Vernon Huls, 67, a longtime Chicago-area LGBTQ activist and accountant, died July 21 at Northwestern Hospital of heart failure.
Lori Cannonherself a longtime community HIV/AIDS activist and founder of Open Hand Chicago ( now a division of the Heartland Health Outreach )relayed Huls' death to Windy City Times.
At the time of his death, Huls was a resident of Town Hall Apartments, the new facility for LGBTQ seniors just south of Center on Halsted. He previously lived in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Huls was born Sept. 12, 1948, in Champaign, Illinois, and grew up on a farm in Flatville, Illinois, before moving to Chicago. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a bachelor's degree in accounting.
He worked as an accountant at various firms until his retirement.
Huls is survived by his mother, Margie L. nee Olson, his sisters Velma and Vera, his brother Virgil, two nieces ( Amy Hennigh and Angela McCabe ), a nephew ( Brandon Boastick ), two great-nephews, two great-nieces, two great-great-nephews and one great-great-niece.
His father, Ernest J. Huls, preceded him in death.
Huls was a member of the now-defunct Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force ( IGLTF ), in which he served as treasurer for many years. He also spent most of his non-working hours on LGBTQ activism.
"We got to know each other when Vernon moved into Town Hall Apartments about two years ago," said former LGBTQ activist and friend Pat Cummings. "I was already living there and when he arrived we became fast friends. We spent time hanging out together talking about mutual friends and politics in what we call the Rainbow Room. I'll miss seeing him and talking to him about today's political climate. He will be greatly missed among the Town Hall community."
"Long before we had six-figure salaried CEOs of LGBTQ organizations, Vernon lobbied City Hall and Springfield as an advocate for the community," said LGBTQ-rights activist Rick Garcia. "I knew him during the days when he did this work on his own time and his own dime. We would travel to Springfield in his car on day trips to do this work when it wasn't popular. The work he did was cutting edge and laid the foundation for the successes we've had today. We stand on his shoulders and owe him a debt of gratitude for fighting for us when few did."
"Vernon was a stalwart in the LGBTQ community before that type of activism was fashionable," said Cannon. "People like Vernon, Joanne Trapani and the late Bill Verrick set a gold standard for community activism which would morph into organizations we've come to know as IMPACT, the Federation for Human Rights now known as Equality Illinois and various local gay rights organizations that blossomed during the early days of organizing for LGBTQ human rights. It was these early efforts that set the foundation from which human rights legislation eventually passed to protect the day-to-day lives within the LGBTQ community of those who had no voice. We must never forget the early heroes like Vernon who decided to do the right thing despite overwhelming odds. Vernon leaves a remarkable legacy that we will all remember."
"Vernon was really proud of where he came from and had a tremendous love for his family," said Trapani. "We first met each other while working for the IGLTF. Everyone who knew him thought of him as an unselfish person who dug in and got the work done. He was great man and he'll be missed by the community."
Sidetrack co-owner and activist Art Johnston added, "Vernon was a longtime volunteer and leader of the IGLTF, which took on much of the civil rights work for our community in Springfield in the '80s. Committed, soft-spoken and intelligent, Vernon was one of the most reliable activists in Chicago. He was especially known for his thorough analyses of vote counts on LGBT bills."
"He was an active member of Town Hall the entire time he lived there including planning events such as the monthly potlucks in the Rainbow Room as well as hanging out with friends," said friend and fellow Town Hall resident George Garcia. "He'll be missed by myself and everyone else at Town Hall."
A private cremation ceremony will take place at Ewald-Barlock Funeral Home in Chicago. His ashes will be spread at the family farm in Flatville at a later date.
Town Hall Apartments will be holding a memorial service Saturday, July 30, at 3 p.m. Contact George Garcia for more information and to confirm attendance at 773-732-4897.