A love story before the technology age, Gregorio Alvarado Schafler met the love of his life, the Rev. Canon Miller M. Cragon Jr., at a dinner party in 1967. They were together for 48 years until Cragon passed away in March 2016.
Alvarado Schafler recently shared the story with Windy City Times with such great detailas if it was something that happened last week. He recalled cooking the entire meal for a friend's Christmas dinner party, leaving to go home to get ready for the party and punctually returning back to the friend's house. He vividly remembered and was sitting on the sofa and Cragon was talking to the host and another party guest. Alvarado Schafler said he looked over at him and said to himself "oh my goodness, oh my goodness." Then Alvarado Schafler got up to talk to Cragon.
That first conversation, Alvarado Schafler said, was about everything except being gay. He said it was like a business conversation and added he had never had a conversation like that before. So, he had his mind made up that when Cragon left the party, he would too. Living five or six blocks away from each other in New York City, they walked out of the party and exchanged telephone numbers before going their separate ways.
Not too long after that exchange, Alvarado Schafler went home to his apartment one day and his roommate told him that Cragon called. He was pleasantly surprised.
"I told my roommate best friend [about Cragon] and he said to me, 'If you let him go, you'll be an idiot,'" said Alvarado Schafler, who emphasized Cragon was, yes, a gentleman and a scholar.
The couple's life was filled with international travel and a love of opera, among other interests. Alvarado Schafler said they were never apart. Even when they weren't in the later years as Cragon became more ill, he said he always called to check in and let Cragon know he was safe. The couple had a civil union in June 2011 in Chicago and got married in September 2011 in New York.
"There's something there that we humans have in our inner [selves] that we don't understand," said Alvarado Schafler. "We try to express it, but we merely try to rein it and that's strange and that's sad because as human beings we should try to be open with ourselves, first of all, and then be open with other people because if you're not open with yourself, you negate yourselfforget it. Many people do that, specifically gays."
Alvarado Schafler will be 90 years old come this October, describing himself as strong-minded and as someone who doesn't beat around the bush. Born in Mexico City, he was the middle child of nine children and is of Spanish and German descent. He moved to New York in his 20s and worked for many years as a civil engineer.
"I loved engineering because I love nature and it's taming nature, but in the right way," said Alvarado Schafler.
Alvarado Schafler said that, at a young age, his aunt knew he was gay and told his father. They were accepting. Neither he nor Cragon ever actually came out. When Alvarado Schafler introduced Cragon to his father, he remembered, his father embraced the relationship.
Cragon was 91 when he passed away. He was born in Ruston, Louisiana. Cragon was appointed to serve as canon to the ordinary for education and ministry for the Diocese of Chicago in 1978. He retired in 1990 and was made an honorary Canon at Chicago's St. James Episcopal Cathedral. He was a member of St. James Cathedral and recently had been attending the Episcopal Church of the Atonement.
Alvarado Schafler got emotional as he talked about his late spouse, but the detailed memories he shared range from the everyday things to the sentimental memories. He also talked about things such as the current politics, his friends and family, places he's traveled, his experience in the workplace, his hobbies and everything in between.
"I think that being gay to these two was just a small part of their personality," said a longtime friend of the couple, who preferred to remain anonymous and has known the couple for about 28 years. "Today, being gay in a lot of young people's lives is 'We're gay, we're proud, and that's what we are,' but it wasn't [for them]. They were real-estate people, they were philosophers, they were scholars, one was a priest, one was an engineer. It was just a small part about their lives. Yes, they love each other, they traveled the world together, but they didn't talk about being gay."
During WCT's visit, Alvarado Schafler's residence in Edgewater, where he lived with Cragon, was filled with delicate items. Most of them seemed to be antiques. Alvarado Schafler said his favorite things to collect are Czechoslovakian perfume bottles circa 1918-1938. He said he also loves nature and likes visiting zoos.
"They always did things quietly for the community," said the longtime friend. "They always went to the Pride Parade. They used to sit on the veterans' float and rode in the parade, they helped out Center on Halsted financially and they would go to events there, and they loved the opera. For many, many years, they were members of the Lyric [Opera]. They just love the community."
When asked what his advice for long-lasting love is, Alvarado Schafler said he has no advice.
"It's just love and affection and no jealousy, envynothing," he said. "You don't trust your partner, forget it. No reforms, you cannot reform anybody."
"My life has been a rainbow," said Alvarado Schafler. "Wonderful, beautiful and I thank God for that. God is the only one who could've done it to build me the right path."
See also www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/PASSAGES-Rev-Canon-Miller-M-Cragon-Jr/54656.html