Bob Ontiveros, businessman and philanthropist, died | Business & Economy
He was, among other things, a man with a genius for connecting people to each other.
Although he is one of the most successful businessmen in the Quad-Cities, Robert “Bob” Ontiveros is remembered for his generosity and kindness.
The 83-year-old died Tuesday in Moline, with his beloved wife, Blenda, by his side.
Bob was the longtime chairman of Milan-based Group O, which he founded with Blenda in 1974.
The couple met at what is now Black Hawk College and together started the O Group. At first, they used their family station wagon as the company’s delivery vehicle. Now one of the leading Latin American companies in the United States, Group O employs over 1,000 people and has annual sales of over $500 million.
The company flourished in the 80s and 90s and Ontiveros named his son, Gregg Ontiveros, president in 1999 while Bob remained president. Since then, the company has grown steadily and counts several Fortune 500 companies among its clients.
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But the seemingly endless number of people who knew him spoke much more of Bob’s kindness than his success in business.
He gave money, yes. But he also gave generously of his time and expertise. He mentored, nurtured, and constantly checked to see what people needed.
His obituary reflects his long list of leadership roles and the organizations and community assets he has supported or created. Those who knew him say Bob was a constant source of all means of support, whose dedication to his legacy and his community will impact for decades to come.
His son Gregg Ontiveros said his father really walked away from the business when he handed it over to him in 1999. The reason: he had other things to do.
“One of the things that has always fascinated me is that the company never lost money, but it never focused on that,” he said of from his father. “Money was just a byproduct of very hard work.
“Don’t get me wrong: he loved doing business. But he never focused on being the richest guy or the biggest guy. He understood better than anyone that no one does it alone.”
And that’s why Bob was so eager to help others, his son said.
“The talent in this country is evenly distributed,” he said. “The opportunity is not. That’s where he was passionate about.”
Bob’s other son, Chris Ontiveros, said his father was also passionate about his family, especially his 61-year-old wife, Blenda. He also found others to adore.
When the boys were growing up, Chris said, their dad was busy building a business. Weekends were their best chance to spend time with him. That changed with the birth of Bob’s first grandchild, Maria, who is Chris’ daughter.
“He loved his grandkids more than anything – the grandkids and Blenda,” Chris said. “Everything changed when Maria arrived. They are both genuinely loving people who genuinely care about others; that’s something Dad and Maria have in common.
“He loved seeing other people succeed. A lot of guys, when they succeed, it’s all about them. He always wanted to see other people win.”
Chris Ontiveros wasn’t surprised to hear so many others talking about his dad’s ability to connect people.
“He was proud of it and he showed me how to connect people without expecting anything in return,” he said. “When you see how something is supposed to be, you work that way. He didn’t like to look back. We celebrated the wins, but they didn’t last more than a minute.
“You get out there and move on. We heard that a lot. He connected people, because he knew they were stuck; sometimes people get stuck in fear. He helped them.”
His sons learned that they need not fear their father.
“He was never mad at us,” Chris said. “Our mum’s threat of ‘Waiting till your dad comes home’ wasn’t really very threatening.”
For Maria Ontiveros, the considerable time she spent with her grandfather had a huge impact on her life.
“He put me to work with Mercado (the outdoor market in Moline that had long been Bob’s goal), and he built a team around me to make sure I was successful,” she said. . “That’s how he built Group O. He found a team and inspired everyone to work hard.
“That’s why people flock to him – not because of his accomplishments but because of how he made them feel. I love how he keeps in touch with everyone and makes sure that they are seen and heard.
“That’s why he’s my role model. That’s why I want to be like him. I don’t know where I would be without him. He influenced my life more than anyone.”
The family have asked for understanding in plans to postpone a public celebration of Bob’s life until May. They are expecting a large crowd and are unwilling to risk an indoor gathering at this time, Chris said.
Others who have worked with and learned from Bob have shared their thoughts on his contributions to the Quad-Cities.
• matt dadsChairman of the Board of Directors of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley: “He was like a father to me. I lost my father when I was 17, and Bob was someone I loved. have always respected and who has inspired me.
“I think the best way to describe the way he was is simply selfless generosity.
“He’s done so much for the Boys and Girls Club and for so many people. I have so much love for him. He’s just a wonderful person.”
• mike reyesLULAC Council 10, Davenport: “Bob has been a pillar of our community – mainstream and Latino. The impact he has had on our community is immeasurable.
“I’m not sure people realize how much he’s done for us. The community will miss him. I know I am.”
• Tom BowmanCEO of Community Health Care Inc.: “Bob has been a great supporter of CHC. He has been a great partner to us and always available for a call, always a resource.
“He told me all the time that he wanted to connect people in the community. He and Chris were so willing to help us acquire our property in Moline, financially and in other ways. When he had in mind that something had to be done, he beat the streets.
“He put his effort behind whatever the priority was; he was rolling up his sleeves. And he was always checking in, just to see how we were doing.”
• Juanita ZertuchePresident of LULAC Council 5285 in Moline: “My husband and I met Mr. Ontiveros in 2009, and he was immediately supportive of the event we were sponsoring. He always treated us with respect.
“He was always checking in with us and he was always bonding – a great unifier. He would ask us every year, ‘How are you? How can I help you?’
“He always, always wanted to help. He founded the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Mercado on Fifth had been his vision for a very long time. He never forgot where he came from. He was always proud of his heritage, and he was there to support him.
“Humble and sincere, that’s how I will always remember him. He didn’t have to go to every meeting and festival, but he always did, and he treated everyone with the same dignity and the same respect.
“The lives he touched in this community are unreal. We were very, very lucky to have him.”