The Obit For Gus Hernandez

Gustavo Rene "Gus" Hernandez (1914 - 2010)

Published in Panama City News Herald on February 15, 2010

Gustavo (Gus) Rene Hernandez passed away on Feb. 12, 2010, at age 95. He had lived in Panama City, Fla., since his retirement from the University of Georgia in 1980.

He was born on Dec. 14, 1914, to Perfecto Waldo Hernandez and Maria Teresa Perez on a farm in Guines, Havana, Cuba, where he was the eldest of six children. In 1931, he became involved in revolutionary activities and his father and Presbyterian missionaries helped him leave Cuba and move to Hemp, N.C., where he finished high school at Elise Academy. He saved up money while working in textile mills to attend Mars Hill Junior College in Mars Hill, N.C., and Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn.

He met his late wife, Wilma Pechak, at Maryville, and they secretly married in 1937 in York, S.C. They graduated from Maryville College in 1938. From 1939 to 1941, he played professional baseball for the Hickory Rebels and taught Spanish at Hickory High School. In 1941, he began teaching Spanish at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and received his master of arts degree in 1944. He became a U.S. citizen in 1943.

From 1942 to 1943, he served his country by teaching in the Navy U-1, Navy U-12 and the officer's training program for the Marine Corps. From 1943 to 1944, he was the appointed director of the Area and Language Section (Spain) in the Army Specialized Training Program Unit established at UNC. He was assigned to teach in different military programs at UNC until 1945.

From 1945 to 1963, he was head of the Spanish Department at Birmingham Southern College. During this time he was a visiting professor at Duke University, UNC Institute, Appalachian College and Rice University. He completed his PhD at UNC in 1952. He conducted summertime tours to South America for several years. From 1963 to 1980, he was a professor of romance languages at the University of Georgia.

Gus was a loving father, grandfather and friend who will be missed by many. Survivors include his sister, Leticia Knauss of Miami Lakes, Fla.; his sons, Jim Hernandez of Charleston, S.C., and Tom Hernandez of Atlanta, Ga.; and his daughters, Lynn Thorndyke of Duluth, Ga., and Renee Toner of Panama City, Fla. Also surviving are four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Southerland Family Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.