Barbara J. "BeeJay" Hollowell, 72, passed away Nov. 24 at her home in Franklin Parkwith her life partner of 34 years, Kea M. "Kookie" Kelly, and dear friend Patti King at her sideafter a three-and-a-half year battle with cancer. A celebration of her life will be held in the coming weeks.
BeeJay was born April 17, 1943. She came to Chicago in 1976 and was a professional wood finisher for many years, and then worked for the Illinois Tollway. She was also a certified alcoholism counselor, attending the program at Grant Hospital, and helping many people during her life.
BeeJay was a founding member of the New Town Alano Club ( NTAC ), the first alano club in the United States for LGBT recovering people. BeeJay and other sober alcoholics created a safe place in 1983 for LGBT alcoholics and addicts, initially on West Diversey Parkway. After a fire destroyed the original club, the NTAC moved to 3238 N. Clark Street, then to a space further north at Clark and Montrose, and now is back at 909 W. Belmont Ave.
Throughout its many years, the NTAC has served the needs of Chicago's gay recovering community as a space for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, as well as providing a sober space for social events and educational outreach. Through BeeJay's years of selfless work, the lives of many thousands of individuals have been spared from active alcoholism and addiction.
BeeJay was also an early volunteer at the Chicago House and Social Service Agency. At the height of the plague years, she and Kookie cared for many people living with HIV/AIDS. They helped to establish the volunteer program of Chicago House, now celebrating its 30th year of providing much-needed services.
BeeJay was tiny but mighty. Barely five feet tall, she had a powerful presence when she stepped into a room. She and Kookie were well-loved and known in Chicago's LGBT community for their many acts of kindness and support of countless people.
She is remembered by her life partner of 34 years, Kea M. "Kookie" Kelly; her sister, Ruth Hollowell, of Jeffersonville, Indiana; her dear friend, Patti King; her many friends in her AA family; and the thousands of people whose lives were impacted her kindness, strength and example of decades of sobriety.