When Darryl Gutierrez and his son Anthony leave for work, they leave wearing matching shirts and carrying matching company badges.
It’s a scene Anthony’s daughter, Isabelle, 5, finds incredibly funny.
“She’ll look from one to the other of us, matching the logos on our shirts and badges, and then she just laughs,” Darryl said about his granddaughter. “Since the day Isabelle was born, we’ve all been together. It’s just normal that we’re all together.”
This father-son duo is almost always together. They live on different levels of the same house and work in different sections of Denver Water.
Darryl, a field supervisor with Denver Water’s Customer Care team, has been with the utility for almost 36 years. Anthony joined Denver Water 10 years ago and works at Denver International Airport as a senior utility technician with the utility’s Water Distribution section.
Some people might find it difficult to live and work with their father. But it’s been a great opportunity for Darryl and Anthony.
“There’s nothing hard about working at the same company as him,” Anthony said. “I always hear people tell me, ‘I just met your dad and he’s the coolest guy ever.’ That’s always a good thing to hear.”
While they don’t see each other every day at work, Darryl said they have crossed paths on the job.
“When I’m in the field, I’ll sometimes see Anthony’s crew, and it makes me think, ‘Hey, there’s my kid.’ I’ll stop and say hi to him and his team,” Darryl said.
“It reminds me of back in the day when your parents would suddenly show up at school, which, as we all know, usually wasn’t good,” Anthony said. “Except now, it’s good to see him.”
For Darryl, he’s proud of the opportunities Anthony has at Denver Water and loves seeing how dedicated his son is to doing good work.
“There have been times when he’s been on call and left around 8 p.m. to be out all night. When I’m leaving for work in the morning and see him coming home totally exhausted, I know how much he’s dealing with,” Darryl said. “He takes the lead for himself and for his daughter, and I’m proud of him.”
Over the past year, the two have leaned on each other even more due to Darryl’s diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in September 2018.
“One morning, I was at work and I felt so weak I could barely stand up,” Darryl said. “I got to the doctor and they ran some tests and immediately put me in the hospital. The doctors did a bone marrow biopsy and the next day, which was my birthday, they told me I had leukemia.”
For the next seven months, Darryl went through chemotherapy treatments. This already close family relied upon each other even more.
“I’m so glad my son Anthony was there during the chemo treatment,” Darryl said. “He knew I couldn’t do things so he just stepped up and took care of so much at home. I’d ask him for help with something and before I knew it, he’d already done it. He’s just always been there to help me and I’m so grateful.”
In late November 2018, Darryl felt well enough to ease back into work.
To welcome him back, his Denver Water colleagues held a bake sale fundraiser designed to help offset some of the growing medical bills. To his shock and surprise, more than 200 people came to see him and to contribute.
Naturally, Anthony and Isabella were there.
“It was amazing and really nice to see all the support,” Anthony said. “I’m so thankful people did that. Your co-workers turn into family friends, and that’s always good to have, especially during a time like that.”
“The day of the bake sale provided a wonderful, lasting impression on me and will forever remain a part of how I feel about the amazing people here at Denver Water,” Darryl said. “I’m here because my doctors have been amazing and because I have so much support. People just lift you up during tough times.”
Darryl had his last chemotherapy treatment in April and the family has learned his leukemia is in remission. He’s being monitored and might still have to have a bone marrow transplant, but both father and son are pleased with the news.
“I’ve learned to always look for the positive outcome in things,” Anthony said. “While it was incredibly hard for all of us, it all worked out.”
For both Anthony and Darryl, the last year has been a reminder of how important it is to help each other out.
“I talk to so many people who tell me they’re thinking of me and pulling for me, and now whenever I hear of people who need help, I pay it forward to them,” Darryl said. “I want to lift other people up the way they’ve lifted me up over the past year. I’m so blessed.”