Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Father John Azzali has died

[NOTE: I have corrected the date of the memorial service, see below for more information] I received some sad and unexpected news today: Father John Azzali, a minister at the Sts. Sergius & Bacchus Catholic Parish in Jackson Heights, Queens died of a heart attack on Saturday, Sept. 22nd, according to an e-mail message that I received from the Queens Pride House.

I'd just seen John earlier this month at the 6th anniversary vigil in remembrance of the death my friend Eddie Garzon. At the vigil, I had a chance to briefly chat with him as we waited for Eddie's parents to show up. At the end of the vigil, Father Azzali was also gracious enough to lead those gathered in prayer and to introduce me when the Garzon family asked me to say a few words.

I must have met John when we were both on the founding board of the Queens Pride House back in mid-1990's and also were members of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club. He later became chair of the Queens Gays and Lesbians United (Q-GLU) for which he also went to produce a series of weekly public cable television shows on issues facing the borough's gay community.

I took this photo of John on June 4th, 2006, when he was named one of the Grand Marshall at the Queens LGBT Pride Parade, a much deserved honor for a man that devoted his life to the gay community in Queens through his tireless activism and his religious ministry to the LGBT community in the borough.

To those who know a little bit about the borough's entangled and fractured LGBT political world, I will always remember John for rising above the pettiness and posturing. Despite knowing that I have not necessarily been on the good side of the Queens LGBT political forces that be, John never let this keep him from greeting me warmly every time we saw each other and of asking after my partner and about life in general. That might be a small thing but I always thought this was such a loving gesture and something that truly defined who John was to the community and to the borough. I dare say that John was one of the few people that could really get along with everyone in and bring them together.

It had been a while since I had seen John and I am glad that I got a chance to talk to him on September 4th. Sometimes these things really come out of nowhere and I can't fail but feel that we just lost someone that was incredibly important to the LGBT community in Queens.

A public memorial service in honor of John's life will be held on Friday, October 5th at 7pm at the Community Methodist Church (81-10 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights; 7 train local to 82nd Street is the best option, you can also take the R/F/V/E Trains to 74th Street/Roosevelt Avenue). A private funeral service will also take place, no details are available.

1 comment:

Another Omnivore said...

I remember him. He lived in my building. always happy and friendly. A great loss