Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Donald Strzepek on jewelry business, early LGBTQ activism
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-07-11

This article shared 4377 times since Wed Jul 11, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Lifelong Chicagoan Donald Strzepek has been in the jewelry business for more than 30 years and is currently the owner of Tucker Inc., in the heart of Jeweler's Row in the Loop.

"I grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago, near the brickyard, with my two brothers and a sister," said Strzepek. "My neighborhood had lots of kids and we played outside until the street lights came on. I had a great childhood. I went to Lane Tech, which was an overwhelming experience because of the size of the school."

He graduated from DePaul University with a double major in English/communication and secondary education and, after a brief stint teaching high school English in the Chicago Public School system, began his journey in the jewelry business.

"I was too young, short and way too thin to be a high school teacher, so I decided to find other career options where I could utilize my artistic and communication skills," said Strzepek. "I found Tucker Inc. and the owner, Sherman Tucker, sent me to my first gemology course. I was hooked. He also taught me to be humble and see every customer as my first customer. I found my passion and a career path that allowed me to explore all facets of my persona."

While Strzepek was working at Tucker Inc., he resumed teaching, this time as an English as a Second Language teacher at Truman College.

"Recently, I had my students write down one word to explain why they came to the United States, and out of over 50 students only one person wrote down money," said Strzepek. "The rest of the students wrote down freedom, opportunity, love, family, war and security among other words. In my almost 30 years of teaching these classes, I have seen refugees from Bosnia and El Salvador, and professionals from many repressive countries, who have come here and taken cleaning jobs so they could support their families. All they want is security and freedom, and the right to live the American dream."

In 2006, when Tucker was ready to retire, Strzepek decided to punchase Tucker Inc., so he created a business plan, took out a huge loan and bought the company.

"This is my home, my company, my life , my passion , my joy, my adventure and, yes, even my source of angst," said Strzepek. "I have created almost every kind of jewelry design imaginable, from the sublime to the avant-garde. This includes a belt with 28 one-carat diamonds, a volcano ring with a ruby, a necklace with eyeballs and sapphires for tears, tiaras and thousands of other items. I love working with a client to create something that is unique and made especially for them."

As for wedding rings, Strzepek explained that he is a purist who does not like metal rings. He said if a couple is "making this leap of faith in each other, you need to do it with style, grace and elegance."

Strzepek has had many famous clients including Chef Art Smith and his husband Jesus Salgueiro, author Sara Peretsky, actor Chris O'Donnell and baseball player Curtis Pride. He nevertheless added that everyone who walks into his store is a high profile client.

Over the past three decades plus, Strzepek has also been involved with a variety of local LGBTQ- and HIV/AIDS-focused groups and events.

When Strzepek was in college, he and fellow classmates Edward Maldonado, David Gayley and Bliss Frings founded the first LGBTQ student group, The Society of the Individual, for a Catholic university in the world. Four years ago, the group ( now called Act OUT ) invited Strzepek to take part in their Pride Parade contingent as their guest marshal.

One of the ways Strzepek gave back as a young adult during the AIDS epidemic of the '80s was by participating in Howard Brown Health's early safer-sex awareness research studies. They met every six months to discuss the issue and get tested for HIV. Strzepek has gotten tested every six months since.

He started attending Chicago's Pride Parade in high school and has never missed a year since then.

In 1985, Strzepek recalled, he and his college friends were walking alongside the parade's line-up area. A man asked if anyone wanted to ride on his AIDS-awareness float since the people who were supposed to participate had recently died of AIDS. They decided to jump on the float since no one else was willing to do it.

"As we went through the parade route, the thing that came to my mind was this moment was like a Fellini movie," said Strzepek. "It was surreal. When our float went down the street there was total silence. People were coming up and saying they admired our courage and how much more research and medical funding needed to happen. It was an awe inspiring moment.

"I can remember how different the parade was in the early days. There were rallies after the parade in the park with poets, speakers, musicians and politicians. I have witnessed so many changes and advancements, yet I still see so many challenges that need to be met. We still need HIV/AIDS education, human rights awareness and, yes, I see an ever growing need to address the opioid crisis that is escalating within the gay community."

Strzepek also started the Halloween Parade with Maldonado in 1997. They got the idea after seeing New York City's parade in 1996.

"The New York City parade was a spectacular event with flame throwers, Joi Cardwell singing dance tunes, marching bands, Broadway stars performing and, yes, costumes, costumes and more costumes."

They eventually obtained a permit for a Chicago parade and, the following year, it took place from the CTA Red Line stop at Belmont to Sidetrack.

"Here is the kicker, we were to remain on the sidewalk," said Strzepek. "If anyone stepped onto the street, we would have been arrested. I think that first year consisted of about 30 people. A family with two children in a red wagon, a couple of people walking their pets and the wonderful brave cast of characters I call friends and family. The first year there was a police officer in uniform along the curb about every 20 feet keeping us on the sidewalk. Now the parade is a wonderful, beautiful, much larger event."

Additionally, Strzepek participated in the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality and the very first Dance for Life as a volunteer.

When Strzepek is not working he loves to watch foreign films, ride his bike, go to the gym, go dancing, hang out at the Kit Kat Lounge on Wednesday nights, eat out in restaurants and watch other people cook because, he said, "I am the world's worst cook."

His message to the world is "Be proud of who you are. Love is love in all its glory. Never stop advocating for what is right and just."

See www.facebook.com/TuckerCompany/ for more information.


This article shared 4377 times since Wed Jul 11, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Samuel Savoir-Faire Williams's violin stylings help COH mark Black History Month
2024-02-23
As part of its celebration of Black History Month, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., presented a solo jazz performance by violinist Samuel Savoir-Faire Williams on Feb. 21. The two-hour long performance presented a showcase ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Kristen Stewart, Rock Hudson, Talia Keys, 'True Detective,' Marvel comic
2024-02-23
At the Berlin Film Festival, Kristen Stewart defended her photo shoot for a Rolling Stone magazine cover that went viral and divided audiences on social-media platforms, per The Hollywood Reporter. "The existence of a female body ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted to host trans youth & family summit
2024-02-19
Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., has announced that its Trans Youth & Family Summit 2024 will take place March 16. This year marks the sixth annual event, which partners between Youth Services' Pride Youth ...


Gay News

'West Side Story' gets a sex-positive spin with new burlesque show
2024-02-19
In partial observance of National Condom Day, which was Feb. 14, Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) presented A West Side Story Burlesque at the Harris Theater for two hour-long performances on Feb. 17. The show, ...


Gay News

Second Glance Productions hosts LGBTQupid Soiree
2024-02-16
In celebration of Valentine's Day, Chicago based film and media production company Second Glance hosted The LBGTQupid Soiree. The event, which was focused on spinning attitudes on this particular day, was presented at The iO ...


Gay News

Lakeside Pride Wilde Cabaret Valentine's Day Feb. 17
2024-02-16
--From a press release - Lakeside Pride Wilde Cabaret puts their own spin on Valentine's Day with a show celebrating things done and sacrificed for love - not just romantic love, but love for pets, friends, family and art. Join the ...


Gay News

Cher, Mariah Carey among Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees
2024-02-11
Cher, Mariah Carey among Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees On Feb. 10, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the nominees for its 2024 class. According to NPR, two-thirds of the artists on the list for "rock's highest ...


Gay News

Dr. Lady J explains how opera can be a drag
2024-02-10
On Feb. 8, Center on Halsted, in partnership with Lyric Opera of Chicago, presented a lecture by historian, drag activist, podcaster and curator Dr. Lady J. The event, titled "Castrated Superstars, Cross Dressed Divas, and Queer ...


Gay News

Quantum Leap reboot springs into LGBTQ+ representation
2024-02-09
Through the magic of television, Quantum Leap is once again jumping into the past to bounce back into the future—and in a recent episode, "The Family Trasure," non-binary artist and performer Wilder Yuri and writer Shakina ...


Gay News

Town Hall Apartments switching ownership from Heartland Alliance
2024-02-08
Town Hall Apartments is switching management amid financial turmoil at Heartland Alliance. Full Circle Communities, an affordable housing nonprofit with more than 1,600 units across the Midwest, plans to take ownership of Town Hall Apartments as ...


Gay News

TAWANI Foundation commits $25K to StartOut, supporting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship
2024-02-08
--From a press release - CHICAGO — February 8, 2024 — The TAWANI Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that provides support in the areas of arts and culture, historical preservation, health and wellness, LGBTQ+ and human rights ...


Gay News

Center on Halsted opens two new art exhibitions
2024-02-07
On Feb. 2, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., hosted its latest gallery opening, presenting two solo exhibitions exploring the role of the artist and their relationships with their environments, albeit using vastly different styles. ...


Gay News

ART Champaign display looks at the Midwest Black lesbian experience
2024-02-03
In Illinois, archival photos are the centerpiece of a new display at the Krannert Art Museum focusing on the Black lesbian experience in the Midwest, IPM reported. The new solo exhibition by St. Louis-based artist Jen ...


Gay News

Mr. Chicago Leather contest returns to Touche following 2022 controversy
2024-02-01
The Mr. Chicago Leather contest returned this past weekend, January 26-28, to Touché Chicago, over a year after numerous community members were incensed by a racist incident. But the bartender who quit Touché following the incident ...


Gay News

Planned Parenthood Illinois Action board announces 2024 primary endorsements
2024-02-01
--From a press release - CHICAGO—The Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA), the non-partisan political and advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, proudly announces its final endorsements for the March 19 ...


 


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.