Longtime LGBTQ+-rights activist Guy F. Warner died Feb. 1 of liver-related complications. He was 79.
Warner was born Feb. 2, 1942, and grew up in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood; he was the oldest of seven children. As a child, Warner and his siblings played with lesbian author Valerie Taylor's three sons since they lived on the same street for a time. He graduated from Mt. Carmel Catholic High School in Chicago and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served from 1962-66.
Following Warner's time in the military, he got his bachelor's degree from Northern Illinois University in 1970. For most of Warner's career, he worked for the Social Security Administration.
Warner's LGBTQ+-rights activism began in the 1970s, shortly after coming out as gay to some of his family members. He took over the then-dormant Mattachine Midwest phone referral service, running it for several years. In 1975, he was elected Mattachine Midwest's sixth president; during his time as leader, the group's debt was reduced, the newsletter was revived and a gay Alcoholics Anonymous group was started.
One of the initiatives that Warner, longtime LGBTQ+-rights activist Marge Summit and others did at Mattachine Midwest was talk to the parents of LGBTQ children as well as answer any of their questions. This helped those parents understand and accept their children at a time when many LGBTQ children were forced to leave their homes or were thrown out by their parents. This led to one of the parents founding the Chicago chapter of PFLAG.
Warner was the co-chair of the now-defunct Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Metropolitan Chicago, an organization of LGBTQ businesses and community groups. The coalition worked to defeat California's anti-LGBTQ Briggs Initiative and started a boycott of Florida orange juice to protest the anti-LGBTQ Fresh Florida Citrus spokesperson Anita Bryant. When Bryant came to Chicago to appear at an event at Medinah Temple, Warner was one of the approximately 5,000 people who protested her outside the venue.
Among Warner's other volunteer efforts were working in the AIDS ward at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and delivering food to homebound people living with AIDS for the now-defunct Open Hand.
He was inducted into Chicago's LGBT Hall of Fame in 2008 and is featured in Tracy Baim's 2009 book Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community. Warner was also interviewed for Baim's Chicago Gay History website project.
Warner is survived by siblings Sue Gowgiel, Barb Le Breton, Joan Cherskov, Andy Warner and Jean Warner; and many loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Dink Warner, and brother Doug Warner.
"I will miss having brunch with him at Tweet/Big Chicks," said longtime friend Mario Weston. "He did not cook so he ate out a lot. For many years (before COVID) he was a member of an ethnic dining group and he loved being with his adventuresome friends, trying out different cuisines across the Chicagoland area. He was a longtime member of the Chicago Prime Timers Club. They met at Ann Sather's on Belmont for years. He had many friendsa diverse assortment of folks gravitated to him.
"He enjoyed being retired; however, he did work occasionally as a Lyric Opera part-time elevator operator for the weekend matinee shows in his later years. Recently, he spoke fondly of his friend, the late Marie Kuda, another local activist, recalling how they gave presentations to straight groups in the 1970s to bring greater awareness and acceptance of lesbian and gay people to area businesses and institutions. Another time, Guy recounted his friendship with trailblazer Barbara Gittings, and how she stayed with him in his apartment when she was in Chicago. Even though it was dangerous to be an out gay man in the 1970s Guy made it out, but not without some scars. Guy found ways to fight back with the activist work he did in the early post-Stonewall era and his inclusion in the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame attests to this. Guy was funny and had a rapier wit. He did not suffer fools lightly. I will miss him terribly."
"Guy was a very strong supporter of what I was doing with my barHis and Hers," said longtime friend Summit. "I wanted my bar to be inclusive of everyone and he understood my reasoning. I will miss him forever."
"It was my good fortune to have been able to call Guy my friend for forty years," said Marti Smith. another friend. "And while I know of and was there for some of his activist work, it is something he did in retirement that has left me with some of my warmest memories of him. Still using those same skills, and a lifelong love, he formed The North Side White Sox Group. Guy dealt with the marketing department to get the tickets. Guy then held an annual kind of spring training meeting where people paid for their tickets and he would explain the rules'Be a White Sox fan, pay attention during the game and have fun. It is important for us to remember what Guy the activist did for us and those who follow us. But in the end, Guy had only one request. We will gather at the ball park one warm summer day and spread Guy's ashes on the warning track. Go White Sox. Go Guy."
Warner's ashes will be scattered at Sox Park (Guaranteed Rate Field) during a private summer memorial service. His family asks that any donations in his name should be made to PFLAG at pflag.salsalabs.org/supportpflag/index.html .