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Albert Gaskin: A groundbreaking real estate agent
by Chasse Rehwinkel

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At the heart of Albert Gaskin's life was a love story, one that began more than 41 years ago on the corner of Clark and Division.

There, in a bar called Sam's, on Feb. 1, 1969, two young Chicagoans forged a lasting bond, a bond that would go unbroken for more than four decades, until Gaskin's passing in July.

"We always knew our exact anniversary," said Robert Bachand, Gaskin's longtime partner. "We have a framed piece of paper with my name and number on it in my handwriting and in his handwriting the date: Feb. 1, 1969. And that was it, after that moment we never dated anyone else ever again."

Gaskin will be remembered by many people within the Chicagoland area, for many different things.

In the African-American community he will be remembered as the real estate agent who broke down the unwritten segregated housing rules that plagued Evanston and the North Shore until the 1960s and '70s.

Among the North Shore realtor community, Gaskin will be remembered as the man who helped open up the reality business to all qualified persons, regardless of color or creed.

Evanstonians will remember his scholarship, rewarded to one African American graduating senior each year from the Evanston Township High School. And the LGBT community will remember Gaskin as a shining example of a strong, open and stable gay man.

But, above all of these accomplishments and characteristics, those who knew Albert Gaskin say that they will remember him for two qualities, his always gentleman-like nature and his strong integrity.

"He always wore a suit," said Bachand. "It would be the dark months of July and August, with the temperature at about 95 degrees, and I would say that he didn't have to wear a suit today. But he'd always reply, 'Yes I do.' He always wanted to look professional."

"A professional" might be the perfect way to describe Gaskin. Thriving in an industry that holds a less-than-pristine moral reputation, Gaskin was never known to be anything other than reliable in his business dealings.

At a recent open house, held in Gaskin's memory at his old real estate office, Bachand recalled the unwavering support he was shown by those who had turned up to show their respects.

"I'm not sure if most of the people even knew Albert was gay," said Bachand. "But they knew that I was Albert's partner and came up to me to give their condolences. No one was insincere, they all recalled how Albert had always been straight with them and that they never had to worry about Albert trying to sneak something past them."

Growing up in an age of intolerance and hatred, in a profession known for always seeking out the top dollar, Albert Gaskin defied tradition and public perception to rise to prominence in not only one community, but several.

And in his rise Gaskin became a pillar, an unwavering example of integrity and respect that broke down barriers and bound communities of long lasting differences together on at least one subject, their respect for Albert Gaskin.

Forty-one years is a long time to be in a relationship. Ask any long lasting couple and they will say it takes tremendous strength, effort and love to keep a relationship strong for nearly of half century.

For Gaskin, a man remembered for his determination and strength, his relationship with Robert Bachand is the perfect summarization of his life. Gaskin knew what he wanted and was willing to put in as much effort as necessary to make this happen, doubters be dammed.

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