Jose "Pepe" Gonzalez, once the fastest man in Indiana, died early Saturday morning at his Northbrook, Ill. home, losing his battle with bladder cancer and ALS.
His daughter Carla Pister said he was surrounded by his wife of 54 years, Elaine (nee Garcia) Pister, daughter Lisa Marie Torre and son Jay. Gonzalez was 82 years old. In addition to three children, the couple had three grandchildren.
Gonzalez was a star athlete at Froebel High School in Gary. He was a three-time state champ in both the 100- and 220-yard dashes from 1947 to 1949. He is the state's only athlete to accomplish that feat.
He set a state record in the 220 (21.2) in 1948 which he held for 18 years until Brebeauf's Clyde Peach ran 20.7 in 1966. The mark Pepe Gonzalez broke was previously held by his older brother Marce.
Gonzalez also was on the Blue Devils 1949 state championship team. He was a part of the 1948 state-champion 880 relay team, which set a state record (1:31.4).
Marce won state titles in the 100 and 220 in 1942. Pepe and Marce are both in the Indiana Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame. Both went to the University of Illinois. When Pepe went to Illinois, Marce was an assistant coach. Pepe was a Big Ten champion, winning the 55-yard dash in 6.4 seconds and the outdoor 220 (21.8).
Gonzalez became an executive with Sears. Marce became a coach and administrator in the Gary Community School Corporation.
In an August story in The Times, Pepe Gonzalez talked about his life, career and his battle with the two diseases.
"People ask me 'Are you angry about it?' Hell no!" Gonzalez said in the interview. "I had over 80 years of great living, running, working and a great family. A lot of people did not have the opportunities and great life that I have.
"I can say, God has been great to me. I can't complain about a thing."
Pepe and Elaine both grew up in Gary, she on 11th Avenue and Pepe in the 1100 block of Harrison Boulevard. Because of the various ethnic groups that lived in that neighborhood, it was known as Gary's "United Nations" as was Froebel School, which was the city's lone integrated school.