Orlando Antonio Gutierrez
July 23, 1928- September 27, 2020
Orlando Antonio Gutiérrez, 92, of Lanham passed away September 27, 2020 at his residence. Orlando was born in Havana, Cuba July 23, 1928 to Flora Izaguirre and Antonio Gutierrez and was joined by his beloved brother Jorge in 1936.
He graduated high school from Colegio Baldor in 1945 where he developed an interest in engineering. He received a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and graduated in 1949 with a degree in mechanical engineering. While attending RPI Orlando met the love of his life on a blind date and married Helen LaBarge six months later. They were married for 67 years until Helen’s death in 2015.
He began his career working for IBM in Cuba for several years. Upon receiving his US citizenship, he worked for the American Locomotive Company in upstate New York. In 1961 he moved his family, which had grown to include his five children, to Sheffield Lake, Ohio to begin work as an aerospace engineer at NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. In 1972 he was named Coordinator of Programs for Spanish Surname Americans at NASA Lewis. Orlando and Helen moved to Lanham, Maryland in 1982 as he took on the position of Hispanic Employment Program Coordinator for NASA at their headquarters in Washington, DC.
Orlando retired from NASA in 1992 but continued his passion of encouraging young people to embrace engineering as a career. He became active in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, serving as President from 1993-95. Through his work in this organization he promoted STEM for Hispanic students from high school through college. He described the mission of SHPE as an organization based on a process of self-help; our people helping our people improve at the college level, at the work level, at the precollege level. He received many commendations and awards for his work both at NASA and SHPE. Upon receiving an award in 2016 for his achievements and contributions to SHPE and the Latino community from the Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity at RPI he said, “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done out of love.”
Throughout his life Orlando was committed to community service. He began as volunteer firefighter in Scotia, New York in the late 1950’s. Throughout the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s he was a Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, and Troop Committee Chairman of Sheffield Lake’s Boy Scout Troop 303. For over ten years he was an active member of the local Kiwanis Club.
Orlando loved his family, people from all walks of life, parties, and laughter. One of his favorite things in life was an annual ‘men only’ canoe trip that he enjoyed for over 40 years. This group of family and friends was known as the River Rats. He was originally invited to attend by his NASA supervisor in 1965 and fell in love with the annual event that originated in 1947. Over the years he included his sons, friends, son-in-law, nephews, and grandsons. He seldom missed a trip during these years, participating in his last trip in 2019 at the age of 91. (His wife Helen always referred to the event as the “Scratch and Burp Weekend”.)
Orlando is survived by his brother Jorge Gutiérrez (Maria del Carmen) Miami, FL, five children, Peter B. Gutiérrez (Jane) of Columbia Station, OH, Antonio O. Gutiérrez (Marsha) Jamestown, RI, Helenmary Gutiérrez Ball (Julian) of Owings, MD, Marco A. Gutiérrez (Rebecca Birch) of Eagle River, AK, and Alex D. Gutiérrez of New York, NY, eight grandchildren, Erin Gutiérrez of San Diego, CA, Joshua E. Gutiérrez (Ryan Conviser) of Los Angeles, CA, Alex Gutiérrez Ball of Philadelphia, PA, Everett Gutiérrez Ball of Atlanta, GA, Ian A. Gutiérrez (Lizz Kern) of Kensington MD, Emily Gutiérrez of Columbia Station, OH, Pallas M. Gutiérrez and Garrett P. Gutiérrez of New York, NY and five great grandchildren, Owen, Beckett, Milo, and Maren Gutiérrez of Los Angeles, CA and Samuel E. Gutiérrez of Kensington, MD and many dear and cherished nieces and nephews.
Orlando was a light and joy to all who met him. He will be missed beyond measure.
If you are attending the service please wear a mask and practice social distancing. For those who cannot attend in person, the service will be recorded and shared live starting at 11:15 using the following Zoom link:
Orlando Memorial Zoom Meeting ID: 410 257 0642 Passcode: Cuba
There will be an opportunity for people attending on Zoom to share their memories of Orlando.