Ron Helizon, 65, passed away due to complications of a stroke March 6. He was the beloved partner of Gordon Burrows.
Known as "The Polish Princess", Helizon was a popular bar owner and community activist for several decades. He was especially vocal in Catholic gay outreach as a member of the Archdiocese Gay and Lesbian Outreach ( AGLO ) .
Helizon owned the gay bar Company from 1983-1994, on Halsted just south of Diversey. It was a bar that welcomed LGBTs of all backgrounds, and held many benefits for gay and AIDS groups.
Helizon was interviewed in 2007 for the Chicago Gay History Project website, and his video is posted here: www.chicagogayhistory.com/biography.html?id=582
Helizon was born in Chicago Oct. 25, 1945. He attended Holy Innocents grammar school, and remembered being taunted for being effeminate. After experiencing harassment for being gay, he was kicked out of Cathedral High School and finished his education at Wells High School.
"When I got asked to leave high school, it took me a while before I could go back to mass," Helizon said in his history project interview. "Because I love mass, I love my faith, I love praying. I just do. I finally went back and I reconciled. I realized that it wasn't the being, it was the people." He was told about a welcoming Catholic group, Dignity/Chicago which met at the old St. Sebastian's, at Halsted and Wellington. "I walked in there, and when I walked in, I thought I had met Jesus Christ personally."
Helizon was committed from that point to changing the church from within. He joined Dignity's board and years later when Dignity was forced to split by the Catholic Church, when AGLO was formed, Helizon joined the new Catholic Church-sanctioned AGLO. He was involved with them for two decades in numerous roles.
Helizon participated in pride parades and protests, including the 1970s protest against Anita Bryant at Medinah Temple, where he said he proudly carried the Dignity banner.
GayLife newspaper also ran a gossip column by Ron Helizon during the 1970s, when the paper was owned by Grant Ford.
Visitation will be held Tuesday, March 15th, 4 - 9 p.m. at Drake & Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western Ave., Chicago. Friends and family will meet Wednesday, March 16th at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, 708 W. Belmont, Chicago for Mass at 10 a.m. Memorial contributions may be made to the Howard Brown Health Center, Attention: Development, 3837 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613.