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Local passages in 2012
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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—John Pennycuff: A nearly indefatigable LGBT activist and community figure, Pennycuff died Jan. 29 following a two-month illness. He was 47. Pennycuff and partner Robert Castillo were at the forefront of countless LGBT causes. Pennycuff served on the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Mayor's Advisory Council on LGBT Issues, was a member of Queer Nation Chicago, was office manager of Windy City Media Group for several years, and had worked for the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce and for 35th Ward Ald. Rey Colon.

—Jeff Geiger: Geiger, a longtime employee of Charlie's Chicago and the face of drag persona Minerva Rex, died June 4 of a heart attack. He was 48. Geiger raised thousands of dollars for local organizations like Vital Bridges and Autism Speaks by performing as Minerva Rex at benefits, and he used his drag talents almost solely for charitable causes.

—Sasha Valentino: The legendary Chicago-based female impersonation performer, passed away on Dec. 26 after a long battle with dementia. She was 40. Valentino was a nationally known pageant performer, whose titles were many and whose chosen family was extensive.

—Merry Mary, aka Mary Featherston: A longtime LGBT ally, Mary died Dec. 30 after a short battle with cancer at age 77. Mary was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame as a Friend of the Community in 2005.

—Harold Mandel: Mandel, 58, the flamboyant owner of an equally flamboyant vintage clothing store, Flashy Trash, died Oct. 22 of complications from AIDS. Flashy Trash, a store located most recently at 3524 N. Halsted, closed several years ago, but its customers—from LGBTs to North Shore heterosexual women to Hollywood elites—remember it for its wide range of clothing, reinforced from Mandel's 500,000-object, 5,000-square-foot warehouse collection.

—Mark Aguhar: A celebrated local visual and performance artist and poet, Aguhar died March 12 at age 24. Aguhar was in the M.F.A. program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. According to an artist statement on her website, her work was a "continuous exploration of queer expression and what it means to have grown up gay on the Internet."

—Gene Janowski: One of small group of people who planned Chicago's annual Pride Parade, Janowski passed away suddenly in November. He was 68. Janowski was involved in several local LGBT organizations, and he wrote columns for GayLife Newspaper, Windy City Times and Gay Chicago Magazine.

—Steve Starr: Renowned photographer Steve Starr, a fixture on Chicago's social scene and a man who celebrated old Hollywood, passed away Nov. 12 after collapsing outside the Drake Hotel, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He was 65. Starr was planning a party next month to mark 45 years in the business.

—Ann-Kirstine "Stina" Rogal: Rogal, a larger-than-life personality whose dance lessons at Charlie's bar kept Chicago's LGBT community two-stepping for 15 years, died April 3 after a battle with esophageal cancer. She was 55.

—Paige Clay: Paige Clay, a transgender woman who many believed to be a rising luminary in Chicago's ball scene, was found shot to death on Chicago's West Side in April; she was 23. Clay's murder spurred a national conversation about violence against transgender people.

—Tiffany Gooden: Tiffany Gooden, a 19-year-old transgender woman, was found murdered this August, three blocks from where Paige Clay, another trans woman, was killed. Gooden and Clay had been close friends, and their murders prompted local activists to begin organizing efforts to cut down on violence against transgender people.

—Martin Dorsey: Dorsey, a young man who fought the stereotyping of LGBT youth of color in Chicago, died July 18, just two days before his birthday. He was 20 years old. In 2009, Dorsey started working on the Youth Pride Services' Code Red project, which was formed to highlight the voices of Black gay youth who were opposed to the perceived increase of violence in Lakeview.

—Maurice "JacJac" Blandin Jr.: Blandin, died in late April at age 21. Blandin was active in Chicago's ball scene and had a large community of friends, many of whom stayed at his South Side home on weekends.

—Mike Barnes: A longtime pharmacist at the Walgreens in Lakeview, died unexpectedly after an emergency colonoscopy in early December. He had been a bowler in local gay leagues since the 1980s. He was 56. His late partner Bart Rarick also died earlier in the year.

—Melvin "Mel" Earl Koschnitzki: A retired cosmologist/hairstylist and veteran of the U.S. Navy and Reserves, Koschnitzki passed away unexpectedly at home Dec. 4; he was 72. He is survived by his partner of 26 years, Thomas Firestone.

—Fred M. Zucker: a retired gallery director at Merrill Chase and Sears Vincent Price Art Galleries, opera aficionado, dedicated bicyclist and member of Chi-Town Squares—passed away peacefully Oct. 8. He was 88. In an interview with Zucker recorded on, he discussed the Center on Halsted, his identity and community involvement (joining the Mattachine Society in the 1960s, and many other groups subsequently).

—Gary Skala: Chicago gay activist Gary Skala passed away Nov. 6. In Chicago, he was active with the Metropolitan Community Church, the Night Ministry, and theaters including Bailiwick Repertory.

—Barbara Ann Schon-Lundberg: Schon-Lundberg, a longtime LGBT advocate and PFLAG activist died Oct. 28 at age 62 of brain cancer. During her life, she worked with AIDS patients at Chicago House, BE-HIV: Evanston, The Names Project, and Safe Schools Illinois, and the Northern Illinois PFLAG Council, acting as President at the time of her diagnosis. She lobbied for Marriage Equality with Equality Illinois and many other LGBT issues.

—Jay Miller: Jay Miller, the longest-serving executive director of the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), died Jan. 3 of complications related to emphysema, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He was 83.

—Rev. David Holzhauer: Holzhauer, the former pastor of Holy Covenant Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Hinsdale, passed away March 19. Holzhauer most recently served as assistant pastor at King of Peace MCC in St. Petersburg, Fla., but he led Holy Covenant MCC in the western Chicago suburbs from 1987 to 1989.

—Catherine "Geege" Borovina: The longtime Chicago activist and businesswoman died Aug. 19 after a brief illness. Borovina and her partner, Leslie Fisher, owned a popular bar in Old Town. They have been supportive of a wide range of community causes, and were part of the gay bowling leagues for many years.

—Frank Sieple: Frank Sieple, a longtime HIV/AIDS activist with ACT UP/Chicago, passed away suddenly Jan. 5 at age 51. Sieple was an early leader of ACT UP/Chicago, participating in actions throughout Chicago with Danny Sotomayor, Tim Miller and others who protested the government's silence as AIDS ravaged Chicago's gay community.

—Marilyn C. Urso: A "second mother" to many HIV-positive Chicagoans through her nursing at Howard Brown Health Center, Urso died Jan. 10 after a short battle with lung cancer. A Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame inductee, Urso was best known in Chicago's LGBT community as a longtime medical coordinator with the Multi-site AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), the world's largest and longest-running HIV study.

—Kevin Evans: Evans, a longtime Chicagoan and well-known poet, musician and artist, died Jan. 13 after a battle with non-alcohol-related liver disease at age 47. Evans was a scriptwriter, guitar player, poet, editor, graphic artist and video producer.

—Cynthia Pallick: Pallick, a gay parent and former Calumet City alderman, died April 16. She was 53. She served as Calumet City's 7th Ward alderman for six years. Pallick is survived by her son, Jacob Horvath, and partner, Cindy Horvath.

—Ernest "Ernie" T. Kramer, R.N.: Kramer, a retired longtime rehab nurse at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; deacon at Lakeview Presbyterian Church; and a member of Center on Halsted's SAGE group and Lakeview AARP, passed away peacefully April 14. He was 74.

—Allen Curtis "Curt" Clapper: Clapper, passed away March 18. Clapper, who was gay, was a longtime supporter of LGBT causes. He spent many years in the retail book industry, including as partner in People Like Us Books, a gay and lesbian bookstore.

—Randall Wayne Williamson: Williamson, a member of the Chicago chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (gay veterans), died Jan. 29. Williamson served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 through 1969 and had been active with AVER Chicago for many years.

—David Wellington Hopkins: Hopkins, 56, of Edgewater, passed away April 18, after a long illness. He served as the Lincoln Park Lagooners' Chairman of the Board for several terms, during which time they were inducted into Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

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