ERIC BULSECO CALIMAG
1965 - 2004
Chi-Town Squares member since 2000
On Sunday, July 25, 2004 while returning from Detroit's Fly-In, Eric Calimag passed away at the age of 38. As many people know, Eric had been ill for some time, suffering from diabetes and ongoing renal disease. He was traveling with Chi-Town member Michael Pemberton when he suffered arrhythmia and collapsed at a rest stop. He was taken to a local Indiana hospital, but complications from his chronic illnesses made it impossible to save him after that.
Eric had been a member of Chi-Town Squares since 2000, was the recent recipient of the Yellow Rock award for outstanding contributions to Chi- Town Squares, served tirelessly as newsletter editor, and had just been elected to the Chi-Town Board of Directors in May. Eric's contributions to Chi-Town are only overshadowed by his contributions to the lives of his friends and family, and he will be deeply missed.
An outpouring of love and sadness at his death was apparent at the wake and funeral, from his family and extended family of square dancers, chorus members and many, many friends. The wake was held on July 30 at Pomierski and Son Funeral Home, right down the block from his home at 32nd and Aberdeen. The funeral mass was held on July 31 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, followed by a luncheon at Ann Sathers, which celebrated his life.
Eric's family is encouraging people to donate gifts in his memory to any of the following charities, all of which Eric loved and was an integral part of: De La Salle Institute, Bonaventure House, Chi-Town Squares and Chicago Gay Men's Chorus.
On a personal note, I could not express enough the great things he has done for our club, especially taking on the unenviable role of taking on the editorship of the newsletter, giving it a fresh new look and design which I could not come close to. He never let his illnesses slow him down, which has certainly inspired me (and I’m sure most people who knew him) to live each moment of life to the fullest. At Jim Maxwell’s request, I am preparing the August 2004 issue of the Chi-Town Squares newsletter, Spread & Circulate, as a tribute to him, even as I am preparing for a life change myself which will relocate me to the New York area. I requested members to send in their recollections of Eric, many of which I will include here.
There are so many memories I have of Eric it is hard to pinpoint one as more significant than another. My first introduction to Eric was at Crossfire 2001. I was a non dancing participant and was a bit shy with a bit of negative attitude towards square dancing. Mostly the negative attitude was a result of my early experience with the art of square dancing in North Dakota. The teenager in me saying "Square Dancing" is a nerdy square thing, not cool at all".
Nancy introduced me to Eric, and then the dancing began. Eric made the choice to stand on the side lines with me and explain some of the calls, in a very fun loving humorous way. Then another non-dancer, who was a friend of Eric's came into the conversation, John Glover. At this point, the only folks I knew at Crossfire, were Nancy, Eric and John. From here, my memory gets a little fuzzy. But I do remember some rather goofy interaction between Eric and I out on the dance floor. I believe he even picked me up. And it was great to have the opportunity to meet and talk with John. I remember thinking wow, this is a lot of fun with a lot of really fun people.
Eric, along with Nancy, had a big part in my attitude change regarding square dancing. When I started the classes on September 11, 2001, Nancy was somewhere overseas, her destination was Greece, and I was concerned about her safety as well as what in the heck was happening in the world and whether or not there would continue to be a world as we had known it. Like, is this the beginning of the end, and if it was, my heart wanted to be with Nancy, not alone.
As I walked up the stairs at the church to my first lesson, I remember seeing Eric's smiling face. He took the time to listen to my crazy concerns, offered sound spiritual advice and took the scary emotional edge away. He lightened my day and reminded me that life is just one day at a time, live it and love it, because no one can count on tomorrow.
Eric, to me, was a very enlightened soul, intelligent, spiritual, philosophical, fun loving, humorous, kind, caring, compassionate, generous with his time and energy. I feel blessed to have known him, and I will miss him dearly. We all will. Thanks for opportunity to share.
— Glenna O’Doul
Eric and I used to talk about Type 1 Diabetes, which we both endured. Eric made it clear that he intended to live as fully as he could. Exactly a week before he died we talked about an email that Marge and I owed him about the Recyclers. He was very forgiving that we were late in sending it. And, because of problems, it was never sent.
— Joe Piersen
I met Eric when he was a House Supervisor at Bonaventure House, and I volunteered for him. It was Eric who introduced me to square dancing, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Eric immersed himself in his friends and his passions (which included Chi-Town, his work and CGMC). He was a cherished friend to me (following a very painful breakup to a five-year relationship). He helped me to "get back out there" in the mainstream, and during that time, we shared everything from our Bonaventure House work to theater and tennis.
Eric was very competitive, and I recall several very hot summer days when we had to play 6 or 7 sets because Eric kept losing and would not stop until he won at least one....Peter Janssen and I were his escorts to Wigstock in 2001, where his drag earned him the affectionate title of Amazon Woman (6'5" in heels!) He was truly the "belle of the ball" that evening.
We were always joking about the customs and habits of "his people" and the fact that he and Ken Lee, the President of Toronto's Across the Border Squares, were always getting mistaken for one another. The funny thing was Ken was Chinese, and Eric was Filipino...
Eric was an amazing friend who tirelessly lived his life to the fullest. I will miss him---his great sense of humor as well as his caring, selfless approach to life.
As a fairly new member of Chi-Town, I most recall Eric's consistently positive attitude and sparkling smile. I found him one of the friendliest and most open of the members I met last year.
— Lee Erickson
It should be an easy thing to remember amusing anecdotes about our good friend, Eric, but the sudden and untimely passing of our good friend stuns the mind. I remember him for his omnipresent smile, his love of square dancing, and his willingness to help out in any situation.
His face is indelible in my mind, and his friendship will never be forgotten. I do remember preparing for the dance last Halloween, and Eric constructed a series of marvelous spider webs around the hall. I nicknamed him "Spiderman", and will always remember that with a smile. Farewell Spiderman, good buddy. You will always be missed!
— George Nelson
As an older (read Old Queen) member of Chi-Town Squares, I wanted to thank Eric publicly for his tireless work on behalf of the Club. Eric was smart, funny, shy, and had a big heart. He was too young to leave us. I shall miss him terribly.
Lois says ditto. And her mascara is running, which Eric would have loved to have a picture of. Sorry, kid. No raccoon pictures for you. Maybe next time around, okay?
— Mike Blizzard
Eric was one of the very first people to approach and welcome me to Chi-Town Squares the first time I walked into a club night several Years ago. He was genuinely interested in how I came to move to Chicago part-time, and always made a point of giving me a big hug each time I walked into Ebenezer. I was fortunate to have the opportunity for a couple of long conversations with Eric during Phoenix Convention, which only reinforced what a warm, friendly and funny person he was.
How funny? Eric's sense of humor was just as warped as mine. At one point in Phoenix, when I hugged him, I accidentally brushed against his chest catheter, and he warned me about not pulling or pushing on it. I raised an eyebrow in surprise and apologized, since I hadn't known he had a porta-cath installed. He raised an eyebrow right back at me, opened his shirt slightly to show his cath, gave me a wide grin, and said "Yeah; it makes hot dates really awkward," and we both started laughing heartily. (Note: That's a cleaned-up version of Eric's actual comment.) That humor, optimism and playfulness is what I'll remember most about Eric.
— Allan Hurst
I started dancing with the Squares late in the season last year, so I missed the early introductions. Eric came up and said hello right away. He was always someone I could chat with. Eric was almost always there as an angel during our lessons, hovering around our squares and helping us out wherever he could. I didn't know Eric well but I will miss him!
— Tom Lyons
I was delighted when Eric received the "yellow rock" award this past May. Eric was one of those people who had the gift of hospitality. I attended several Chi-Town dances as a non-dancer. Eric was always among those people who made sure I felt welcome. When I began taking classes two years ago Eric's smiling face and easy manner made him a favorite "Angel" in squares with directionally challenged people like me. He made friends easily and once you became Eric's friend you became part of his extended family.
My quintessential Eric story took place this past November. I needed surgery on my Achilles tendon. As luck would have it, Kate was scheduled to leave town the day after my surgery. She was upset that she wouldn't be around to supervise my recovery and she gained commitments from several Chi-Town Squares members to check in on me while she was gone. Eric immediately volunteered to drive out to the far suburbs to check up on me. He called me the night before to get directions and said he'd arrive around 11:00 a.m. It wasn't much past 11 when my phone rang. I was greeted by an apologetic Eric who felt guilty that he didn't arrive promptly at 11 as promised. I assured him that I was fin and we chatted for a few more minutes. During that conversation I learned that the reason he was running late was because his dialysis appointment was also running late. How typically Eric! I'll always remember Eric as a person who put the needs of others before his own. He gave generously of his time and his talents and touched the lives of everyone he met.
— Arlene Kaspik
Eric told me last summer that when it came time to choose between laying down and dying or getting up off his ass and living, he chose to get up off his ass. We all know he was a wonderful guy - kind and generous and funny, what you see is what you get... Everything that anyone desires in a friend. The worst thing anyone could possibly say about him was that it took him a long time to learn the A2 call Motivate. He was at almost every dance, and almost every class, always smiling, never complaining, jolly and apparently carefree - even though we all knew he was suffering. So the next time I feel a little down, the next time I get the urge to say "poor me", I'm going to think of Eric and remember how he refused to be swallowed up in despair. I'm going to remember how he thoroughly enjoyed the last year of his life... out of the house, doing what he enjoyed, being with the people he loved and who loved him. Each of us can choose how we respond to the crap that life sometimes hands us. Eric chose beautifully, and I'll always respect and admire him for that. I regret only that I never told him so. Rest in peace, Eric, dear. You may be gone from us, but your grace under pressure remains our inspiration.
At the end of his life, one of Eric’s greatest passions was square dancing, calling and Chi-Town Squares. The experiences Chi-Town Squares gave him so much pleasure and he looked upon many Chi-Town members as family.
Often as I reflect on Eric’s life, I remember how he talked about all of you with such fondness and about the Chi-Town activities with such enthusiasm. Just a few months before his death, he was able to fulfill his dream of going to calling school. He spent weeks talking about his excitement in anticipation of the program and spent many weeks later with a bright smile on his face as he told me stories of the fun he had.
In the year of the fifth anniversary of his death, my family and I want to honor his memory with a donation, not only to continue the memory of Eric, but also to thank everyone for all the support you gave to Eric during his life and for all the support you gave to us at the time of his death.
May God continue to bless you all.
— Cynthia Wood
When I heard from Rick about Eric's untimely passing, I thought of how knowing him that short time had affected me. I wrote a poem using the first letters of his name.
— Jean Alesi
POEM FOR ERIC
written by Rick Aiello of CGMC
You were always there
But you never begged for attention
Your voice was quiet
But you were always heard
You always danced proud
But you never tried to be the star
You always worked hard
But you never asked for anything
Your presence was always felt
But you never tried to be the center of attention
Your smile was radiant
But you never lost your sparkle.
Your pain was mighty
But you never let it get you down
Your time was short
But we never knew how short it would be.
You will be missed, my friend.
Everyone who knew you, will surely miss you
Respect you gave to all
In sickness and in health, you showed your strength
Conversing with us all.
Carried now by angels
Aloft you now must go
Love is all around you
Into Heaven you will go
May you now find peace
And freedom from pain and suffering
Growing in happiness for all eternity