Jeremy Begy, an original member of the Chicago Dragons gay rugby team, passed away at his northside residence on July 18. He was 41.
Begy was a graduate of Loyola Academy in suburban Chicago and Loyola University. He recently went back to school to further his education and pursue a career as a paralegal. Begy began playing rugby in college. After graduating, he continued to play with the Dragons.
"To say that Jeremy was a big presence on the Dragons is an understatement," as Begy joined the team for its inaugural season in the spring of 2004, said longtime Dragons member Bhuttu Mathews.
"Jeremy was definitely an 'acquired taste.' There was nobody who would step up as eagerly to welcome a new player or be present for a teammate who was in personal distress, [but] Jeremy's extremely strong political opinions, which leaned on the extreme right, made him stand out, particularly as a gay man. Balancing these two personas were what those of us who were close to Jeremy saw him live and often struggle with."
Mathews said Begy was "headstrong as a player, just as he was as in life."
"He wouldn't come out of matches even when it was apparent he was playing through injuries. True to Jeremy's form, he would bounce right back up, shake it off and continue playing. He hated being pulled from a gamethe mark of a true competitor."
Mathews said his favorite memory of Begy was in the 2006 Bingham Cup, held in New York City. Chicago had just defeated Atlanta for the second consecutive day, the second time was in the playoffs. Mathews had kicked the game-winning penalty goal with no time remaining and Begy was the first teammate to reach Mathews. "We hugged and jumped while screaming in joy as our teammates bunched up on us," Mathews said. "Those early days of sharing painful losses, bleeding on the pitch together, and playing our own roles in creating what is now a winning club brought us closer together."
Begy stopped playing for the Dragons in 2007 for about four years due to multiple injuries. He returned to play in 2011 and retired in 2016 "when he felt he had given everything his body could give," Mathews said.
Begy was a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan.
"Jeremy's love for his teammates was his greatest gift to uswe could love each other no matter what our social or political beliefs [were, or how they differed]. And those of us who knew him the longest loved him the most. We are much poorer for his loss," Mathews said.
Former Dragons team president Paul Cannella said, "It's still really hard to believe that Jeremy has passed. Just way too young. I'll remember Jeremy as giving everything he had on the rugby pitch, and then enjoying every second afterwards. It didn't matter if we were in a plowed over corn field, a puddle of mud, or a dive bar. That was the best place to be at that moment in time, so enjoy it. RIP buddy and with you always."
Mike Turkal, president of the Dragons, has been part of the team for about four yearsand Begy was one of the first to introduce himself to Turkal and make him feel welcome. "I didn't know anyone and had never played rugby, so I was a bit nervous," Turkal said. "He was always smiling and eager to help the club. He will be missed, but always remembered as a founding member, teammate and brother."
Begy was always one of the first arrive to a Dragon event and one of the last to leave, recalled team member Robert Klein. "Whether it was a rugby match, fundraiser, or party, he always showed up with a smile on his face ready to go," Klein said. "When I joined the Dragons in 2013, he was very kind, welcoming and incredibly helpful as a teammate, which is why when I was the former recruitment chair for the team I knew that Begy would be an excellent veteran player for the rookies to look to for guidance and advice and he would show them the same kindness and welcoming attitude he showed me.
"Begy loved rugby and the Dragons very much. It was a part of him. He truly showed the spirit of 'Murphy,' our Dragon, at every match and event we had. The Dragons, his teammates, and his family will be with him always."
A funeral mass celebrating the life of Jeremy Begy will be held Friday, August 11, starting at 10 a.m., at Queen of All Saints Basilica ( 6280 N. Sauganash Avenue ) in Chicago. In lieu of flowers, gifts in his honor should be made to the Chicago Dragons Rugby Team at www.chicagodragons.org/support .