Mark Alan Palermo, a retired high school teacher and prominent member of the Presbyterian Church supporting the LGBT community, passed away Aug. 10 after a heart attack at his Chicago home. He was 62.
Palermo taught at Carver High School from 1974-80, then at Senn High School from 1980-94 as an ESL teacher. From 1994 until retiring in 2008, he was Senn's attendance coordinator/homeless liaison.
Palermo has for years spent summers in Chicago and the winters in Palm Springs, California.
"Everyone who has emailed or called has described him as loving, caring, gentle and patientand that's how he was with his family, too," said Eileen Boehler, his older sister and lone sibling who lives in Rockford, Illinois. "He was the most wonderful listener. When anyone talked to him, he was really tuned in to you; there was nothing else that was on his mind [other] than what you were telling him.
"He really had a genuine interest in people."
Palermo enjoyed the symphony, opera, plays and going to Ravinia Festival in suburban Highland Park. He also was a foodie. "I don't know of any restaurant in Chicago that he had not visited," Boehler said.
Palermo was a member of the Edgewater Historical Society and a walking club in Palm Springs.
"He spent a lot of time with his friends," Boehler said. "He was a real peaceful person to be with."
Jim Yeaman, who lived in Chicago for 21 years and now lives in Montgomery, Alabama, where he runs a bed & breakfast, met Palermo in 1990. "He was a very caring, giving person, who always had a smile on his face, a great laugh," Yeaman said. "He was very well respected at Senn High School."
Palermo attended the Stony Point Center gathering, Rock Stars and Prophets: Generations of Justice and Love, through the Presbyterian Church. Palermo was involved with PGC/PLGC; More Light Churches Network, and the eventual formation of More Light Presbyterians, according to They All May Freely Serve.
He was one of the original members and prophets of the movement in the Presbyterian Church ( USA ) for equality and full-welcoming for the LG BT community. "We are so grateful to him, as we are to all who walked with and since Mark in the gospel we share," said They All May Freely Serve.
Rev. Christine Vogel of Chicago posted online, "[I am] stunned and deeply saddened by the news of Mark's death. I first met him more than 20 years ago when I was doing a seminary placement at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church. He was kind hearted and committed to the quest for justice for LGBTQ persons."
Palermo had dinner Aug. 8 at Chuck Williams' home in Chicago. Williams said he is "shocked to the core" to hear of Palermo's passing. Williams posted online that Palermo experienced "shortness of breath on Friday evening and was also winded coming up our back stairs from the patio. He was feeling better [on Aug. 9]."
A memorial service will be held in Rockford and his ashes will be scattered/interred in Cathedral City, California.