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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



PASSAGES: Retired Chicago Fire Department district chief, paramedic Pat Ciara
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 4343 times since Tue Apr 25, 2023
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Retired Chicago Fire Department (CFD) district chief, paramedic and at one time the highest ranking out lesbian in the history of the CFD, Pat Ciara died April 19 of lung cancer in Lake Worth, Florida. She was 74.

Ciara, a self-professed tomboy, was born June 2, 1948, and spent her childhood in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. She attended Catholic school through her freshman year of high school before moving with her family to Worth, Illinois. Ciara graduated from Oak Lawn's Harold L. Richards High School in 1966.

Ciara told Windy City Times in a 2016 profile that she wanted to play softball when she was in high school, but there was not a league for girls at her school. So Ciara founded a girls softball team in Evergreen Park called the Emeralds.

"I used to lie to my mother and tell her I was playing volleyball, or something a little more feminine," said Ciara in that 2016 profile. "I would keep my cleats and glove in the trunk of my car."

Ciara worked for a number of years after high school. She later graduated with an associate's degree from what was then called Mayfair College (now Truman College), where she became president of the student council.

After graduating from Mayfair, Ciara worked for a private ambulance company while also going to EMT school at Lutheran General in Des Plaines, and then paramedic school at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood in the mid-'70s.

Ciara went on to co-own Town & Country Ambulance Company with a straight, cis male partner named Gerry for about 18 months. She was accepted to CFD training in February 1980, so she severed the ambulance company partnership to take on this new role.

Among Ciara's many early roles at the CFD were fire paramedic, paramedic in charge and, for about 12 years, she would travel to every ambulance house in her district to troubleshoot any issues that came up and gather paperwork.

Ciara was promoted to EMS training chief in 1994. Then, in 2000, she was elevated to a deputy chief paramedic role in charge of 500 paramedics in Field Division One, north of Roosevelt Road from the Lakefront to O'Hare Airport, until 9/11.

After 9/11, Ciara was put in charge of the CFD paramedic division's logistics, where she was responsible for ordering necessary fire truck and ambulance equipment.

Ciara received a Bachelor of Science in business management from National-Louis University in 2001 and a Master of Science degree in industrial relations from Loyola University in 2003. She was then was promoted to district chief, director of personnel, in 2004. In that role, Ciara was responsible for everyone's retirement and hiring packets, medical evaluations and those who were ill or became injured on the job.

In 2005, Ciara had a mild heart attack, leading to her eventual retirement in 2007. Ciara told Windy City Times that she was "proud of my work as a paramedic" and "really loved the job and what I accomplished." She added that "some of the people I mentored are now in positions of power," and that for a number of years they still called her for advice, which made her feel good. Ciara was also a member of LGPA/GOAL Chicago—the LGBT police and fire association—for many years.

Ciara met her future wife Kathleen (Kat) Ciara-McGuire online via the then-active AOL profiles section in 1999. In 2003, they had a civil union ceremony in Vermont and, when it became legal, got married in Provincetown on Aug. 28, 2010, with her brother Michael Ciara (also a CFD employee) serving as her best man. Ciara-McGuire and Ciara were also previously co-owners of now-defunct Chick A Boom Resale Boutique in Andersonville.

The couple moved to Lake Worth, Florida in 2016 where they lived with their three dogs—Kevin (now deceased), Katy and later Drake.

In addition to her professional endeavors, Ciara was a member of the Windy City Pride bowling league for nine years, including three as vice-president. She told Windy City Times that it was "the most fun, relaxing time for me" even though she was "a terrible bowler" when she first started. She was also a golfer and played flag football.

Ciara was preceded in death by her parents Victor and Louise Ciara and brother Marty Ciara. She is survived by Ciara-McGuire; mother-in-law Dottie Barron, father-in-law Pat (Shirley) McGuire, brother Michael (Carolyn) Ciara; sister Nancy (Larry) Ciara Zimont; sister-in-law's Lori Ciara and Jayne (Mike Rice) McGuire; brother-in-law Tim (Heather Burnett) McGuire; nieces Rebecca and Samantha Ciara, Delaney Rice and Hannah McGuire; nephews Brandon and Matthew Ciara, Larry Zimont Jr., Kevin Zimont, Quinn Rice, Tim McGuire Jr. and Ben McGuire and countless chosen family members and friends.

"I was so very blessed to have been loved by one of the most amazing people I have ever known," said Ciara-McGuire. "The world has lost some of its magic for me. The stars have dimmed, colors once so vivid and sharp are now dull and lifeless. She was my North Star, my beacon, my home. I loved every fiber of her being for nearly half of my life. Pat lived her life out loud. She was the most considerate, generous, funny, loyal and loving woman who touched many lives. She will be missed by all of us. Her last words spoken were to me. She said, 'Don't cry' and 'I love you,' taking care of me even as she exited this world. She left this world knowing that she was fiercely loved by me and so many others."

"My Aunt Pat was the one to call if you were ever struggling and needed someone to talk to," said her niece Rebecca Ciara. "She would always try and relate to you and would never judge. When my dad (her brother) died, she was the one that made sure she let my boyfriends know, 'I've got my eye on you.'"

"Aunt Pat was one of a kind," said her nephew Brandon Ciara. "She was always accepting, supportive and loved unconditionally. She was the person you would go to with any problem always having a solution. Maybe that was the Firefighter/Paramedic in her. She is loved and missed by many."

"My sister Pat left our family house when she was 18 and I was 11," said her sister Nancy Zimont. "I cried my eyes out for her return. She was so stubborn and proud and I am sure she did not realize how powerful she really was. Pat never looked back. What amazing accomplishments she achieved throughout her lifetime. Those are too long to list, but the long and short of it is this: Pat promised me she would come back—and oh my goodness did she come back and come out, with a vengeance. The City of Chicago got the best 'Chief' in the world.

"She married Kathleen (Kat), the love of her life, and they both traveled and conquered the world. Our relationship as sisters grew because of her promise to me. She did come back and never left my heart. I respected who she was, and in return was the most amazing and generous and loving sister, wife, aunt, Godmother, cousin and best friend anyone could ever ask for. Now, I know Pat cannot promise me she will come back now, but I await the day that she opens her arms to bring me up to heaven and give me a pair of those wings. I will bet she is really singing loud now. You are the wind beneath my wings, may you rest in eternal peace and I love you more."

"What I loved about my godmother Aunt Pat changed as I grew," said godchild and Nancy Zimont's son Kevin Zimont. "At first it was her infectious humor. She could always make everyone laugh uncontrollably. As I grew and matured, I realized how caring she was. How fiercely loyal she was. She was an amazing woman and I will always admire her love for life."

"Your life was a blessing, your memory, a treasure, you are loved beyond words and missed beyond measure," said Barron. "In my mind, you will always be a 'chick magnet.'"

"As a Chief Officer at CFD, Pat was a figure larger than life to many," said longtime friend and co-worker Debbie Sommer. "Pat was an advocate for all firefighters and paramedics including her fellow LGBTQ+ members at the CFD. She was a friend and mentor who changed the trajectory of many careers at CFD and launched many individuals into leadership roles. Pat's imprint and legacy will live on at CFD for many years. She wanted to make a difference, and she most certainly did."

"I met Pat on my very first shift as a Paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department in 1988," said former co-worker and longtime friend Pam Guidizi. "She was a relief Field Officer and was making her daily rounds to the ambulance. She walked into the firehouse wearing a man's hat and tie. Her uniform was perfect, she was always a stickler on uniform appearance. Women were issued a different tie and hat at that time. Whoa, force of nature and never afraid to be who she was. She pegged me in an instant and told me, if I ever needed anything, to, 'Call me kid.' She became a friend, mentor, fierce advocator for LGBTQ members and changed the trajectory of my career with CFD. One of a kind and will forever be remembered, loved and missed."

"One word that comes to mind when our family thinks of Pat is generous," said the McGuire Rice Family in a statement to Windy City Times. "Pat was generous in so many ways. She was generous with her stories, always willing (and eager) to share the adventures she had gathered throughout her life. She was generous with her hospitality, making sure everyone's cups and bellies were full. She was generous with her laughter, which often filled the room. She was generous with her magic, like the amazing parking spots she came up with in Chicago. And, most importantly, she was generous with her love, which made the people around her feel deeply cared for and appreciated. Pat was a gift that just kept giving. Thank you Pat for giving us such wonderful memories."

Memorial services will take place in the Lake Worth, Florida area and Chicago. Details TBA.

This article shared 4343 times since Tue Apr 25, 2023
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