WINDY CITY TIMES
||PASSAGES Michael O'Reilly, aka Penny
By Web Behrens
This article shared 5919 times since Sun Jul 14, 2019
Longtime Chicagoan Michael Francis O'Reillya queer artist, activist, Radical Faerie and sometime provocateur best known as Pennyhas died at age 57. After surviving decades with HIV, he received a lymphoma diagnosis last autumn; he passed away peacefully June 10, surrounded by friends and family in his Rogers Park home.
Born in 1962 in Lansing, Michigan, Penny moved with his parents and four siblings to Wilmette in the early '70s. He attended New Trier East High School, where he was president of the 1980 graduating class. He studied engineering at Rice University in Houston, where he also came out. After college, he lived in Kankakee, Illinois, before settling in Chicago. Penny worked for many years as a phone installer for AT&T, then took an early retirement and worked for himself as a painter, handyman and declutterer.
Those varied professional skills abetted his artistic pursuits. For a 2001 large-scale public-art/activism project, he constructed and painted an enormous canvas with a pro-environment message, which he used to cover an abandoned billboard on Peterson Avenue just west of Ravenswood. Meanwhile, his penchant with telephone technology led to a few occasions of him performing in drag as Ernestine, Lily Tomlin's classic phone-operator character.
In 2002, Penny and his then-partner and dear friend Matthew Gleeman Long bought a home in Rogers Park that the pair envisioned as a small urban sanctuary for faeries. They dubbed it "The Castle," although it's known to most as as the leopard-print house, thanks to Penny's bold animal-print paint job. Penny and Gleeman welcomed dozens of faeries, queers and artists under The Castle's roofboth as permanent residents and as travelers. Some of those wandering through hailed from rural faerie communities in Tennessee and Minnesota, both circles in which Penny was active.
Penny Michael O'Reilly is survived by his siblings, nieces and nephews: sister Camille; sister Eileen, her husband Tom Gerspach and their children Ryan, Megan and Annie; brother Kevin and his son Dylan; and brother Steve, his wife Christine and their sons, Joseph and Eric. ( The middle child of five, Penny often joked that he was "the youngest girl, oldest boy." ) He is also survived by many aunts, uncles, cousins and countless friends.
In his final years and months, Penny found great joy and fellowship in the Queer Contra and Chi-Town Squares dancing groups. The Queer Contra group is dedicating its Saturday, July 27, dance gathering to Penny's memory. All are welcome; details are on Facebook ( at www.facebook.com/events/315922625977629/ ). A private memorial will be held Saturday, Sept. 14.
His family requests that donations can be made in his name to Howard Brown Health Center ( HowardBrown.org/donate/ ), where he long received care.
This article shared 5919 times since Sun Jul 14, 2019
| ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE|
|PASSAGES Author, cultural theorist, scholar Lauren Berlant dies 2021-07-15|
- Author, cultural theorist and scholar Lauren Berlant died June 28 in a Chicago hospice facility of a rare form of cancer. They were 63. Berlant (who used they/them pronouns professionally) was born Oct. 31, 1957 in ...
|Prominent lesbian educator/activist/author Sally Gearhart dies at 90 2021-07-15|
- Sally Gearhartthe first out lesbian to receive a tenure-track position at San Francisco State University and a prominent LGBTQ-rights advocatedied July 14, according to The Bay Area Reporter, which cited an email Jean Crosby sent to ...
|PASSAGES Ray Marchman
- Ray Marchman, a onetime Chicago resident, passed away in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on June 6. He was 87. According to an obituary on Dignity Memorial's website, Marchman was born in Miami in 1933the only child of ...
|PASSAGES Fritzie Fritzshall, Auschwitz survivor, innovator in Holocaust education 2021-06-20|
--From a press release - As a Survivor of the Holocaust and the President of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Fritzie Fritzshall devoted her life to combatting hatred and prejudice, inspiring people to become Upstanders instead of bystanders, and speaking ...
|Fifth annual Pulse Nightclub memorial in downstate Illinois on June 12 2021-06-09|
- On Saturday, June 12, at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Illinois, local organizations will remember the 49 lives lost at the Pulse Nightclub in 2016 with their fifth annual outdoor memorial service, according to a joint press ...
|NATIONAL Press secretary, LGBTQ passings, poll results, Pride items 2021-05-30|
- Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made history as the first gay woman to lead a White House press briefing in the James S. Brady Briefing Room, and the second Black woman to do so, LGBTQ Nation ...
|Remembering Kay "Tobin" Lahusen 2021-05-29|
- Much of LGBTQ history, and history in general, has been lost. Even after photography was invented, the lens (and pen) was often directed subjectively, documenting what the mainstream media thought were the significant moments of the ...
|White Party organizer Jeffrey Sanker dies 2021-05-29|
- Gay circuit-party impresario Jeffrey Sanker—owner of the Los Angeles-based White Party Entertainment company—died May 28 after a long battle with liver cancer, the Los Angeles Blade reported. The Blade said ...
|PASSAGES Kay "Tobin" Lahusen, a founding mother of the gay rights movement, 91 2021-05-26|
- Kay Lahusen, 91, died in gentle hospice care at Chester County Hospital on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, after a brief illness. She was born in Cincinnati in January 1930 and as an infant was adopted and ...
|NATIONAL Victory Institute, activists pass on, Mikayla Miller, Nina West 2021-05-23|
- On May 2, The Victory Institute inducted 21 leaders to its newly formed LGBTQ Victory Hall of Fame, according to PrideSource.com. Twenty members were inducted as part of the founding class while U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin ...
|PASSAGES Social-justice activist, dominatrix Mistress Velvet dies 2021-05-21|
- PASSAGES Social-justice activist, dominatrix Mistress Velvet dies By Carrie Maxwell Social-justice activist and dominatrix Mistress Velvet (who used they/them pronouns) died by suicide May 9 in Chicago. They were 33. ...
|PASSAGES Lesbian-feminist musician, activist Alix Dobkin dies 2021-05-19|
- Lesbian singer-songwriter and feminist activist Alix Dobkin died May 19 due to complications from a brain aneurysm and stroke. She was 80. Dobkin—who was known by many as the Head Lesbian—was born Aug. 16, 1940 in ...
|Former Illinois Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood dies at 66 2021-05-19|
- Corinne Wood, the former Illinois lieutenant governor under Gov. George Ryan, died after a 15-year battle with breast cancer, CBS Chicago reported. She was 66. Wood served as the state's first female lieutenant governor from 1999 ...
|Actress Olympia Dukakis dies at 89 2021-05-01|
- Olympia Dukakis—who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1987 hit Moonstruck and starred in Look Who's Talking and Mr. Holland's Opus as well as iterations of TV's Tales of the City—died May 1 at her home in New York City ...
|PASSAGES: AIDS activist, anti-imperalist organizer Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd 2021-04-25|
- Longtime AIDS activist and anti-imperalist organizer Tryfan Morys Eibhlyn Llwyd (also known as Arawn Eibhlyn, and who uses the pronouns they/them/their) died March 3 in Louisville, Kentucky due to natural causes. They were 70. Llwyd was ...