Cover photo for John Gustainis's Obituary
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1932 John 2021

John Gustainis

December 23, 1932 — March 26, 2021

John Edward Gustainis Jr (aka Cracker Butt) age 88, formerly of Wheaton Il, shut her down for good on Friday March 26 th, 2021 in San Antonio Texas.

John was born on December 23 rd , 1932 to Jonas (John) and Elizabeth (Harmon) Gustainis in Melrose Park, IL.  Although he was born during the Great Depression, his father was a successful capitalist (owning Bonnie Bee Super Foods), so he attended Fenwick High School and eventually the University of Notre Dame where he joined the R.O.T.C and graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering and a commission in the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant where he was assigned to flight school.

While training to be a pilot, he developed a reputation of regurgitating in the cockpit so much so that he earned the moniker of “Burp Bag Gus”.  Despite this, he earned his wings and was transferred to jet school in Laredo, where he met a beautiful young debutante named Helen Kahn.  John served his time in the Air Force as a pilot and after completing his service and cleaning the barf bags out of all the airplanes he flew; he and Helen were married in 1957 and moved to Melrose Park where he joined the family business, and they began raising a family.

John and Helen were blessed with four children, John (The Third), Elizabeth (Lilli) Robert (Flash) and Kevin (Knot-head).  He then moved the family to Addison, IL where after he was forced to close the family grocery business, he began his new career as a State Farm agent in 1970, until his retirement in 2010.

After their divorce in 1973, Helen and the kids relocated to Laredo and John moved his office to Itasca, IL and relocated his residence to Medina, IL (insert second marriage here, quickly followed by second divorce).  Eventually he settled in Wheaton, IL.

Sadly, Helen passed away much too young in 1988, and while tragic, from that point on John developed a much closer relationships with his kids and grandkids.  He relished introducing his grandkids to the abundant music and arts of Chicago and to the hospital like cleanliness of his pristine home.

John was an accomplished horseman.  He played polo and rode to the hounds as a fox hunter and earned his “colors” from the Oak Brook Hounds as well as the Wayne DuPage Hunt in Wayne IL.  One of the family’s greatest memories involves a family fox hunt in the late 1990’s where one of his sons resorted to wearing panty hose under his riding britches to keep warm as well as many fox hunting escapades which included the mandatory Stirrup Cup (cocktail party on horseback) and John’s near decapitation involving a very fast horse and a very large stationary oak tree.  Three broken ribs and a concussion later he recovered and resumed his fox hunting pastime for several years and managed not to break any more bones or lose his noggin.

An avid outdoorsman, he introduced his children to the joys of fishing, hunting, shooting and gun safety. He enjoyed in helping create many family memories.   Among his favorites were:

  • The Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Where he taught his teenage sons the proper way to drink excessively as well as the wrong way to cast a fly rod that could potentially result in him piercing one of their ears before it was fashionable for young teenage boys to do so.
  • The Pacific Northwest: Where as a 70 something year old man he had to yell “DON’T MAKE ME STOP THIS TRUCK AND COME BACK THERE!” to his grown-ass sons who were fighting over whether to have chicken or tacos for lunch.   “BEAN AND CHEESE!”
  • Port O’Connor Texas: While on a fishing trip with his family he had to rare opportunity to witness an actual Conniption Fit when the boat being piloted by an un-named son became disabled in rough seas.  John reportedly reverted to his military training while calling for assistance.  “Mayday, Mayday, we are dead in the water” he repeated over and over. Those mayday call have been widely rumored to have triggered the aforementioned fit, however all parties involved have signed non-disclosures under harsh penalties and John took the truth to his grave.
  • Always a stickler for gun safety he maintained a zero-tolerance policy with his kids for any slacking. Notwithstanding of course was the time that he shot a hole in his boot and through the floor of his car with a 9mm pistol, almost losing a toe while waiting for his son at school football practice.
  • Being a very sound sleeper, he honed that skill to the point of being able to sleep through a .357 Magnum pistol being discharged in the living room of his house while he was asleep upstairs. While remaining an unsolved mystery, it has been suggested that one or more of his sons were responsible for the gunshot resulting from their playing “quick draw” on a stuffed Javelina head mounted on the wall.  That of course remains unsubstantiated scuttlebutt.  The remains of the Javelina head in question have never been recovered and the matter remains part of Wheaton, IL folklore.

John was also a connoisseur of fine wines, good booze, and cheap cigars.  A very cold and very dry Beefeater’s martini, or two, followed by a nice  medium rare steak with a great bottle of Stag’s Leap Cab would no doubt always be followed by a nice 18-year-old single malt scotch or possibly a VSOP Cognac accompanied by one of his beloved .05 cent Muriel Coronella cigar.  His good taste had no bounds.  Sommeliers from miles around marveled at his ability to pick a fine vintage when shopping for wines solely based on how cool he thought the label was.

His shared his love of scotch with his beloved brother-in-law Carlos Gutierrez (aka Bubble Butt) and his secret drinking buddy/sister-in-law, the late Josette Palacios.  In his later years, his children and grand children all learned that after a few rounds of the brown drink he could speak five languages.

His children and grandchildren of course learned from the errors of his ways and have all sworn off alcohol and tobacco. If you don’t believe that you can take it up with anyone of them.  You can find them in the bar.

Many people remember John on horseback in his backyard with a big smile on his face welcoming them to one of the many TexMex parties hosted by him and his children there.  He wore a Mexican sombrero, western chaps and rode an English jumping saddle.  He never knew that he actually had the chaps on backwards, making them officially “assless”.  He was having so much fun though, nobody had the heart to tell him.  Bless his heart.

John has left us to join his family in heaven where they have been patiently waiting for decades.  His parents John and Elizabeth along with his brothers, Frank, Edward, and Albert all preceded him and are throwing him a welcome home party as we say farewell.  He leaves four children, twelve grandchildren, seven greatgrandchildren and many nieces and nephews who all adored him.  He always had a smile on his face and never met a stranger.  His home was open to all to come by and have a drink and share a laugh.  He was a good man, father, husband, brother, son, and friend and will be remembered as Dad, Grandpa, Pop, Pa Horsey, Uncle John and Big John, but most will just remember him as John.  We are all richer today for having had him in our lives.  He asked us many years go to make sure we celebrated his life and not mourn his death, and so here we are.  He is looking down from above and raising his glass as we raise ours to him.  Cheers John!

The Funeral Mass will be held at 4:00PM on Friday, April 23, 2021 at Saint Monica's Catholic Church in Converse, Texas - A Celebration of Life Reception will follow from 6:00PM-10:00PM at The Club at Garden Ridge - 21320 Water Wood Dr, San Antonio, TX 78266. A private interment will take place at a later date.


Funeral Mass

Saint Monica's Catholic Church
  • 501 North Street
    Converse, Texas 78109


The Club at Garden Ridge
  • 21320 Water Wood Dr
    San Antonio, Texas 78266
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