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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Lesbian couple talk relationship, softball, bone-marrow search
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2018-12-23

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During the summer of 1989, Betty Kollar and Julie Iverson met through a mutual friend and began hanging out at the now-defunct lesbian club, Paris Dance, after their 16-inch softball games. Soon after, on May 5, 1990, they went on their first date and have been together ever since. They had a civil union Oct. 6, 2012 and, two years later, Cook County classified it as a marriage, retroactively.

Both Kollar and Iverson were born in Chicago and lived on opposite sides of the city—Kollar in Hermosa Park and Iverson in South Shore. Kollar graduated from Lane Tech High School and received her BA in liberal arts from Chicago State University. Iverson went to Aquinas High School and got her BA and MA in physical education from Chicago State University and MA in educational leadership from Governors State University.

After working numerous jobs, including at a health club, Kollar spent 30 years as a FedEx Express courier and recently retired. Iverson spent 38 years in education, with the last 15 years as an administrator until she retired in 2014.

Not only does the couple love softball, but they also have favorite baseball teams: Kollar's is the Cubs and Iverson's is the White Sox.

Due to their excellence on the softball field over 20-plus years, they were both inducted into Chicago's 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame—Iverson in 2019 and Kollar in 2012.

For most of their softball careers, they played on different teams and were very competitive even when they played against each other.

"The Beverly and Mt. Greenwood neighborhoods were big on 16-inch softball," said Kollar. "When the local [now former] Alderwoman Ginger Rugai was diagnosed with Breast cancer, a 16-inch 'Y-Me' women's softball tournament was born. We played at St. Christina's Fields. Since then it has grown into the largest tournament in Chicago and has raised thousands of dollars."

"It was a powerful day," said Iverson. "Survivors playing, teams whose name was a family member who had lost the battle. It was an all day and all night dancing party of women supporting women."

"We loved softball so much that we even played outside in the winter," said Kollar. "Lincoln Park was the site of an annual snowball tournament. Looking back, how crazy was that."

"Playing 16-inch softball brings you a unique Chicago connection that you will not find anywhere else in the city," said Iverson.

"It has brought us lasting relationships with teammates, coaches and sponsors," said Kollar. "The 16-inch Softball Hall of Fame exemplifies this fact. The founders have included everyone and continue to promote the game in the city. Go check out the museum located at the corner of Harrison Street and Desplaines Avenue in Forest Park to see memorabilia from our games and tournaments."

Now the couple calls Fort Myers, Florida, home, having moved there five years ago. For Iverson, the move was necessary for health reasons.

"FedEx offers job transfers and when a position was posted there I joined Julie five months after we sold our Beverly home," said Kollar.

"We like South Florida because of the warm winter weather," said Iverson. "We love the wildlife and beautiful flowers. The gay community may be small in comparison to Chicago but they have pride fest and some businesses we try to frequent. Also, there is always Key West."

"We miss some of our favorite Chicago foods,—pizza, Italian beefs and gyros," Kollar added. "When we come visit here, those are the foods we gravitate to."

Over the years the couple has celebrated Pride month, supported human-rights causes and the ACLU. Recently, they attended the 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C. and worked on Dem. House candidate David Holden's campaign ( who lost to incumbent Rep. Francis Rooney ) in what they call "a very red district."

They also love spending time with their 60 nieces and nephews—of which there are more than 60 of them. Of the many things they did with their nieces and nephews, the couple cited trips to baseball and football games, skating rinks, state parks, Disney World, the District of Columbia and Cancun, Mexico, along with celebrating weddings and graduations as the most memorable over the years.

However, one of their relatives is involved in a critical battle. Their youngest nephew—18-year-old Kyle Kollar, whom they took to music lessons and on camping trips—recently graduated from Taft High School and is currently battling leukemia which was discovered when he was admitted to Lutheran General Hospital with headaches and a low blood count. The family is looking for a bone-marrow donor match, but have been unsuccessful thus far.

They are working with Vitaliant's Be The Match program and have asked anyone willing to take the test to fill out the registration form at https://join.bethematch.org/s/landing?language=en_US&ref=match4kyle&refUrl=ENDREFURL.

For those who are ineligible to donate bone marrow, visit https://www.gofundme.com/a-match-for-kyle-kollar.


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