Community activist, former Organized Chaos Chicago (OCC) president and founding member and now-retired queer women-focused L Stop website editor-at-large and writer Kathy Guzman died October 26 of heart complications. She was 61.
Guzman was born in Philadelphia on June 4, 1962 to Irish American parents who taught her to love peace, people, faith and equality. Her family, including three siblings, moved around many times during her childhood and teen years.
A rambunctious young person who hated being treated differently than the neighborhood boys, Guzman could often be found running around without her shirt on and playing baseball. When Title IX passed in 1972, Guzman immediately joined the local Little League club, becoming the first and only girl to play in the club during that time.
Guzman's love of writing spurred her to pen personal essays and other works to process her feelings and thoughts about the world around her during her early years. She took that writing passion to Florida State University, where she graduated with a BA in English. For most of her professional life, she worked in the human resources departments of a few companies, where she was known for listening to employees with an "open heart."
Guzman was also remembered for putting other people first over herself. She wanted the world to have more kindness, including pushing back at bullies, and displayed this ethos every day.
Her other endeavors included her longtime membership with OCC (a women's motorcycle group) where she served as the organization's first president and was one of the founding members. This was the place where Guzman both shared her love of motorcycles with the wider world and showcased her skills during many Chicago Pride Parades.
Guzman was a vocal and prolific writer. She was editor-at-large and writer for the now-retired queer women-focused L Stop website during the mid-2010s. Her writings advocated for political change, personal freedoms and loving one's neighbors.
As a community activist, Guzman gravitated toward LGBTQ+-and women-focused organizations, including participating in Human Rights Campaign (HRC) fundraisers during the mid-2000s as well as for Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA), St. Baldrick's Foundation, Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN) and Toys for Tots.
When Guzman was not working, her world was centered on raising her children and spending time with her wife.
Friends told this publication that Guzman loved the serenity of water, beaches, sunsets, animals and her family. Additionally, she leaned into adventure over the past two decades. She also "made a mean soda bread" and loved tacos and cold beer. They added that "she would want us to continue to love, let go of hatred and the things holding us back and to try and leave the world just a little better than we found it."
Longtime friend Leah Schein Foxhill said, "There are some people that come into your life that change the very fiber of your being. Those of you who know me know that Kathy 'Guz' was a part of my soul, and I hers. … Kathy left us with one last epic Irish goodbye, surrounded by love and laughter. She's got nothing but open winding roads ahead of her now, and an army of people behind her that will continue to live and love fiercely, just like she taught us.
Close friend Amy Kelly said, "I met Guz in 2012. She wrote an L Stop article in 2016 about my St. Baldrick's head shave event for childhood cancer, and wrote that we met by accident, and that accident turned into a gift. I would say there are no accidents and agree that meeting Kathy was indeed a giftone of the best gifts I've ever received. We formed an instant and beautiful friendship. …We jokingly referred to ourselves and each other as tough Irish MFers because of our shared Irish ancestry and that became our saying for everything: 'We can handle it, because we are Irish MFers and we can handle anything.'
OCC President and friend Diana "Sarge" Cantu said on behalf of the organization, "Kathy 'Guz' Guzman served as the President of Organized Chaos Chicago…in our formative years. She did not merely hold the title; she embodied the organization's philanthropic spirit. Through her dedicated leadership, Organized Chaos forged meaningful connections with worthy charitable causes including HRC, CMSA, St. Baldrick's Foundation, TPAN and many others. Kathy's ability to identify and support these causes reflected her deep empathy and dedication to making the world a better place. Her peaceful energy was a source of inspiration for the many people she touched. We at OCC count ourselves fortunate and grateful to have had her in our ranks. We extend our love to her family, who are undoubtedly reeling from this devastating loss. Ride Free, Guz."
Close friend Vivian Gonzalez said, "Kathy Guzman 'Guz' was a light wherever she went. She was editor of The L Stop for several years and brought so much love and energy to the team during that time. I miss her dearly. This is your sign to check in with those who have impacted your life."
A celebration of life will take place on Nov. 11 at Calo Ristorante, 5343 N Clark St. in Chicago, from 2-7 p.m.
See gofundme.com/f/kathy-guzman to make a donation.