Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


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



PASSAGES: LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activist, retired business owner Lauren Verdich
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 6580 times since Thu Feb 16, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Longtime LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activist and businesswoman Lauren Verdich died Feb. 12 of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 77.

Verdich was born Dec. 30, 1945, in Chicago. She grew up in the Albany Park neighborhood before moving to Burbank, California. Her family moved back to Chicago and she graduated from Mather High School. Verdich attended the University of Illinois at Navy Pier as an art major.

For a number of years, Verdich worked a variety of corporate jobs in the wholesale industry before the entrepreneurial spirit took hold. She pursued her passion for cooking by founding Lauren's Catering in 1986.

In addition to her paid clientele, Verdich also donated goods and services worth tens of thousands of dollars to numerous nonprofits such as the Lesbian Community Cancer Project, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Equality Illinois and Center on Halsted (formerly called Horizons). She retired in 2001, after 15 years in business.

Verdich came out as a lesbian in 1985 and quickly became an LGBTQ activist. In 1988, Verdich volunteered for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display at Navy Pier and helped co-found Open Hand Chicago (now a division of Heartland Alliance Health).

In 2003, Verdich turned her birthday party at Sidetrack into a fundraiser for Horizons' LGBT Homeless Youth Program. One of the attendees at this party was then state Senator Barack Obama.

As one of the first out lesbian business owners in Chicago, Verdich became a well-known figure in the city including as one of the founding members in 1995 of what is now called the LGBT Chamber of Commerce Illinois.

Verdich met her wife Gail Morse when catering her 40th birthday party. Shortly after the party, Verdich asked Morse out for a drink. That led to them becoming a couple 25 years ago. They first got a civil union when it became legal in Illinois in 2011. They then converted that into full marriage rights in 2014 when marriage equality became legal in Illinois.

In addition to her philanthropic endeavors, Verdich was also very active in Democratic politics alongside Morse. They championed LGBTQ and feminist issues for many years and supported Democratic candidates in the Chicagoland area. The couple hosted Rep. Jan Schakowsky's inaugural Ultimate Women's Power Lunch in 2001 and later were the first lesbian co-chairs for Schakowsky's annual event.

The couple also supported Obama when he ran for the U.S. Senate serving on his LGBT Advisory Council and Verdich was an out delegate for Obama at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2008, and Verdich and Morse at the DNC in 2012.

Additionally, Verdich was appointed to Lambda Legal's National Leadership Council in 2011 and was a member of Rep. Mike Quigley's LGBT Advisory Committee for a number of years. In recent years, Verdich's role in encouraging Obama's evolution on marriage equality was featured in Tracy Baim's book, Obama and the Gays, and Marc Solomon's book, Winning Marriage.

Later in life, Verdich helped connect Rainbow Railroad leadership to potential local supporters alongside her other LGBTQ activism and political outreach. One of the final things she did was to sign on as one of the co-chairs of Schakowsky's 2023 Ultimate Women's Power Lunch.

To honor all of her achievements, Verdich was inducted into Chicago's LGBT Hall of Fame in 2015.

Verdich was preceded in death by her parents Albert and Julia Goldman. She is survived by Morse; son Jordan (Katy) Wolski and their son Zachery; daughter Dana Bennett; sisters Roberta, Andrea and Linda; brother Steven; loving nieces and nephews; countless friends and those whose lives she touched.

"Rest in Power, Lauren Verdich," said Illinois state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz. "[I am reminded of a] photo of you in the front row of the historic January 2017 Women's March in Chicago [as] a reminder of the shoulders we all stand on because of warriors like you. We will hold dear your wisdom, conviction, commitment to our community and secret recipes that will never be forgotten. See you on the other side. And yes ... we will take care of Gail."

"Lauren was one of the OGs at Open Hand," said longtime friend, fellow activist and Open Hand Chicago Co-Founder Lori Cannon. "She was there the first week of deliveries out of Ann Sather's in January 1987, where she was the route manager. She would pack the hot and cold meals into thermal bags for the drivers. One night she complained to [Ann Sather owner and soon-to-be retired Chicago Ald.] Tom Tunney she wanted larger portions, more soup in the container, more mashed potatoes, the works. Finally, Tom snapped and we all heard Lauren yell—'you can't fire me Tom, I'm a volunteer.' Lauren was the real deal, she always sided with abundance. She did it her way, every time. We honor Lauren and all the efforts she made for the HIV/AIDS community of Chicago. May she RIP."

"Lauren was always a 'yes and' kind of person in everything she did," said longtime friend Bruce Koff. "In the early years at Horizons, Lauren was instrumental through her catering in supporting our fundraising efforts. At that time, places like Horizons were almost entirely dependent on the LGBTQ community itself to provide financial support. When Lauren donated her catering services it added a great deal to our efforts. In addition to being a friend, I always knew when I asked her for help she would reply with 'yes and.' She was also a wonderful connector of people and resources in the community. We are all better off for what she did."

"Lauren radiated warmth in her words, love in her touch and the occasional reproach in her cocked eyebrow," said Cook County Circuit Court Associate Judge Jim Snyder in a Facebook post. "In the '80s and '90s and beyond she bridged gaps within our community at times when we were desperate for unity. Her memory is for blessing. Our sister, our Bubbi, our Tanti. Gail, you have my whole heart."

"Lauren was a passionate and pragmatic advocate, activist and agitator for equality, women's rights, LGBTQ rights and social justice," said friend and Chicago Cubs Co-Owner Laura Ricketts. "For decades, she rolled up her sleeves to co-found and generously support countless organizations and efforts that helped bring together and strengthen the LGBTQ community. In a sense, one could say that she was a co-founder of the Chicago LGBTQ community as we know it. She was a lovely, caring and kind friend who always spoke her truth. She was also an avid Cubs fan, and I always enjoyed her loyalty and enthusiasm for the team."

"Very sad to learn this news," said friend Ted Boles in a Facebook post. "Our spouses were law partners together at Jenner and Block a few years back and she championed many local charities. She was so cherished and loved in our communities."

"I don't recall who connected me to Lauren's catering [company] back in the day, but it was a blessing," said friend Lena Flavin in a Facebook post. "Nothing ever ruffled her feathers, cool, calm and collected is how she was. Lauren trusted and valued each of her employees' opinions. She was a breath of fresh air to a young chef like me. Collaboration was the name of the game and flirting on the clock was highly encouraged. I have remained friends with Lauren since working for her, we would send recipes and cute tidbits back and forth often. I will miss you Lauren very much. She always let you know she loved you. My most sincere condolences to you Gail Morse and to Jordan. Rest easy my friend."

"We lost one of the most beautiful friends anyone could have," said longtime friend Jan Dee. "Lauren lit up a room with her smile. She entertained frequently and always made enough food so that everyone would have a leftover package. I even got to meet Barack Obama at her Sidetrack birthday party. When I was in his presence that night, I knew he would do even greater things politically.

"Lauren, actually worked at Jan Dee Jewelry and was quite the salesperson. One day I walked in the store and she told me she sold the clock off the wall. We never stopped smiling about that. Lauren loved her job and was always 'on' when she was behind the sales counter. When my parents came to town, Lauren invited us to her house to eat the 40 lobsters she bought. Needless to say, they were wonderful to eat, talk about and have plenty of leftovers.

"Our friendship goes back to the early 1970s. Each year was filled with many wonderful memories. We called each other 'my Sister' or she called me 'Janito' and I called her 'Laurenza.' Goodbye my sister until we meet again, your Janito."

"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the loss of a member of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame family, Lauren Verdich," said longtime friend and Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame Board Co-Chair Rick Karlin. "I remember meeting Lauren at her home alongside Lori Cannon and others to discuss how Open Hand would work and her involvement was essential in getting it off the ground. Her catering company was the go-to provider for LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS galas and fundraisers for many years. Lauren's dedication, planning and operational skills were exemplary and essential for many organizations. We jokingly referred to Lauren, Jan Dee, Joanne Trapani, Amy Maggio and others as the lesbian cabal that ran Chicago. They were a force to reckoned with. My son called them his aunts.

"Her death is especially difficult for me as Lauren and I were very close. She was my long-lost sister and although geography separated us, she was always in my thoughts. We spent many Thanksgiving holidays together. I will miss her terribly. My deepest condolences to her wife, another member of the Hall of Fame family, Gail Morse."

A celebration of life is being planned. Details TBA.

This article shared 6580 times since Thu Feb 16, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Lesbian prime minister steps down
Ana Brnabic—the first woman and the first lesbian to hold the office of prime minister of Serbia, or to be a leader of any Eastern European country—has stepped down after seven years in power, in a ...

Gay News

Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame seeks nominations for 2024 induction
--From a press release - The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame has announced a call for nominations for the 2024 class of inductees into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. Those wishing to may nominate individuals, organizations, businesses, or "Friends of ...

Gay News

HRC president responds to NAIA vote to ban transgender women from playing sports
--From a press release - WASHINGTON —Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, responded to the National Association of ...

Gay News

LGBTQ Catholic group mourns the passing of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
--From a press release - April 5, 2024. DignityUSA joins members of the Archdiocese of Detroit and millions of people around our country and the world in mourning the death of Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. Bishop Gumbleton received DignityUSA's Risk Taker/Justice ...

Gay News

Ella Matthes, award-winning publisher, editor of Lesbian News Magazine, dies at 81
--From an ILDKMedia press release - Los Angeles, CA - Ella Matthes, longtime publisher and editor of Lesbian News Magazine, passed away from a heart attack on March 16, 2024 at The Little Company of Mary hospital in Norwalk, California. She was ...

Gay News

WORLD Lesbian sniper, HIV research, marriage items, Chinese singer, Korean festival
A lesbian Ukrainian sniper and her machine-gun-toting girlfriend are taking the fight to Russia President Vladimir Putin, according to a Daily Beast article. Olga—a veterinarian-turned-soldier—said her comrades don't care about ...

Gay News

Kara Swisher talks truth, power in tech at Chicago Humanities event
Lesbian author, award-winning journalist and podcast host Kara Swisher spoke about truth and power in the tech industry through the lens of her most recent book, Burn Book: A Tech Love Story, March 21 at First ...

Gay News

Almost 8% of U.S. residents identify as LGBTQ+
The proportion of U.S. adults identifying as LGBTQ+ continues to increase. LGBTQ+ identification in the U.S. continues to grow, with 7.6% of U.S. adults now identifying as LGBTQ+, according to the newest Gallup poll results that ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Dorothy Elizabeth McGroarty
Dorothy Elizabeth McGroarty, 82, of The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, and a former resident of Andersonville, passed away Feb. 16 surrounded by her loving family. Born in Dearborn, Michigan, Dorothy was raised on Chicago's South and ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Bryan Dean Wilson
Bryan Dean Wilson, 64, of Chicago, passed away March 11. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bryan graduated from Washington High school in Cedar Rapids before earning his B.S. in Biology from Mount Mercy University, also in ...

Gay News

PASSAGES: Former Chicago Commission on Human Relations chair Clarence Wood
LGBTQ ally and former Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) Chair and Commissioner Clarence N. Wood died March 5. He was 83. Wood was born April 14, 1940, in Alabama. While primarily raised in Alabama, Wood ...

Gay News

Women's History Month doesn't do enough to lift up Black lesbians
Fifty years ago, in 1974, the Combahee River Collective (CRC) was founded in Boston by several lesbian and feminist women of African descent. As a sisterhood, they understood that their acts of protest were shouldered by ...

Gay News

No 'explanations' needed: Affinity remains a haven for Chicago's Black queer community
Back in 2007, Anna DeShawn came out while she was studying for her undergraduate degree. At around the same time, she searched online for "Black lesbians in Chicago." Her search led her to Affinity Community Services, ...

Gay News

Longtime LGBTQ+-rights activist David Mixner dies at 77
On March 11, longtime LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS activist David Mixner—known for working on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign but then splitting from him over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT)—died at age 77, The Advocate reported. ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund remembers co-founder David Mixner
--From a press release - Today, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker released the following statement on the passing of LGBTQ+ civil rights activist and LGBTQ+ Victory Fund co-founder David Mixner: "Today, we lost David Mixner, a founding ...


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.






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.