Beloved Little Village grocer Jesus Gutierrez, known as 'Don Chuy,' dies from the coronavirus

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Beloved Little Village grocer Jesus "Don Chuy" Gutierrez died from the coronavirus last week at the age of 79.

Balloons and candles memorialize Gutierrez as the neighborhood's abuelito, or grandfather; a mentor and friend who came to Chicago in 1967 intent on realizing the American Dream.

REMEMBERING VICTIMS: Coronavirus deaths in Illinois by county; COVID-19 victims of all ages

He was never sick until April 27.

"We knew that if he called saying he was not feeling well, it is because he's not feeling well," said Jaime Gutierrez, his son.

Jesus succumbed to COVID-19 after waging a fight on a respirator for nearly three weeks at Rush University Medical Center. His family could only see him at the end, and then by video.

"I would not wish this on anyone," Jaime said. "The way I dropped him off was the last time I was able to see him, and it was one of those things where they just took him and the door closed and that was the last I saw of him."

RELATED: Latest news and updates on Illinois coronavirus cases, Chicago area impact

But Don Chuy, as he was affectionaly known, is now being celebrated for the way he lived. He opened Varelas Groceries after working in other similar shops with his wife and partner. Soon, his neighborhood came to him for help in navigating America.

"They would say, 'Don Chuy, my name is so-and-so and I was told to come and talk to you about possibly...' you know, someone needing help, looking for a job, a place," his son recalled. "He was a father figure to many kids. They would walk into the store and they were happy to show him their report cards. He knew everyone by name."

The Don would have four kids of his own, and preside over a family with now three great-grandchildren, all while extolling the virtues of hard work and independence.

Coronavirus testing: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Illinois, Chicago area

"Anything we would need, at the drop of the hat he would be able to do," Jaime said.

His memory is now being cherished by his family, his friends, and his whole neighborhood.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.