World champ still carving & teaching despite tumor
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News March 13, 2013 10:10AM
Bob Guge, left, talks with student Jesse Ruiz of Chicago, after class recently at the Guge Institute of Wildlife Art in Gilberts. A benefit for Guge, who is has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, is scheduled for Sunday. Romi Herron - For Sun-Times Media
The community is invited to attend the Bob Guge benefit at 7 p.m., Sunday at Westminster Church, 2700 W. Highland Ave., Elgin. More information is at www.thegugeinstitute.com.
Updated: April 15, 2013 11:11AM
GILBERTS — Last November when Bob Guge and family were waiting at a stoplight, the world champion woodcarver almost pulled out in front of a speeding semi truck as his passengers reacted in shock.
Now, Guge attributes that incident to the terminal brain tumor diagnosis he received shortly after the scare.
“I was inches away from getting hit,” said Guge, who owns Guge Institute of Wildlife Art in Gilberts and teaches woodcarving classes there with his son, Josh. “That’s when we knew something was wrong.”
A free benefit concert hosted by the family’s church, Westminster Presbyterian in Elgin, is set for 7 p.m. Sunday. A performance by gospel quartet “The Grand Dads” will be featured.
Guge, 60, still can’t explain the specific cause of the lapse in driving judgment — whether it was muscular, visual or neurological. “It was like maybe my brain just missed a piece of the distance, because I saw it coming.”
But he’s thankful the experience prompted him to get answers.
Josh Guge, also a champion woodcarver, agreed the incident stirred emotion for the family, who two days before Christmas 2011 lost son Gabriel, 24, to a drug overdose, Bob Guge said.
Given a prognosis of 18 to 24 months, Guge has continued teaching and spending time with family. Father and son have earned national recognition for numerous Best of Show and World Championship awards across the United States. Bob Guge has taught his art for 20 years, and Josh Guge is an alumnus of Elgin’s Judson University who taught art at Westminster Christian High School in Elgin and later co-founded Guge Institute of Wildlife Art with his father.
Josh Guge said the family also is hosting a benefit for Bob on June 29 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Some of Bob Guge’s older woodcarvings will be available in an auction there, he added.
Jesse Ruiz of Chicago has studied with the Guges for five years. After one of the woodcarving sessions last week, Ruiz said he considers his closeness with his instructors unique.
“I love carving, but besides that I feel like this is my family,” Ruiz said. “(Bob) has been like a brother to me.”
After class, Ruiz drives Guge home, he said, adding he attends class two to three evenings per week.
“Everything here is so interesting, and it’s something I have never done before,” Ruiz said. “Everything connects to what (we learned) before ... everything connects, like a story.”
Ruiz’s favorite carving is his snow owl, gripping a pierced mouse in its talons. He has a cast of it at the school.
“What I did is I changed it. I put a mouse here, out of the same piece of wood, and the eyes are bulging out of the mouse,” said Ruiz, explaining the choices he made with the carving, clutched in his hands.
Josh said he has six surviving siblings — Seth, Caleb, Jordan, Asher, Hannah and Joy. All of them “are into art a little bit,” says their dad.
Although Guge’s cancer is considered stage four, he said he is holding on to hope for treatment because he met someone managing the same cancer for several years.
Classes will continue as long as Guge is up to it, he said, noting the schedule has not been reduced despite continual radiation and chemotherapy.
“Unfortunately, I had a seizure during one of my demos when Josh and I had classes in Texas,” Guge said.
He’s been more tired lately since his treatment has doubled recently, too.
“Through six weeks of chemo, nothing bothered me. I have no real complaints at all,” Guge said, acknowledging some bouts of nausea and lack of appetite. “They doubled the dose, and I don’t know the why or how but I’m wondering if that’s what made me sick ... . I’m sure not going to complain about something so minor.”