Quigley buildingQuigley Class of '61 Renunion

[img, 6/9/2012]
(Jose at the June 9, 2012 Reunion Mission Party.)

Jose died Tuesday morning December 15, 2015. Many Q61A classmates were able to be at the funeral Mass and services.

Antonio Acevedo's eulogy to his father, Dr. José Antonio Acevedo, at the December 19, 2015 Funeral Mass.


Papi’s Eulogy

December 19, 2015

Y ahora es tiempo para hablar sobre mi papá, José Antonio Acevedo. Él se conocía por muchos nombres, apodos y títulos.

Tanyia y yo le decíamos Papi, Mami le decía Cariñito, Papo y otras cosas. También se conocía como Tío y Abuelo.

So now I’m going to go into English, but I may go back into Spanish every so often, so I apologize in advance if there are any non-Spanish speakers.

Papi was born in a hospital in the Santurce area of San Juan on July 20, 1938. He was the seventh child of Juan Acevedo Cuevas and Ursula Colón Perez of Lares, Puerto Rico. His father was 54 and his mother was 46. (See Leti, you weren’t too old to have children; Abuelita beat you). He grew up in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of San Juan. There he was also known as “el cano” because of his light hair. His hair would eventually become darker and then turn grey. He became el “cano” again. Oh how I wish I had been blessed with his full head of grey hair. Instead I inherited other genes. Mami always made sure to cut Papi’s hair and keep him looking well groomed.

In 1950 he moved to Chicago at first settling in the Taylor St. area and then moving to West Town near the “Polish Triangle” area. It was tough growing up at that time. He came to Chicago not knowing English and was enrolled in Catholic School for 8th grade where he had classes in Polish in addition to English. Papi would tell a story about how he would hang around in the neighborhood with his friends and then they would get rounded up by the police for causing trouble. The police would line them up against a wall and ask their names. All of his friends had Polish names; and so when they got to him he would say Jose Acevedo and they would ask him, “Where are you from?” The next time he was out with friends and got rounded up by the police and got asked his name he said, “Yusef Acevedioski”, and they just continued on to the next kid. That was when Papi had a Polish name.

When Papi finished high school at Holy Trinity on Division St. he wanted to go onto college, as you know education was very important to him. When he inquired at Loyola University, he told me that they told him he was not college material. Of course that didn’t stop him. After he eventually discerned a call to the priesthood he went to the seminary. During his time in the seminary, he even spent time in a mission in San Miguelito, Panamá. When he graduated from St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein he became known by another name, Padre Acevedo.

As the first Puerto Rican Archdiocesan priest in Chicago, Padre Acevedo baptized and married many Puerto Ricans in Chicago while he was at St. Aloysius on Western Ave. To this day I run into people who tell me they were married or baptized by my father. As you all know, this would not last. Otherwise, my sister and I wouldn’t be here right now. A combination of frustration with how the Church was serving the Latino community and his falling in love with a nun, Sister Providence, or as I call her, Mami, led to his leaving the Church. According to sources, while Mami was a nun at St. Boniface, where all of Papi’s family attended and where some of my cousins went to school and my mother even taught, they met at a dance. Of course that would be how they met –dancing. After Papi officially left the priesthood and Mami the order, they got married in May of 1971 and then left Chicago for Boston to escape the controversy. They returned a few years later with two children and reestablished their lives in Chicago. That’s when he became Mami’s cariñito.

Arguably one of his greatest accomplishments was in 1975 or so when he founded El Centro of Northeastern Illinois University and served as its director for about 20 years. As a satellite extension of Northeastern Illinois University, its mission was to make college accessible to the Latino population by offering the first two years of college at this facility in a Latino neighborhood at more convenient hours and in a bilingual setting as well. Towards the latter part of his tenure, El Centro provided coursework at higher levels and even served as a place for Latino educators to obtain coursework towards an administrative certificate. Papi always believed that through education we could level the playing field for minorities in this country. He was committed to that. His also had a dream that El Centro would have its own campus and not be housed in a leased facility as it was during his time there. And now not too far from here along the Kennedy you could see that brand new El Centro location.

Okay, I know I just mentioned a great accomplishment, I guess I need to mention another one. In 1995 Papi defended his dissertation titled: A descriptive and exploratory case study of El Centro 1975-1991: an Hispanic educational outreach center at Northeastern Illinois University. He was awarded an Ed.D., a doctorate in education, from Loyola University, the same institution that told him decades earlier that he wasn’t “college material”. I guess he showed them. That’s when he became Doctor Acevedo and currently serves as my inspiration as I worked toward my Ed.D. also from Loyola University.

And now for his role as husband, father, and grandfather. Of course, it is no doubt that he instilled in his children the importance of an education and hard work. He also showed us that you could be a serious student and a director of a program and still have fun on the weekends. Papi’s skill on the dance floor is no secret to anyone who knew him. He enjoyed dancing, telling corny jokes, and being around family. Having lost him just before Christmas is especially difficult, as Christmas was his favorite time of the year as it was for his brother, my Tío Suso, whom we lost 13 years ago. Christmas for the family changed a lot after Tío Suso passed; I can’t imagine what it will be like for us this year. In addition, he enjoyed having family over to the lake house in the summer, which he said he bought for his grandchildren to enjoy, whom he adored. Finally, he also cherished spending time alone with Mami. He was extremely devoted to her and nothing made him happier than seeing Mami happy. I remember how he elated he was at Mami’s 70th birthday party, which many of you attended a few years ago, and how excited he was that we were able to surprise her. He was Mami’s cariñito.

It would not be fair to paint a picture of a perfect human being, because none of us is. And so Papi did have faults and one of them was his temper. Most of us who were close to him have had an experience with him and his anger. From when he, as Father Acevedo, went to stand up for his niece who was being picked on for being Puerto Rican, to when he disciplined his nephews and nieces, including the one he advocated for, as Tío José, you would know he was serious and that he was not afraid to let people know how he felt. A few years ago I remember an incident at the lake house during the 4th of July festivities when we celebrated just a little too much. My sister and a friend got into an argument. He then stepped in and told them he would kick both of their asses if they continued fighting. Of course after that they kissed and made up. Behind this anger, however, was Papi’s strong sense of justice and of what is right. How could he let people pick on his family members for being Puerto Rican in neighborhood that didn’t always accept them? How could he let his nieces and nephews give his sisters or brothers a hard time? How could he allow his daughter and her friend fight over something that didn’t seem so significant? That was Papi.

A couple of nights ago, my wife, Denise, had a dream after Papi died that an angel asked him if he would like to go to heaven flying or swimming. Papi was a great swimmer. However, after that a friend of the family sent me a message remembering how much she liked to dance with him and commented that he probably went to heaven dancing, I believe that is probably the way it happened. So in honor of my father's memory and remembering how he lived his life to the fullest and how he enjoyed dancing with his wife, daughter, his daughter-in-law, granddaughter, nieces, and friends I want to end by playing Vivir La Vida by Marc Anthony.

Papi vivió la vida a lo máximo. Por favor pónganse de pie y bailen el último baile en honor a Papi, Abuelo, Tío, el Doctor Acevedo, José Antonio Acevedo, cariñito. Como dice la canción:

Y para qué llorar, pa’ qué

si duele una pena, se olvida

y para qué sufrir, pa’ qué

si así es la vida, hay que vivirla

(play song)

Thank you.

Antonio Acevedo, acetony@aol.com, December 19, 2015 Funeral Mass.