Funeral Home. The Mass of Resurrection was offered on Friday, February 27, at St. Paul Catholic Church, followed by interment in San Fernando Archdiocesan Cemetery No.2.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to St. Paul Catholic School’s fund, the future House of Brigid, 350 Sutton Drive, San Antonio, TX 78228, Attn: Jennifer Smyrl.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.