GONZALEZ, GUILLERMO "WILLY", Passed away June 23 at the young age of 81, with family members at his bedside at Doctor's Hospital in Miami. Willy lived the life many of us only dream about. He was an avid world traveler, loyal friend, had a huge thirst for new adventures, a larger- than- life personality, lived life on his own terms, and left with no regrets. Predeceased years ago by his wife (Myriam) and son (Guille), he is survived by his devoted daughter (Myriam Grad), son-in-law (Marc Grad) and adoring grandson and world travel partner (Max Grad), numerous cousins, extended family, and countless friends. Willy came from Cuba in 1961 with $2.17 in his pocket and built a new life for himself and his family. He immediately found a job as a draftsman with the mechanical engineering firm of HJ Ross Associates, where he worked for 20 years and forged a lifelong friendship that endures today with Jack Ross. He was the first Cuban hired by the firm. While with the firm, he earned degrees in mechanical engineering from Florida International University and the University of Wisconsin. He went on to work for 16 years at Spillis-Candela Architects, heading up the mechanical engineering department. He worked an additional 14 years at McDowell Engineers and TLC Consulting Engineers, retiring at the age of 79 in May 2011, on the 50th anniversary of his career. Throughout his career, he worked on many projects for high rise apartments, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers, and private luxury residences. A longtime active member of the Association of Cuban Engineers, he was recently awarded the "Jose Amezaga Award" for lifetime achievement. An avid kite flying enthusiast and world traveler, Willy has the distinction of having flown one of his many stunt kites on every continent except Australia. His travels took him to far-away places, many of which he enjoyed with his grandson Max, with whom he had a relationship beyond compare. Bike riding and camel treks in Africa, white water rafting and zip lining in Costa Rica, adventures in Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, and Antarctica would just be a few highlights of Willy's travels. Always physically active, Willy completed the ING half marathon in 2011 along with a team of wonderful (younger) new friends. He was active in the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board, board member of the emerging Cuban Museum, and was a frequent guest presenter at Books and Books, having a large following of fans craving to see his renowned collections of pre-Castro slides of Cuba. He was also a devoted alumnus of the De La Salle School in Vedado, Havana, taking great pleasure in organizing annual reunions and writing his annual newsletter for the class of 1950. The family wishes to thank the doctors and staff affiliated with Doctors Hospital and the UM Sylvester Cancer Center for the amazing care Willy received these last 9 months. Donations in Willy's honor may be made to UM Sylvester, or consider going to make a blood donation at your local blood bank! Visitation will be held at Caballero Woodlawn 8200 Bird Road Tuesday, June 25 from 6 pm until midnight. Funeral mass will be held Wednesday, June 26 at Church of the Epiphany 8235 SW 57 Avenue at 10:30 am with burial immediately following at Our Lady of Mercy.
Published in Miami Herald on June 25, 2013