Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2016-11-30
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Emotional 80 years for gay Chicagoan
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2013-06-26

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Bill Rydwell turned 80 years old Oct. 9, 2012, but he wasn't celebrating. In fact, he hasn't celebrated a birthday in almost 30 years.

Back on July 13, 1985, Rydwell and Pedro "Franco" Prieto, partners of 17 years, went together to be tested for HIV. Both learned they were HIV-positive.

Less than three months later, on what was Rydwell's 53rd birthday, Prieto died.

Rydwell's world truly changed.

"I got in the car after [Prieto's] funeral, called my family and said I was coming to Chicago," Rydwell said in an interview at his Lakeview apartment. "I didn't tell them what was wrong, or how Franco died. I didn't want to say much."

Rydwell drove to Chicago, "and I was expecting, within one year, to be dead."

Instead, Rydwell has been instrumental in changing the lives of countless others living with HIV/AIDS.

In 1987, Chris Clason placed an ad in Gay Chicago, looking to start a support group for HIV-positive people. Rydwell was one of 17 who attended the first meeting with Clason—this was the beginning of the Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN).

Within a year, the group had more than 200 members. They had meetings on Tuesday and Friday nights, plus picnics around Memorial Day, Labor Day and Pride.

"What Chris did was, he arranged to have doctors, lawyers, social workers and others come and talk to us. He had professional people talk, all donating their time," Rydwell said. "We determined what we needed, how we were going to be run, etc."

Rydwell was one of four who welcomed all newcomers to the group, and each of those newcomers was required to first attend an hour-long meeting. "We'd give them a presentation of who we were, tell them that we have no [concrete] answers," Rydwell said.

Of the 17 who started the support group, only four or five are still living, Rydwell said.

"It was an absolutely horrendous period," Rydwell said of the 1980s when almost everyone in the LGBT community was impacted, somehow, by HIV/AIDS. Deaths then were more common than recovery once diagnosed, if ever diagnosed.

Rydwell said that there was no outside signage mentioning the TPAN support meetings—because some members requested there not be a sign since they didn't want to be seen going in somewhere associated with HIV/AIDS.

"[Through] every person who has died [from HIV/AIDS], we've lost something. We had doctors, lawyers, social workers, poets, painters, actors [and other professionals] all die from AIDS. What did we lose? So, so many," Rydwell said.

Thus, before he goes to bed, Rydwell prays. "I find it necessary in my way of praying, to name those who I can remember [who died from AIDS] every night.

"They never should be forgotten."

Rydwell, born in Chicago and a 1950 graduate of Carl Schurz High School. He then went on to Northern Illinois University.

Rydwell retired in 1988, and was forced to start using a walker to get around in 2012. Still, he's mobile, active, watches a lot of TV and his mind is sharp. He still enjoys traveling, and does so regularly.

Rydwell also has battled cancer twice.

"I believe very much in a God. I really believe there has to be someone there because I shouldn't be here, and yet everything has worked out so perfectly for me," he said. "I think it's sad that we still haven't learned to respect and work with another, to the best of everyone's benefit.

"The only thing I think I did [through TPAN] was, show people that, if you take care of yourself and follow the rules, you can still be here and have a life."

Rydwell still regularly participates in TPAN's twice-a-week support group for older adults, Daytimers, and held every Monday and Thursday morning. The group originally was formed for people who couldn't make it to evening meeting because they didn't have the energy at night due to their sickness, he said. "It was where we went to talk, be together," Rydwell said. "As things improved [medically for those infected], we no longer needed that [time for the group], but we still use it now to stay in contact."

They joke and laugh today, cry about years past.

"We were the pariah [years ago], but one of the great things to come out of TPA was that I realized I wasn't the pariah any more than any other sick person," Rydwell said. "Slowly, over time, people began to see us and respect us."

So what is gay Chicago like, circa 2013, for someone who has seen the city longer than many Sidetrack regulars on a Saturday night have even been alive.

Comfort—in his community, he said.

Rydwell sees younger gays walking along Halsted Street holding hands. He shakes his head and admits it kills him because he wanted to do that years ago, but never could.

"What I see [nowadays] is what I wish would have happened for me," he said. "In my day, I felt badly to even tell my family, 'Hey, Franco and I are celebrating our 15th anniversary. We're having a party; do you want to come over?'"

And when asked about LGBT now getting married, Rydwell again shakes his head, astonished.

"I never really told my dad how much I loved him … because he was a man," Rydwell said. "That's the era I grew up in."


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.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Trans pioneer Judy Bowen looks back at community changes 2016-11-30 - Trans activist Judy Bowen, 72, has seen a lot. She moved to New York from the South in the mid 1960s and quickly ...


Gay News

An Uber-driven love story 2016-11-30 - If you are one of the many thousands who will take an Uber in Chicago this season whether to holiday parties, shows or ...


Gay News

WORLD AIDS DAY PROFILE Jim Petrakis: Consultant becomes face of HIV/AIDS 2016-11-30 - Most people may not know Jim Petrakis—but just about everyone is familiar, either directly or indirectly, with what he has gone through the ...


Gay News

In the Life: Betsy Ade 2016-11-30 - Well-Known Strangers was formed about 18 months ago, and the group just recently celebrated its first show. There's nothing but smiles going forward ...


Gay News

BUSINESS The story of a suit: A woman's custom tuxedo at Dapper Club 2016-11-30 - Amy Silverman wanted a tuxedo. She had a few weddings and charity evenings coming up, and she wanted to look like James Bond. ...


Gay News

Airbnb to provide more LGBT-friendly spaces in Chicago 2016-11-23 - Airbnb is looking to grow its LGBT host base throughout Chicago amidst an updated anti-discrimination effort. Windy City Times spoke with two ...


Gay News

POLITICS Mike Quigley talks VA, Trump and the 2017 Congress 2016-11-23 - U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley ( D-Ill. ) has been a fierce champion of LGBTQ rights on Capitol Hill. Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT ...


Gay News

Chicagoans heading to Standing Rock to fight pipeline on Native land 2016-11-18 - The following press release is from Chicagoans, including LGBTQs, who are raising funds to bring donations of cash and supplies to Native Americans ...


Gay News

In the Life: Manny Joson 2016-11-16 - Manny Joson had just completed his bachelor's degree in interior design from Harrington College of Design and was working as an interior designer. ...


Gay News

PODCASTS Black queer curiosity: Collective Postloudness takes on humanity 2016-11-09 - A high-tech co-working space nestled into Elston Avenue, where Cards Against Humanity has offices, might seem as an unlikely home for Postloudness, a ...


 



Copyright © 2016 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.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.

www.windycitymediagroup.com
[email protected]  •  [email protected]  •  [email protected]

Website Powered by LoveYourWebsite.com