Grassroots political organizer and LGBTQ activist Cole N. Ansier died July 13 due to complications from a genetic health condition. He was 35.
Ansier was born April 10, 1984, in Rockford, Illinois, and grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, where he graduated from Janesville Craig High School. He received a drama, arts and stagecraft bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007.
In 2009, Ansier moved to Chicago to work as a production manager at NORC at the University of Chicago and was working there at the time of his death. Prior to coming to Chicago, Ansier worked for the University of Wisconsin Foundation as a floor manager.
When Ansier was not working, he campaigned for numerous local, state and national Democratic candidates, taking part in Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential race; the campaigns of many Congressional candidates; Kevin B. Morrison's and Donna Miller's Cook County Board races ( which they won ); and the electoral contests of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and various city aldermanic candidates.
Ansier also organized the Feb. 25, 2017, Stand Up for Transgender Rights rally with Morrison to protest against the Trump administration's anti-trans policies. He volunteered for many LGBTQ, immigrant and anti-violence organizations and set up a website called Let's Unfuck America with his friend Robin Dusek that included information about Democratic races across the country.
Dusek told Windy City Times that Ansier loved data, politics and democracy and spent countless hours putting together a searchable spreadsheet that included all House and Senate races, the partisan lean of the state/district, how much fundraising the Democratic candidate had achieved and polling averages. This spreadsheet was widely distributed and allowed users to target donations to where their dollars could be most impactful during the midterms.
Ansier is survived by his partner James Maines, father Nick Ansier; grandparents Daniel R. and Judith Ansier and Al Lembrich; many aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family as well as his chosen family and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother Diane L. Lembrich and grandmother Nancy Lembrich.
"Cole was, by far, the single most impactful person that has come in to my life," said Maines. "His caring spirit, loving heart and commitment to public service are only a few of the numerous qualities that solidified my love for him. He encouraged and inspired me to be my absolute best and to stand up and fight for the rights and wellness of all people. I will honor him by living my life as he did. I am so lucky to call him mine, but I could not be prouder to see that all who came in contact with him also saw him for the incredible person that he was. He will be in my heart forever. I love you Cole."
"Cole gave selflessly to the world," said Dusek. "He was an activist who never once centered himself in the process and always gave so much more than he ever asked for. Where others talked, Cole listened and absorbed so that he could better support his friends, community and country. His patience, caring and gentleness made those around him feel safe and supported, but he would always battle for what was right and just.
"He made himself vulnerable in ways few people do. It is so difficult to describe him, but he would check in and ask how my dogs were doing, or if my cats had found a good place to sleep. But he would also work to understand ways he could support marginalized communities by truly listening what individuals had to say and also examining data that could shed light on issues not captured in conversations of those he interacted with. I am angry he died so young because he should have had so many more decades to make the world a better place. I will miss him and especially his gentle and compassionate nature."
"I am heartbroken and at a loss for words," said Morrison. "Cole was a great friend and a tireless advocate. I met Cole for the first time at O'Hare during the Travel Ban protests and we became fast friends. We organized together, traveled to [Washington, D.C.] for the Progressive Change Candidate Committee candidate training and went to Detroit for a DNC forum. We were sitting together in the Senate Chambers, and witnessed the historic moment when then Sen. John McCain voted 'No'. Losing Cole is a great loss for Chicago and our country. He and his activism will be sorely missed, but never forgotten."
"Cole was an incredible, caring and gentle soul," said friend Keelie Fallon. "His kindness and generosity of spirit, time and energy will live on through everyone touched by his life. I still cannot believe he has been taken from us. We will miss him so much."
"Your presence and passionate advocacy will be painfully missed Cole," said friend John West. "The world lost a great person who dedicated many hours of volunteering to elect good people and right the wrongs in society. We will miss you dearly."
A funeral mass will take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday, July 19, at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 1245 Clark St., Janesville, Wisconsin.
Ansier's Chicago friends are planning a local memorial for him that will be shared soon at coleansier.com/ .