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On June 23, 2012, when I was ordained (relatively late in my life) as a minister, I was profoundly honored that the guest preacher for that occasion was the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who had been my pastor for many years. My home church was Trinity United Church of Christ, and I pastored for several years at Church of the Good Shepherd in Washington Park.

I was also invited to choose one speaker who would address those who attended the ceremony. Although I had met scores of very admirable people during what was then my more than 40 years of civic engagement in Chicago, my choice was easy: Chuy García. Why? Because Chuy represented all that I aspired to be: inclusive, compassionate, wise, unflinchingly committed to equity for all, and unfailingly present wherever he could make a difference.

I first met Chuy when he worked on Harold Washington’s 1983 mayoral campaign. My late husband, Al Raby, was Washington’s campaign manager at the time. Al quickly grew to love Chuy, because he represented Al’s, and Washington’s, highest value: a city that worked for all of its residents to have full and equal opportunity to succeed and thrive. 

It wasn’t just the values, however; it was the work. I quickly learned, as have others, that Chuy had seemingly inexhaustible energy to support projects he valued. In 2016, and for several years after that, I was one of three founding trainers in the Multicultural Leadership Academy presented by the Latino Policy Forum. The academy is an eight-month program building leadership skills and cross-cultural understanding among emerging African American and Latino leaders in Chicago. Chuy gave a lot of thought and attention to that program, helping us with the original design and continuing to show  up year after year to interact with the participants. They always wanted more from him, and he gave it.  

He also showed up at other programs I led or created from 2012 onward, including monthly dinner meetings, called Unity Dinners,  among residents of North Lawndale and Little Village to build more understanding between those communities, and health programs for staff and participants at community-based organizations such as Chicago Commons, Erie Neighborhood House and Enlace. 

He didn’t rush in, recite some canned talking points, and rush out – his comments were always thoughtful and tailored to the attendees, and they could tell that he really wanted to be there. He could talk the talk, but more importantly, he walked the walk, and that was always evident.

My husband, Al, passed away in 1988. At the end of most of the days of our marriage, Al would ask me a question: “Patty, where have your feet been today?” There were two aspects to that question. One was obvious: Where have you been and who have you helped? The less obvious, metaphorical part, was, “Whose shoes have you walked in today?” What have you done to keep building your understanding and compassion?” I can’t imagine that anyone in Chicago can answer both parts of that question more affirmatively than Chuy García.

was born and raised on the South Side. She has conceived and led projects for racial equity and social justice in Chicago for more than 50 years. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships at DePaul University. She holds doctoral degrees in ministry and clinical psychology.