Jennie Silas Gutierrez, 90, passed away peacefully on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at St. Joseph's Villa in Omaha, Nebraska. She was born on February 2, 1924 to Herman and Paublita Silas in Hershey, Nebraska. Jennie moved to Lexington as a ten year old and worked alongside her family as a migrant worker in the sugar beet fields throughout her young life. Because of her love of education, her father promised they would never move from Lexington. Her passion for helping others began as a young girl volunteering her interpretation and translation skills at every opportunity to help her family and their friends.
Jennie married the love her life, Primo Gutierrez Jr. of Lexington on January 15th, 1942 and they were blessed with five children. She graduated from Lexington High School with the class of 1944. Jennie enrolled in Kearney State Teachers College to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. After two years she received her Nebraska State Normal School certificate and began her teaching career in a country school north of Eddyville, NE. She continued going to school evenings and every summer to earn her Bachelor degree in Elementary Education, Master's Degree in Middle School Education, Master's Degree in Education Administration and an endorsement in English as a Second Language. Throughout this time, she raised and loved her own five children, nieces and nephews, Godchildren, and hundreds of school children. Jennie taught in eight Dawson County Rural Schools for 42 years and retired in 1994.
Jennie loved her community and she wanted Lexington and everyone in it to be the best at every turn. She volunteered her time and talents to serve in any way possible. Jennie was very proud to belong to the following educational and community organizations: Dawson County Rural Teachers association; Nebraska State Education Association; and the National Education Association, where she served as President, Commissioner, and on several executive committees. She was one of the founders of the Educational Minority Action Committee and also served on the Chapter I Migrant Education Leadership Committee. She was a member of Alpha Delta Kappa and Delta Kappa Gamma sororities. Jennie was an active member of the Red Cross, Dawson County Housing Authority, the United Way, the Central Nebraska Hispanic Awareness Center, the Mexican American Commission, and Encuentro of Central Nebraska. She was a 4-H leader for 35 years and a lifelong member of St. Ann's Catholic Church. She was elected and served as a board member to the St. Ann's and Lexington Public School Boards. Jennie was honored as the First Nebraska Hispanic Woman of the Year, the Nebraska Woman of Color, and recipient of the UNK Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
In her retirement, Jennie championed Lexington's efforts to unite and welcome the new Latino community by teaching Spanish to city officials and participating in many planning committees to navigate change. She taught English as a Second Language and Citizenship Classes to newcomers and was an essential part of the founding of the Haven House in Lexington. Jennie and her husband Primo, along with their lifelong Lexington Latino friends, founded the Lexington Welcome Center.
Jennie's loving and giving spirit will be missed by everyone who knew and loved her. She was preceded in death by her husband Primo Gutierrez Jr., her parents Herman and Paublita Silas, brother Modesto Silas, sisters Chita Munoz and Ann Cole, and beloved grandson Jade Gutierrez. Jennie is survived by her sister Eva Montoya, of Omaha, Nebraska; her five children Kathleen Gutierrez, of Everett, Washington; Robert Gutierrez, of Kansas City, Missouri; Bill and Catherine Gutierrez, of Eustis, Nebraska; Jack and Kelly Gutierrez, of Columbus, Nebraska; and Judith Gutierrez, of Omaha, Nebraska. Grandchildren Racqel and Brian Self, Jacques Smith and fiancé Jill, Cody and Amanda Smith, Tosh Gutierrez, Drew, Jake, and Jaisa Gutierrez, and Juanita Snow. Great-Grandchildren Kylee and Primo Self, Cody, Laikyn, and Olivia Smith, Ryder and Cali Smith.
Memorials are suggested to CCC Foundations Lexington Adult ESL & Citizenship Classes or St. Ann's Catholic Church. Mass of Christian Burial will be Monday, February 24, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Lexington with Father Neal Nollette celebrating. Visitation will be held Sunday, February 23, 2014, from 5-6 p.m. with Wake Service to follow at 6:00 all at St. Ann's Catholic Church. Burial will be in the St. Ann's Catholic Cemetery at Lexington. Reynolds-Love Funeral Home in Lexington is in charge of arrangements. Please share online condolences with the family through: reynoldslovefuneralhome.com