Students will ‘cherish’ life of senior

Senior Karen Gutierrez died Dec. 25. She was a transfer from Northwest Shoals Community College, who senior Jonathan Barnett remembered as “uniquely spirited.”

by Managing Editor Mike Ezekiel

The UNA campus mourned a student over the holiday break, as senior Karen Gutierrez died Dec. 25.

Gutierrez, a Florence native and 2012 graduate of Florence High School, transferred to UNA from Northwest Shoals Community College to major in psychology. She was 22 years old.

The loss touched many people, as a vast array of social media posts poured onto her Facebook timeline of old photographs and memories from family and friends.

“She wasn’t just my cousin,” said Yarely Ramos in a Facebook post. “She was a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker or maybe that one girl with the infectious smile that made you laugh that one time. Everybody has an outrageous story about Karen.”

Her visitation was held at Spry Williams Funeral Home in Florence Dec. 29, one day before her funeral at St. Joseph Catholic Church of Florence. Before her death, Gutierrez was a waitress at Casa Mexicana in Sheffield.

Senior Jonathan Barnett, who said he has known Gutierrez since seventh grade, said Gutierrez had a unique persona.

“Karen was a unique spirited individual, and her personality could light up the sky,” Barnett said. “For that, everyone who knew her will love and miss her and cherish the memories that we all had with her.”

Barnett said his former classmate continued to be approachable when they graduated from Florence and moved on to different colleges before reconnecting at UNA.

“She’s always been a ball of fire,” Barnett said. “Although we hadn’t talked as much as we did in high school, we never had a problem with walking up to each other and talking as if we were both 17 again.”

Senior Gabby Fuqua also said Gutierrez had a positive influence on her.

“You are the most authentic and original person I have ever met in this entire town,” she said in a Facebook post. “I am endlessly inspired by you, and I will never forget how amazing you are.”

In Gutierrez’s obituary, the piece cited her favorite quote as being, “Yours truly.” Those two words were also at the top of her Facebook biography.

“I will always remember (her) love and infectious laugh and the time we spent together looking at stars from the parking deck,” said Noelle Marshall, a friend of Gutierrez from Florence. “Goodbye for now, (rest in peace) and party hard.”

Randall Nichols, another Florence native and friend of Gutierrez, wrote a poem on her behalf.

“Like guitar picks and lighters,

We lose the greatest of the fighters.

We miss the sparks and the fires,

The ones of passion and desires.

Leaving a hole in a most sacred place,

To view the shimmer in their face.

But, we are here and so are they,

Having made us feel some sort of way.”