Man who died in limbo was 100 years old — and lived all of his life on the Caribbean

In the young (but not so young) Jose Gutierrez’s written obituary, he is described as “a true Dominican (no one is more proud of the LAMDA they would say because they are we) and an American of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage.” For living on this side of the continent, he is a true Caribbean man, and his only missus is Mother Earth. According to his obituary, he lived the rest of his life within the D.R. and the U.S. — died three years ago, took up shelter on St. Francis Island, then made his way to New York. In the New York Times obituary for him, he’s described as “both a generation from becoming immigrants, and an ethnic South American American-Puerto Rican immigrant living in New York City.”

For Mr. Gutierrez, living life at 150-plus seemed to be his sole acceptable goal. Though he had joined the Navy, he graduated college with a degree in psychology, and worked for 30 years, later with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshal Service. Yet the memory of those early days of life still haunted him, the Times obituary also describes. “In 2015, a Puerto Rican judge sentenced Mr. Gutierrez to 10 years for threatening a Bronx deputy district attorney. He was released after three years. Then the New York Medical Examiner determined that he died of natural causes.” But he wasn’t exactly happy with that conclusion, he blamed himself for his failing health and his advance age: “I knew I was being too slow,” he said in Spanish before dying. “I knew that I was a third of my age.”

When it comes to his legacy, that’s a good thing. “His unfulfilled goal may have been to become one of the youngest U.S. veterans and to become a U.S. citizen, but it appears he had his last moments in a New York uniform, holding a traffic signal near the Morris Canal in the Bronx, last April, as firefighters tried to rescue him.”

He just closed his eyes, worked the light, jumped right across, and disappeared. He had bared some time to hurry from the canals, between traffic signals, to the Bronx and possibly to safety, to figure out where he was, what happened, and what to do. For this, he was in his last moments, before disappearing to Bronx soil. He just quit his duties, and ended up among the enemy, tens of thousands of miles from his family and friends. “I think it was the adrenaline,” he said. “I was getting out.” “He died over there, I did,” he thought, as he buried himself under the wire. His circumstances, in the end, changed nothing.

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