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Devoted 1st Ward Laborer And Volunteer Joe Muntaner Dead at 58

By Alisa Hauser | May 15, 2017 7:11pm
 Images of Joe Muntaner.
Joe Muntaner
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LOGAN SQUARE — Joe Muntaner, a longtime resident of Logan Square who was devoted to his family, his church and 1st Ward constituents for whom he shoveled snow and mowed lawns — among myriad tasks — has died.

Muntaner had been suffering from bipolar disorder, according to the 58-year-old man's grieving family.

"We are all in shock," said Gina Muntaner, Muntaner's only daughter and the youngest of his four children.

On Monday, Gina Muntaner said that her father's death from a self-inflicted gunshot on Sunday came less than three weeks after her 27-year-old brother and Muntaner's third son Nicolas Muntaner, who was battling anxiety and depression, died from a drug overdose.

"My dad is one of the strongest men I know, built like an ox. Anyone can succumb to it. When you are that sad, you are not yourself anymore," Gina Muntaner said, adding, "People are in denial. They say lightening doesn't strike twice, but in my family it did."

Becky Schlikerman, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner office, confirmed that Muntaner was found dead of a gunshot wound to his head around 4:15 p.m. Sunday.

The medical examiner listed Muntaner as 63 years old, though Gina Muntaner and her mom, Julia Muntaner, say their father and husband, respectively, was 58.

Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police spokeswoman, said police are conducting a death investigation, which is done in all suspected suicides.

Muntaner was discovered by his daughter inside his van, which is emblazoned with a logo for Ald. Joe Moreno's (1st) ward, in the 2700 block of North Lakeview Avenue.

Born on Aug. 19, 1958, in Chicago to parents originally from Puerto Rico, Muntaner grew up in Logan Square, attended St. Michael's Grammar School and Mather High School.

Gina Muntaner said that her father worked as a laborer and bricklayer for several contractors and also received occasional pay as a contractor from Moreno.

Joe Muntaner shakes Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) hand at an awards ceremony. [Joe Moreno]

"He did snow removal in winters and graffiti removal and he helped with garbage can complaints and cut elderly people's grass. If you needed something done in the ward, he was first to hop on it," Gina Muntaner said.

Iris Millan, a former staffer to Moreno, said Muntaner was "an invaluable volunteer" who "deeply cared about the community."

"His passing is a great loss and he will be profoundly missed," Millan said.

Recognized as a "life contributor" in a 1st Ward awards ceremony at Chop Shop in 2013, Muntaner regularly cleaned the ward and at one point was getting paid $400 weekly as a contractor, Ald. Joe Moreno told DNAinfo during a February 2015 blizzard when Muntaner was hired to remove snow. 

On Monday, Moreno said Muntaner "was like a second brother to me. "

"His dedication to his family and the 1st Ward will be missed infinitely. Now is the time to concentrate on being with his family," Moreno said.

Joe Kopera, a Logan Square resident, said Muntaner "was passionate about his politics."

Recently, a tree in front of Kopera's house looked like it needed to come down, so Muntaner helped him cut up the branches, piled them up for disposal and called the city's Forestry Department, Kopera said.

Jim Masini, business manager of St. Bonaventure Parish, 1641 W. Diversey Parkway, said that Muntaner had been volunteering at the church for several decades. He was there Sunday, helping to pass the collection basket through the pews during the Mothers Day mass.

"He was very devout, at mass every weekend, very regular ...  just a perfect gentleman. He seemed composed [after his son's death], but he was obviously grieving," Masini said.

Gina Muntaner said that her mother was still very close to her father, despite being divorced from him.

"He never called her his 'ex.' He always called her his wife and he put gas in her car and insisted on bringing her groceries. After the divorce, he moved only a few blocks from her, so he could help her. Loyal and kind hearted are the biggest words" that describe her father, she said.

"My dad was on medication, he was trying to get better. ...  A lot of people look at suicide as a shameful act. People ask if I really want to say how he died, and I tell people, 'Of course I want to say it was suicide' [because] it brings awareness. I tell my daughter, if you are sad, you have to express it to me," Gina Muntaner said.

In addition to his daughter, granddaughter and former wife, Muntaner is also survived by two sons, Tony and Joseph. A wake is scheduled for 3-8 p.m. Sunday at Pietryka Funeral Home, 5734 W. Diversey Ave. and a Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Bonaventure Parish, 1625 W. Diversey Pkwy.