Jose Antonio Casco—owner of Antronio’s in
Berwyn, Illinois—died April 3 from complications following a head injury
incurred at home. He was 59.
Jerry Nunn, writer and photographer for this publication and others, relayed Casco’s death to Windy City Times.
Casco was born June 13, 1957, in Puebla City, Mexico. He emigrated here
with his parents and siblings when he was a young child and spent the
rest of his childhood in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
Prior to opening Antronio’s, Casco owned Chesterfield’s in the McKinley
Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago for more than 10
years. He also briefly worked at Mario’s on Chicago’s South Side.
Antronio’s is a combination community center/Mexican restaurant by day
and Latin gay bar by night, and was the first gay bar in Berwyn. Casco
named the bar Antronio’s by combining the Mexican slang term “antro,”
meaning “hip bar,” and his middle name.
Casco was also a U.S. Army veteran and spent most of his time stationed in Germany.
Casco is survived by his fiance, Ramiro Lopez. They were slated to be
married in two weeks and were together for 18 years. He’s also survived
by his brother Armando Casco, sisters Gloria Chavez, Angelica Carrera
and Guadalupe Velasquez as well as many nieces and nephews.
“Tio Tono was the father figure of the Casco family,” said niece Janet
Alvarado in a statement from the entire family. “He was the responsible
one, the one who took care of family affairs and the one my mom and
aunts ran to when they were in trouble. Most of all though, he was so
full of life in every way. He lit up family parties, gatherings, events,
anything. There wasn’t a moment when he wasn’t cracking a joke, being
witty, or saying the most hilarious comments. Even now, if you look on
his Facebook page during this terrible time the things people remember
most is his personality and his sense of humor, sometimes very
inappropriate but always so funny.
"However, he was also a man that you could sit for hours with and have
intimate conversations with, tell him your secrets, tell him your
worries all without fear that he would ever judge you. He was a bar
owner by trait but what made him so special is that people trusted him
when they needed a beer and someone to confide in. He steered many of us
in the right path, talked to us when we felt our own parents didn’t
understand and advised us when we needed perspective beyond our years.
He was wise, loving, and truly a beautiful man. Our family feels very
cheated because we need him here and without him life seems so much
“Antonio was always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need,” said
close friend Trini Gonzalez. “He left a legacy of pride of loving who
you are. He loved and lived life to its fullest. Antonio will be missed
by everyone who knew him.”
“He was very easy to work with when he was running ads in Nightspots
Magazine and paid promptly,” said Nunn. “I did health-survey interviews
for the CDC at Chesterfield’s and he was very cooperative with the
mission of helping the community. He loved to cook and donated food to
fundraisers like the Queer Prom. He was an incredibly hard worker and
his goal was to keep his venue Antronio’s open around the clock to serve
food seven days a week as well as bartend at night. The margaritas he
made from scratch were the best in Berwyn.”
“Antonio was not only a friend he was like family to me,” said long-time
friend Carlos Hernandez. “There aren’t enough words one can explain
about how kind, caring and loving an individual he was to many people.”
“Jose was always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need
including providing a location for HIV testing when he owned
Chesterfield’s,” said Aurora Pineda, a longtime community activist. “I
remember him being welcoming to everyone who came to Antronio’s
including myself. Jose created a safe space for everyone in the LGBT
community at Antronio’s, especially Latino gay men. He was really good
about telling younger people what it was like to be gay and Latino when
he was young. He was a very generous, genuine person who gave a lot to
the community and it’s so sad to hear that he died. We will miss his
presence in the Latino LGBT community in the Chicago area.”
“Jose was a pillar of the Latino LGBTQ community,” said community
organizer Emmanuel Garcia. “As an out Latino business owner, Jose was a
trailblazer who created necessary spaces for our community to meet,
dance and be unapologetic. He was generous with his resources. I counted
on Jose’s support on a number of initiatives, including Queer Prom and
the RAICES campaign to address homophobia and transphobia in the western
suburbs. The community will miss him very much.”
In lieu of
flowers, the family asks that people donate to the GoFundMe campaign.
To contribute to the fundraising efforts. About $750 of the $10,000 total has been raised so far.
The wake/memorial service will be held April 6 at 3-9 p.m. at Damar
Kaminski Funeral Home, 7861 S. 88th Ave., Justice, Illinois. He will be
buried next to his mother, Julia Casco, at Evergreen Cemetery 3401 W.
87th St., Evergreen Park, Illlinois, the following day.