Northalsted bartender Eric Sangster died Sept. 17 unexpectedly at the age of 37. At the time of this article's publication, Sangster's cause of death is unknown.
Sangster was born June 4, 1983, on a Jacksonville, North Carolina, naval base. Due to his status as a "military brat," Sangster lived in Hawaii, Tennessee and California throughout his childhood. He moved to Chicago for college and received his BA from the now defunct International Academy of Design and Technology. After graduating college, Sangster worked in various retail and hospitality positions as well as real estate. He was also a bartender at various Halsted Street establishments, most notably at the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club.
Sangster moved to Miami a few years ago. According to his family, Sangster decided to move to California to be close to them due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is survived by his beloved dog Dobbie, parents Michael and Theresa ( Helton ) Sangster; siblings Brandon ( Monica ), Brenton ( Anastacia ) and Caitlin Sangster; second mother figure and aunt Lady Debra ( Frank ) Basso; sister figure and close cousin Christie Sawochka; nieces and nephews Nevaeh, River and Jameson; and countless chosen family members and friends.
"He was so funny and full of himself," said his mother, Theresa. "He thought he was all that and a bag of chips, and he was. He was my second son and I was hoping for a girl, but he was the sweetest little guy as a child and a hilarious sense of humor. He was always a bit sassy. The biggest impact he had on my life was when he was born and he literally broke my tailbone, and I tell everyone he came out kicking my ass, and he did throughout his life."
"He changed my life when he was born," said his father, Michael. "I most remember his smile and want people to remember his sense of humor."
"I remember when Eric graduated from college," said brother Brandon. "That was a huge milestone in his life, and from there, he grew to become very successful. He purchased a beautiful condo overlooking the area he lived in and had a great job and though this did not impact me directly, it impacted my perception of my little brother.
"With Eric's growth and success he was a generous person who wanted to share his successes with everyone. I remember times going back home to Chicago and he would want to take me out and show me his world and treat me to all he had. One of my fondest memories with him was a night at the Kit Kat bar and he introduced me to all his friends and coworkers. He wanted to wine and dine his older brother. He did not have to do that, but he wanted to and this extended to everyone he loved and valued.
"Eric's love of life is what I want people to remember him by. He never did anything halfway and that meant he was all the way on or off in every circumstance. Ask anyone who tried to wake his butt up from sleeping. Whatever Eric set his mind to, it was a full investment of his time, energy, passion, love and self. It was hard to keep up with him and we all loved him for it."
"Eric always made me laugh," said Basso. "He was so special and had a way with sarcasm that you were never offended by, just laughing. When Eric and his brother came to visit me, we usually bought gifts for them. I got Brandon and Eric each a big truck, Brandon was so excited about his truck. Eric, on the other hand, had a look like where's my Barbie dream house. I hope and pray everyone will remember Eric with a smile on his face. That will bring a smile to your face."
"Eric's sarcasm and ability to accessorize made me laugh," said Sawochika. "He was not short on confidence. In the summer of 1996, my grandmother died, and I found out my oldest son was deaf. Even at a young 13 years old, Eric stayed with us that summer and literally got me through this time. We went to the movies, out to eat and played Nintendo Mario Kart. He was my savior. I want people to remember his kindness and generosity. He would often buy my friends and me dinner when we would visit him in Chicago. He insisted on it. He literally lit up a room and we had so much fun together, even if we were doing absolutely nothing. My heart will be broken forever at his loss."
"Eric was part of my chosen family," said close friend and Civil Rights Agenda Founding Executive Director Anthony Martinez. "We were all part of a crew in our 20's that went out in what was formerly known as Boystown ( now Northalsted ) all of the time and danced, and had so much fun. We were always laughing. He was the person who would see someone down and do something funny or be the goofball to pick them up. We were both Gemini's so we would always joke about our Gemini power and how together we were unstoppable; and maybe a little kooky."
"Eric was an incredible guy," said Kit Kat owner and Sangster's former boss Ramesh Ariyanayakam. "He always had a smile on his face, was an extremely hard worker and was always working to better himself."
"Eric started at Kit Kat as a bartender," added Kit Kat Beverage Director Chuck Hart. "I had the pleasure and honor of training him and that is where we met and became friends. Eric would always work Pride and Northalsted Market Days, slinging food and drinks from the Kit Kat booth. Even when he stopped working for the company, he would come and help out every year. He was known throughout Chicago's LGBTQ community for always willing to lend a helping hand to any of the Northalsted businesses that needed it.
"Everyone knew Eric. If it was because of all his tats, or for the kind loving person he was. I do not know one person who ever disliked Eric nor had a bad thing to say about him. It is not often you meet someone that every person that they meet genuinely liked them. This was one of the many unique and special things about Eric. He was not only a best friend but also a little brother to me. We were always there for each other when we needed each other the most. Anyone who kept close contact with Eric knew he always had a new cell number. If you left a voicemail, text, or a Facebook message the average response time was two to three days. I think to myself, I can talk to him anytime now, and I know he can hear me at that very moment. No more wondering did he look or listen to my message yet. I am one of the luckiest people to have had such a great friend, and little brother like Eric."
"I remember Eric as social, gentle and loving," said close friend and FashionBar Chicago CEO Tony Long. "He was a sense of joy and light for anyone and everything he met. This is the only way I will remember Eric."
A memorial service will take place Thursday, Oct. 1, from 4-7 p.m. with a celebration of his life immediately following at Muzyka and Son Funeral Home, 5776 W. Lawrence Ave., in Chicago. Social distancing will be practiced and masks will be required for entrance to the service.
Donations in Sangster's name should be sent to his family via Zelle pay at Theresas79@hotmail.com . To send flowers or a memorial gift, visit muzykafuneralhome.com/obituaries/Eric-Sangster/ .