Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



PASSAGES Remembering AIDS activist/volunteer Gerald 'Jerry' Pagorek
by Owen Keehnen

This article shared 2836 times since Fri Aug 30, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Longtime community member and AIDS activist Gerald ( Jerry ) Pagorek died on Aug. 24 following a lengthy illness. He was 76.

Born June 7, 1943, on the South Side of Chicago, Pagorek attended St. Mary Magdalene Grade School and St. Frances de Sales HighSchool.

Following high school graduation, Pagorek moved north. With his natural eye for style, Pagorek soon was highly regarded for his window and retail displays at a number of upscale Chicago stores and boutiques in the 1960s and early 1970s. For several years, Pagorekalso owned and operated the posh flower shop Metropolis Floral, in the Belden Stratford. In addition, he was employed by Progress Printing during 1977-88.

When the AIDS epidemic hit Chicago, Pagorek was a shining example of an AIDS activist and volunteer. He was one of the formative members of Open Hand Chicago, helping to plan delivery routes, delivering meals and even driving the Open Hand van in the Pride Parade.

Pagorek's volunteerism during Chicago's peak AIDS years included such groups as the Names Project, the AIDS Walk and Howard Brown Health. When his community needed him, Pagorek was there, working through his personal grief and fears by being of service. His example was inspiring.

Pagorek was cared for in his illness by friends Jeff, Carmen and Darr, as well as Kathy and Wayne.

In addition to his numerous friends, Pagorek is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and Wayne Van Tichelt.

Friends recalled Jerry as a kind man and a giving soul:

"I got to work with Jerry a lot as the AIDS crisis began to decimate Chicago. Amidst waves of sadness and anger and fear, Jerry was always a quiet rock of strength, comforting and compassionate to people in need, and donating untold hours helping those who were struggling or just needed a kind word. Jerry was a brave, kind soul and will be missed," said Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris.

Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Tico Valle said, "Jerry was one of those unsung heroes of our community. I knew him from the early days of the AIDS epidemic, volunteering wherever he was needed, caring for those we lost during an awful time in our history. In later years, he continued to be present at many events, lending a hand but never looking for recognition, simply giving a hug, a smile, and his support. He will be greatly missed."

"Jerry was a fountain of love, peace, and joy. I'm honored to have called him my best friend. Now he can design with the angels," said Darr Gapshis.

"When AIDS was raging, Jerry was a quiet warrior working or volunteering with Open Hand, the Quilt and The AIDS Walk. He continued to volunteer for the Legacy Project. He was steadfast and kind. He will be missed," stated Killian Walsh.

Bruce Koff added, "Jerry was a singular man with a big and compassionate heart. He was truly an unsung hero of the early days of the AIDS epidemic through his work with Open Hand Chicago. Although such selflessness was not uncommon in those days, his was constant and enduring. He made us all better at being human."

Carmen Sherwood said, "I loved him and always will. This man forced me to look at myself, accept responsibility for my actions, and to always be compassionate to others. My life is not the same because of him." Activist Lori Cannon added, "In life all you can really leave is a good name. Jerry Pagorek did just that. It was a real treat to work with that special and generous man all those early years when death had become a way of life for all of us. Thank you, sir, for all your memorable service to the AIDS community."

"Jerry was one of the most kind-hearted friends I've ever known. He could light up a room with his presence," said Paul Highfield, while Margaret Harris said, "Jerry's selflessness and service was natural. It was what he did. He was very compassionate and had a deep connection to spirit. Jerry was very Zen, and a great friend."

"From the first time I met Jerry I knew he was someone that was going to make a difference in our community. He fought along with all of us as we watched our friends die," said Dean Ogren. "He helped to drive the fundraisers and community events that brought us some light in those dark days. He had an eye for making an event just pop, whether it was the flowers, the lighting, or the venue itself. Jerry knew how make it special. I was always in awe of his talent that way. I looked up to him as a good friend and partner in the fun we all enjoyed when he was around. I will miss his laugh and dry wit."

To have known Jerry, as I have for over 50 years was a blessing. He was the most inclusive person I've ever known. Of course that meant he'd show up for a dinner party with one or two extra people. To say he'll be missed would be an understatement," said Sonny Coatar.

Lastly, Sharyl Holtzman said, "I got to know Jerry when I started volunteering at the Open Hand office, with founder Matthew Hamilton. AIDS raged around us. I looked at Jerry and said, this place isn't just somewhere to volunteer, it's where I want and need to be. Jerry took the steps to bring me on as first administrator.

"AIDS was relentless, stealing everyone away and through it all, Jerry was the picture of grace, compassion, generosity; he brought joy with his love of flowers and beautiful design, and laughter with his three-snap wit. He channeled his grief over his own seismic losses into working harder for the clients we served. I was fortunate and honored to work side by side with Jerry and call him my friend. He is irreplaceable."

Also see .

This article shared 2836 times since Fri Aug 30, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

PASSAGES Pioneering lesbian business owner Susan Mazer dies 2021-09-04
- Susan Mazer died August 31 due to COVID-19 complications. She was 77. At the time of her death, Mazer was living in Port Saint Lucie, Florida with her wife Janet Norton. Mazer was born May 10, ...

Gay News

Celebration of life for Roman Buenrostro taking place Oct. 5 2021-08-31
- A celebration of life for the late Chicago advocate Roman Buenrostro will take place Tuesday, Oct. 5, 3-6 p.m., at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Buenrostro was an LGBTQ- and HIV/AIDS-rights activist who passed away ...

Gay News

The National Black Justice Coalition mourns death of Pooh Johnson 2021-08-26
--From a press release - SHREVEPORT, LA — The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) mourns the loss of Pooh Johnson, a 25-year-old Black gender-nonconforming person. Pooh was found shot to death inside a car early in the morning on August 23, ...

Gay News

PFLAG National mourns passing of past president Paulette Goodman 2021-08-16
--From a press release - WASHINGTON—PFLAGers everywhere mourn the death of Paulette Goodman, who served as PFLAG National President from 1988 until 1992. Goodman was born in a Jewish family, ...

Gay News

James Hormel, the first LGBTQ U.S. ambassador, dies 2021-08-13
- James Catherwood Hormel—the first openly gay man to represent the United States as an ambassador—died Aug. 13 at age 88. ...

Gay News

Bernie Hansen's gay-rights legacy remembered 2021-07-30
- Activist Arthur Johnston recalled the late 44th Ward Alderman Bernie Hansen as perhaps "the most unlikely gay-rights alderman." Johnston—one of the activists involved with, among other endeavors, the push for the city's Human Rights Ordinance i ...

Gay News

Photographer/activist Ed Negron's funeral will take place Aug. 3 2021-07-29
- On his own Facebook page, one of the brothers of the late Chicago photographer/activist Ed Negron has revealed the details of his impending funeral. According to Leo Negron Rodriguez, Negron's funeral will take place at ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Writer, attorney, activist Takeia R. Johnson 2021-07-25
- The local organization Affinity Community Services announced the recent passing of Takeia R. Johnson. According to Johnson's LinkedIn profile, she was editor-in-chief and lead writer at Inclusion at Work as well as a Ph.D. student focusing ...

Gay News

Chicago photographer, activist Ed Negron dies [UPDATED] 2021-07-24
- Ed Negron—an activist, Army veteran and substance-abuse counselor who served for many years as a dedicated bisexual volunteer, mentor, leader and advocate in the LGBTQ, Latino and recovering communities—passed away ...

Gay News

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 ...

Gay News

Prominent lesbian educator/activist/author Sally Gearhart dies at 90 2021-07-15
- Sally Gearhart—the first out lesbian to receive a tenure-track position at San Francisco State University and a prominent LGBTQ-rights advocate—died July 14, according to The Bay Area Reporter, which cited an email Jean Crosby sent to ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Ray Marchman 2021-06-23
- 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 1933—the only child of ...

Gay News

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 ...

Gay News

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 ...

Gay News

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 ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

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 Transegender 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      OUT! Guide     
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      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      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.