I regret I must interject some very sad news on what ordinarily is a day of joy. The 49th Ward community has lost a very dear friend. Democratic Committeeman David Fagus passed away on Christmas Eve. He was 52 years old.
As you may know, David struggled with kidney disease much of his adult life. He received a life-saving kidney transplant over a decade ago and for the next ten years lived a healthy productive life, but about two and a half years ago the transplant failed and he became seriously ill. After a lengthy hospitalization and recovery at home, he was able to return to work earlier this year and assume some of his duties as Committeeman.
Sadly, he suffered a relapse about two weeks ago and was hospitalized. He had begun to recover and we were hopeful he would be returning home soon. Tragically it was not to be.
David lived a life dedicated to public service. He served the medically uninsured and underinsured for more than 20 years, working under five administrations in the Cook County health system. Most recently, he worked with Governor Pat Quinn utilizing his experience in health care and finance to begin the process of building the Illinois Health Information Exchange, an electronic medical records system that allows your personal records to be safely and securely available when you allow your doctor to have them.
David was a lifelong resident of Edgewater and Rogers Park. He attended Sacred Heart Academy and graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1980. He went on to earn his B.A. in political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield and his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Roosevelt University.
I first met David 24 years ago, when I ran for alderman against his boss, Alderman Bob Clarke, who Mayor Daley had just appointed alderman. David was Bob’s chief-of-staff. Though it was a hard-fought campaign, and though he was part of the “Regular” Democratic Party and I was an “Independent” Democrat, David and I became friends, having a shared affinity for both politics and the Chicago Cubs.
In 1993, David was offered the position of 49th Ward Democratic Committeeman by retiring CommitteemanLee Preston. David sat down with me and said he would accept the position only if we could work together. I readily agreed and we began the process of merging our two organizations into one unified 49th Ward Democratic Party.
David was a true practitioner of the “big tent” theory of political involvement. Under his leadership, the 49th Ward Democratic Party for the first time became truly reflective of the diversity of our ward. He adopted the Independent Democrats’ grassroots approach to politics. Under his leadership, the Democratic Party of the 49th Ward became the first Democratic Ward organization in the City to allow its members to determine which candidates for office to endorse rather than letting the party leaders control the process.
In 2003, when Barack Obama was a relatively unknown state senator from the south side of Chicago, David Fagus became the first north side committeeman to endorse him for the U.S. Senate.
And in 2007-2008, David committed our organization to helping elect Barack Obama President of the United States, leading delegations of 49th Ward volunteers to Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio to help Obama win the Democratic Party’s nomination. He led hundreds of volunteers back to Iowa in the general election and helped turn Iowa into a Democratic/Obama win.
In short, he didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk.
As much as politics was his passion, David also devoted a good portion of his time to community activities, serving as a member, board member, contributor or volunteer in countless projects, committees and organizations. Organizations such as PB49, the 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee, the Rogers Park Business Alliance, the Rogers Park Section 8 Tenants Council and the Morse Avenue Redevelopment Task Force benefited greatly from his hard work and insights.
But most of all, I will miss his friendship and his candid advice and counsel. He always called it as he saw it, even if it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear. Only a true friend will do that for you.
David is survived by his beloved mother, Dorothy, and brother, Mark, as well as a niece, Sarah, and a nephew, Matthew (see photo on right).
Details on services are pending. I will let you know as soon as I find out.
Rest in peace, my friend.