Alberto Gomez used to watch his father Rafael, a civil engineer, at work in Cuba. One day, he thought, he would join him on site as a colleague.
Gomez, who died March 10 at 82 of complications from Parkinson’s in Plantation, realized his dream in two countries: the one in which he was born, in Santa Clara, Cuba, and the one that welcomed him as an exile, the United States.
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Gomez did site work in Cuba alongside his father for a while after he graduated from the University of Havana in 1956. Four years later, the family left Cuba for Miami. Father and son found architectural work in their new city, Gomez’s son Alberto Gomez Jr. said.
“My grandfather would do structural engineering and dad did the design and architectural work,” the younger Gomez said. “My grandfather worked [in the States] from the time he was 60 to 80. He worked on the Tri-Rail system.”
For Gomez, his work as an architect and general contractor proved a 50-year career. His projects ranged from residential to corporate buildings, schools to resorts. Among them: the former Las Olas Hospital in Fort Lauderdale; restoration of the Pedro Castle, the oldest building in the Cayman Islands; the defunct Mills School on Broward Boulevard, and several mausoleums around the country.
Gomez was elected president of the Broward chapter of the American Institute of Architecture in 1976. He was also one of the founding members of Cuban Architects in Exile.
Some members of that trade group attended a wake for Gomez on Sunday afternoon at Caballero Rivero in West Kendall. His son was touched. “There are probably only a few left; they were in their 80s. It was amazing to see that camaraderie,” he said.
What a gentleman he was; we use the Spanish word
Alberto Gomez Jr. on his father Alberto Gomez.
Gomez credits his father’s temperament for inspiring so many in the profession. “What a gentleman he was; we use the Spanish word caballero. He was very easygoing, humble, a modest guy. What he tried to teach us was that he always valued education. He would say, ‘They can take anything away from you but your education and character.’ He was big on that.”
He also had a keen sense of humor, expressed in sketches he’d draw for family and friends. One, he titled Respiratory Therapy. The image will be relateable to anyone who has spent a night in the hospital. In the sketch, an orderly, who looks almost vampirish, hovers over a stunned patient. A clock reads four-o’-clock — almost assuredly, 4 a.m.
“Years ago, in his 70s, Dad had pancreatitis and was hospitalized. He did sketches on his observations about the hospital. They were pretty interesting, hilarious. The interns and residents would say, ‘Show me those!’ He did these just for fun and frequently he’d do sketches pointing at some quirks in the family,” his son said.
Gomez, his son said, was “one of those from the greatest generation. I do think there’s a certain truth about that. They look at the things that really count as opposed to material things: honesty, doing it right, being a good person. That generation was pretty amazing, that sense of loyalty and duty.”
In addition to his son, Gomez is survived by his wife of 56 years, Vilma, three grandchildren, his brother Rafael Gomez and sisters Carmen Andreu and Consuelo Gomez. Services were held. Donations can be made in Gomez’s name to National Parkinson’s Foundation.