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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Lockport couple's love immortalized in decorative brick

John Guenard created a tribute to his wife, Irene

LOCKPORT – One hundred and seven decorative bricks.

That’s how many John Guenard of Lockport carried from the house of his daughter, Jenny Lietke, to his house next door. Worried that he might hurt himself, Jenny went to check on him.

The bricks spelled “Irene,” the name of John’s wife who died on Jan. 2. The couple was married almost 60 years.

“It was his way of letting mom know he loves and misses her,” Jenny said. “Neighbors were impressed. ... What a love story – if we all could have that kind of love.”

Jenny said John courted Irene for three years and married her in 1960 after she graduated from high school. Jenny was born in 1961. The couple also had two sons, William and Michael.

The day John met Irene was the day he was supposed to meet her older sister.

“But he saw my mother and fell in love with her,” Jenny said. “My grandpa wasn’t too happy about it.”

Irene worked for the Lockport Township High School bus service for 22 years. She belonged to the Butterfly Club, which Jenny said was similar to Weight Watchers.

In addition to spending time with her family – Irene’s favorite hobby – Irene also enjoyed crocheting, rug-hooking and working on puzzles, especially the 3-D variety.

“She made quilts for everybody,” John said. “She did little ones for her granddaughters. She has stuff started in the house she never got finished.”

John and Irene’s favorite pastime was walking. They walked at Starved Rock State Park, and when Irene’s knees couldn’t take the rocks anymore, they walked the paths. They walked near the I&M Canal in Lockport.

“They were always walking,” Jenny said. “They were [once] featured in The Herald-News.”

John shrugged it off, saying, “She liked to walk, and I liked to walk.”

But the trait John really respected was Irene’s faith. A member of Grace Baptist Church in Lockport, Irene was known for her fervent prayer life.

“She did a lot of praying for everyone, that I will say,” Jenny said.

Jenny feels the blessings in her own life are because of her mother’s prayers.

John said Irene wanted to see everyone saved.

“She wanted them to know Jesus, that was her biggest thing,” John said.

Certainly, carrying the bricks across the yard was the least he could do for her, John said, despite the neighbors yelling at him that they were too heavy, he said.

“It was just one of those things,” John said. “I had a lot of energy to burn up, and I thought it was a good idea. The picture doesn’t do it justice. But it’s there, and it looks nice and some people got interested in it.”

John’s considering painting the bricks. But that’s not the main thought in his mind.

“She took 60 years of my life in that casket with her,” John said. “I wanted to die with her.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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