Activist Alan Amato, who was instrumental in a number of LGBT-rights pushes in Oak Park and the western suburbs, passed away April 8.
Amato, who was living in Berwyn at the time of his death, had worked as a travel agent and had co-owned an LGBT bookstore, The Pride Agenda, in Oak Park. He was 68. The cause of his death was heart failure.
In a April 12 statement, Amato's friend Lydia Villaneuva-Soto noted that Amato "was passionate about social justice and activism. He was active in the Oak Park Lesbian and Gay Association ( now OPALGA+ ). As the Public Policy Committee chair for the organization, he was instrumental in passage of Oak Park's landmark domestic partnership registry, the first of its kind in Illinois and one of the few in the nation.
"He was a prominent figure in the efforts to promote acceptance and appreciation for the gifts that lesbians and gay men contributed to the quality of life in Oak Park."
Villaneuva-Soto additionally told Windy City Times that she and Amato became friends when both worked for a travel agency in the late '90s and both realized they shared a passion for helping the community.
"We became co-workers and friends and we worked together for about 20 years," she added. Though Amato went to work elsewhere, he'd still help out at the agency, which Villaneuva-Soto now owns.
"The week he passed, he was still helping me out," she said. "he didn't want me to pay him. He just wanted to do something."
Amato also lived in the in-law suite in Villaneuva-Soto's home.
"He became part of our family," she added. "My kids considered him an uncle. He was just a good guy."
A native of the Little Italy neighborhood, Amato enjoyed travel, and often spent a month in Italy every year. He also lived for a time in both France and Russia.
Villaneuva-Soto maintained that Amato "should have been a historian" since he was so steeped in history and politics. Amato also was an aficionado of British sitcoms.
"We'd sit there on Sundays and watch PBS, and laugh until we cried," Villaneuva-Soto said.
But Amato's commitment to the LGBT community was "his heart," she added. "All that hard work he did through the years when it was frowned upon, he didn't care. He told stories of having water and rocks thrown at him, but he held his ground."
He met at various times with former President Barack Obama, when Obama was a state senator, and the late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
"She was a Republican, but he didn't care. He didn't see that. He just wanted the best for his community," Villaneuva-Soto added. … Just a great guy all around.
Amato had no surviving immediate family members, but distant family members are coordinating his cremation and burial, as well as an eventual memorial celebration of his life. An online fundraising campaign to offset the related expenses is at www.gofundme.com/f/Alan-Amato-Burial-and-Memorial-Fund .