Patrick Bova was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1938. His grandparents had come to America from Italy in the late 19th century. Patrick had three “wild” older brothers, but he was quiet and introspective. Patrick’s mother was a bit of a rebel herself, defying her own mother in order to become a teacher. 

From early on, Patrick experienced crushes on other boys. Just as early, he learned that such feelings were unacceptable. His mom used to say, "Watch out for Father So-and-So, he's a bit happy.” Patrick knew what ‘happy’ meant. Through high school and into college, Patrick went on Catholic retreats and wrote in journals, trying to 'pray away the gay.' 

After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington D.C., Patrick moved to Chicago for grad school but he quickly dropped out, realizing he wasn’t in Chicago to be a student—he was seeking wholeness as a gay man. A cousin warned him that Chicago was “hot”—meaning, a dangerous place to be gay. The local police raided queer bars with impunity; the local newspapers published the names of those arrested; gay men lost their careers and in some cases ended up killing themselves. Patrick was not a risk taker. He steered clear. Then lightning struck. On a summer day in 1963, walking across the University of Chicago campus where he worked, a guy whistled at him. Patrick kept walking, his nose buried in a book, but later that night the two men re-encountered each other. The guy’s name was Jim Darby. Jim was everything Patrick wasn’t: free-spirited, brash, and unafraid to love. Patrick and Jim have been together ever since. 

Patrick worked as a librarian at the National Opinion Research Center until his retirement in 1998. Meantime, he and Jim built a rich, active life together, devoting capacious amounts of time and energy to battling the AIDS epidemic, fighting for military inclusion of LGBTQ service members, and fighting for the right of same-sex couples to get married. At the 2014 bill-signing ceremony that made Illinois the 16th U.S. state to endorse marriage equality, Patrick took to the podium alongside Jim, a military veteran, and celebrated that the new law would allow the two of them to be buried side by side at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois. Patrick and Jim got legally married the next day.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] So do me a favor, tell me your first and last names and spell them?
Patrick Bova: First name Patrick, P-A-T-R-I-C-K, Bova last name, spelled B as in boy, 0-V-A.
Mason Funk: Okay, and you're going to just avoid this, just talk to me.
Patrick Bova: I know, I know.
Mason Funk: Yeah. And then when I ask you question see if you can incorporate my question into your answer, so we know essentially what the question was.
Patrick Bova: Oh, very good idea.
Mason Funk: If I say, what year were you born? You would say that, "I was born in ..."
Patrick Bova: Right, good, good.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] As opposed to just the year
Scott Drucker: Before we get too far into it, I'm just going to check on one thing, okay?
Mason Funk: What is it, speeding?
Scott Drucker: Speeding.
Mason Funk: Okay. Tell me when you were born and where? And maybe just kind of tell me a little bit about your family, your family of origin.
Patrick Bova: Yes. I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. That's a small town on Lake Erie, in a small chimney of Pennsylvania that sticks up that way, in 1938.
Patrick Bova: [00:01:00] And I was the one, two, fourth of my mother's five children. Her first child was a girl that died in birth, and then she had four boys in a row. And I was, "The baby of the boys." Maybe that has a lot of explanations in it, I don't know. Then five years after I was born my mother she finally had the daughter she wanted, so there were five kids. We're Italian-American
Patrick Bova: [00:01:30] and we lived in the Little Italy of Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie's very, very similar to Chicago in the sense that it had quite diversified industries from-
Mason Funk: What's that? Sorry, just hold that thought. We'll have to do this occasionally.
Patrick Bova: Yeah okay.
Mason Funk: It's the price we pay.
Patrick Bova: That's enough, okay?
Mason Funk: Yeah, that's one of the few things I would say, that plus the dog are the only reasons we should have to stop hopefully.
Patrick Bova: Okay, I have to remember that.
Mason Funk: Unfortunately, I can't ... right.
Patrick Bova: Answer the question in other words.
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] Pardon me?
Patrick Bova: Answer the question, and not a disquisition. Did I cover it? I think I covered the question.
Mason Funk: You did, you did. Yeah we got the good ... What kinds of folks were your parents?
Patrick Bova: Well my - They were present certainly, especially my-
Mason Funk: Wait, you say, "My parents."
Patrick Bova: My parents were very much for us.
Patrick Bova: [00:02:30] They're very, very family orientated I would say. Unfortunately, my father died when he was 42, that was after the Second World War. Then my mother remarried. My mother was a housewife, cook, all the things that women do, but also had aspirations to do something more with her life, but she could never do that because of her background. They were wonderful, we had a wonderful family.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] Did your mom ever get a chance to pursue her ... ?
Patrick Bova: Yes, when she grew up in a-
Mason Funk: "My mother."
Patrick Bova: Yeah she grew up in a-
Mason Funk: Sorry, could you say, "My mother"?
Patrick Bova: My mother who grew up in an Italian household where the males of the family were the ones that were favored, so her brother became a doctor, but she was expected to get married and have children and grandchildren.
Patrick Bova: [00:03:30] But she defied my grandmother and went to what they called, normal school at that time, that is a school for teachers, and she paid for herself by working. She was a grade school teacher, so she did that. After my father died she went back to it, she had the profession until she then remarried the first time and had a child actually
Patrick Bova: [00:04:00] who also didn't survive. She always said, "I wish one of my sons would become a doctor," as she always wanted to do that. I think she was harkening to remembrance of her brother who died very young, but who was the doctor and the success in the family, yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: Just a little more on your parents. Had their parents come over from Italy or ... ?
Patrick Bova: [00:04:30] Yes, both sets of grandparents did.
Mason Funk: Did what?
Patrick Bova: Emigrated from Italy, from the south. My father's parents from Sicily and my mother's parents from a town just south of Rome, (couldnt find the exact town name), or something like that, I don't know the name exactly. That was in the late 1890s, about 1898.
Mason Funk: [00:05:00] Great. So, close knit family. Was the atmosphere early on you would say was supportive and kind of warm as opposed to maybe more, I don't know, critical or harsh, like what terms would you use to describe?
Patrick Bova: I would say it was, loving and supportive, but also quite firm. So that,
Patrick Bova: [00:05:30] we were expected to, "Toe the line" in certain ways. Although, my brothers were kind of wild. Now I, being the youngest of the boys, and also perhaps by my nature was a little more withdrawn and introverted, maybe a precursor of what actually happened later when I came out to myself as being gay. Yes, but it was quite a raucous,
Patrick Bova: [00:06:00] but also loving and concerned family, that is, they wanted to know what we were up to and what we were doing. Encouraged us to read and to get ahead in life, yeah.
Mason Funk: What path did your life take that eventually led you to Chicago?
Patrick Bova: What path did I ... how did I get to Chicago?
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Patrick Bova: [00:06:30] That's an interesting path. I went to undergraduate school in Georgetown in Washington DC, four years. A wonderful experience, but conflicted because I knew I was gay, and I had any number of crushes on my classmates. Of course, never did anything and never came out to anybody. After my college career was ending and I realized I had to decide
Patrick Bova: [00:07:00] what I was going to do with my life since I had majored in something that is practically useless unless you want to teach, and that is English literature. I heard about a program at the University of Chicago called, Master of Arts in Teaching that was launched by the Ford Foundation in order to upgrade the quality of teaching in the United States. The idea was you would go in at a graduate level, take classes in education,
Patrick Bova: [00:07:30] like you were preparing to teach, but also classes in your substance and field, which I thought was a good idea. Also, they offered a stipend and full scholarship because it was Ford that was launching it, so they promoted it. I came to Chicago, actually I'm not sure there may have been other schools, I don't remember, maybe I chose Chicago because it was the closest
Patrick Bova: [00:08:00] and I didn't want to go to New York. I had some experiences in New York where I didn't want to be there, there was a relative of mine that I didn't want to be around and Chicago was the next big city other than Cleveland and Buffalo, and so, I decided on Chicago. That's how I ended up here. I only lasted in the program for one quarter, which would be like a third of a semester
Patrick Bova: [00:08:30] because I was gay, I was in a big city and for once I could express myself, and I was tired of going to school, so I dropped out.
Mason Funk: When had you begun to feel that you were different and you were gay? When had those feeling first kind of arisen for you?
Patrick Bova: Now, I have that question quite often and I say to people, I think it was when I was in 6th grade.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Do me a favor, "I think," what was that?
Patrick Bova: I think that I first thought there was something, well nothing wrong, but I had these feelings towards boys, or toward the male sex when I was in 6th grade, when I fell in love with Richard Pito, which is, Richard is now dead so I'm not revealing anything. There was no overtness on my part, I just was enamored of him.
Patrick Bova: [00:09:30] That happened over and over as I went through, so very young. I realized also quite young that I couldn't express this in any way. My mother used to refer to gay people, as "Happy people". She referred to a couple of our parish assistant pastors that way. She said, "Watch out for Father Book, because I think he's happy,"
Patrick Bova: [00:10:00] and we knew what she meant. Yeah, so it was very early. It bothered me, I really tried to change, being Catholic and having the notions of Catholicism about homosexuality I internalized that and went on retreats and wrote about it to myself, but I could never,
Patrick Bova: [00:10:30] never surmount it. I don't feel that way now, but at that time, sure, yes.
Mason Funk: Sure, I can relate. You came to Chicago and the last thing on your mind was your studies?
Patrick Bova: That's right. My motivation for coming to Chicago was an excuse to get away from Erie, Pennsylvania and my family, which I love dearly, and did, and still do, but I knew that I could not flourish there, I could not,
Patrick Bova: [00:11:00] I had to be in a larger, unknown situation and Chicago has certainly served that purpose.
Mason Funk: Hold that thought one second, just let them back out.
Scott Drucker: Okay we're great.
Mason Funk: We were saying, you came to Chicago, it may have been for your studies but probably subliminally there was something else going on there?
Patrick Bova: [00:11:30] By all means, something else was going on there, simmering, boiling, yes.
Mason Funk: Ah-ha. What do you remember about those early experiences arriving in Chicago, and especially with regard to this new freedom you had to express yourself sexually?
Patrick Bova: I was extremely nave first of all, I had no idea-
Mason Funk: "First of all, coming to Chicago."
Patrick Bova: [00:12:00] I'm sorry. Coming to Chicago I was a neophyte in the big city. I'd had experiences in New York with my cousin, I went to gay bars and things like that. He said to me by letter when he found out I was going to Chicago and not New York, he said, "Watch out, Chicago is hot." By that he meant, for gay people because the word gets around in the community at that time, as it does now. I had expectations of being-
Mason Funk: [00:12:30] Oops.
Scott Drucker: Sorry.
Mason Funk: I'm sorry.
Scott Drucker: Another piece of tape.
Mason Funk: Another piece of tape.
Patrick Bova: Oh, dear.
Mason Funk: These are all the things you have to figure out. Do me a favor, just back up and tell me the story? Your cousin said, "Chicago was hot"?
Patrick Bova: Yes.
Mason Funk: Okay, so just tell me that story again?
Patrick Bova: Yes. I think I had visited him in the summer before I came to Chicago, I knew I was coming and that's when he told me that.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, who?
Patrick Bova: [00:13:00] That's when my cousin told me that Chicago was hot. By that he meant it was an uncomfortable place for gay people. As I found out it wasn't quite at that point, but maybe a little bit later that certainly was the case. There were bar raids going on, and newspaper articles about who had been arrested with their occupations, some suicides followed, so he was right about that.
Patrick Bova: [00:13:30] But it also influenced how adventurous I was going to be in the city. I was also nave, I mean I didn't think. There were no gay sources at that time that I knew of, so I didn't know what the areas of the city were that I should go to meet people, which is really what I wanted to do. You know, I was going to cruise. I don't think I even used that word at that time, but I was out looking.
Patrick Bova: [00:14:00] I remember going to Downtown Chicago, State Street, the main shopping district at that time and walking south, which was a no, no, but I didn't know that and I ended up on Skid Row where there were burlesque shows and stuff like that. It was definitely not my cup of tea at the time. I finally realized, and the how I don't know, I don't remember, but that you had to go into the North Side.
Patrick Bova: [00:14:30] At the same time, a little later after I came to Chicago I got a job, and part of it was going out interviewing in different parts of the city. It was a survey research job. That's when I got to know some areas, and then realized the area around the Water Tower, just to the west, it was called Tower Town at that time, there were gay bars,
Patrick Bova: [00:15:00] the Club Alabam, places like that. Sam's, I visited of course I was so timid, I didn't approach anybody, nobody approached me. It was really kind of, not desperate, but I didn't feel as if I was fitting in, because I couldn't find a niche or I couldnt insinuate myself and so on.
Mason Funk: [00:15:30] Just waiting for that guy to ... Is that-
Scott Drucker: It's not terrible actually, his voice is still coming through.
Mason Funk: Okay, great.
Patrick Bova: We are in the city after all.
Mason Funk: Yeah, exactly that's what you were drawing in. You know, your experience reminds me so much, some people for example, went to Orlando when the massacre happened, people talked about gay clubs as like these safe places. But my experience sounds like it was more like yours, where for the first few years or months that I was going to gay bars, I felt anything but safe. I felt like I was so afraid of being somehow exposed.
Patrick Bova: [00:16:00] Yes, yeah exactly, yeah. I didn't experience a raid, although Darby made have referred to that earlier, but that was always a possibility, so you had that in the back of your mind. But I didn't do it very much at all. I think I became comfortable with it when I got my job and I realized that there were people around me that were gay.
Patrick Bova: [00:16:30] It was not overt, but there was a way to communicate that we have where I could feel comfortable. My life became regularized in that way because I was working and making some money, and not depending on my mother. I was feeling more like a grown up, and I was in the city myself, so I was much more comfortable with it.
Mason Funk: [00:17:00] Right. You mentioned, you referenced that in this timeframe, even though you didn't experience it personally, you were reading the newspaper about raids, tell me what you remember about Chicago? This is probably like early '60s, right?
Patrick Bova: Yes.
Mason Funk: Set it up for me, Chicago, early '60s.
Patrick Bova: It would have been actually, I'm reading a book now, which talks about it, it's called Cloud City, or something like that, about gay life in Chicago and activism and stuff like that,
Patrick Bova: [00:17:30] but it mentions this very specifically. I remember also that it coincides with my recollections, the Chicago Tribune especially, at that time a very conservative newspaper. McCormick was the owner, but all the newspapers and I think there were four at the time, whenever there was a bar raid they would list all the people that were arrested,
Patrick Bova: [00:18:00] their names, their addresses and their occupations. I don't know if that was unique to Chicago, but I was appalled when I saw that. I mean, I knew right away that a teacher, and a lot of them were teachers, they were going to lose their jobs, which they did. Then it wasn't reported very much but we then began to hear that some of these people committed suicide because they had been outed against their wishes
Patrick Bova: [00:18:30] and were shamed in front of their family and the profession. It was an awful, awful thing. It wasn't a happy time and I really didn't meet anybody, well I had a couple of ... yeah, that's another story. Maybe we'll get into that, yeah.
Mason Funk: There's no time like the present.
Patrick Bova: [00:19:00] Well, I had a couple of infatuations, let's put it that way. I would categorize them that way now when I think, but at that time it's like a teenage boy, there was that kind of thing with my roommate actually once, who didn't know until much later that I was gay, just crazy. Also, a kid that I met from a bathroom stall phone number.
Patrick Bova: [00:19:30] I mean, I was that secretive, that sort of not forthright or not pushing my own agenda, rather doing it in a passive way, which is I guess typical of me in some ways. I met him, and we had an affair and then he dropped me, and I was devastated, awful, awful, awful. That went on for a couple of years. Then I met Darby.
Patrick Bova: [00:20:00] Now, I don't know if he told you this story of how we met?
Mason Funk: He did a little bit.
Patrick Bova: He did, yeah?
Mason Funk: I'm kind of relying on you.
Patrick Bova: You know, I was at that time I had become the librarian at NORC and one of my jobs-
Mason Funk: "I became a librarian at," then say the name, the full name.
Patrick Bova: Yeah, National Opinion Research Center-
Mason Funk: "I had become a ... "
Patrick Bova: I had become a librarian there at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, it's an affiliated unit but it's on the campus,
Patrick Bova: [00:20:30] and it's pretty much integrated with the university. One of the curiosities I guess you could say now about library system, that is completely dispersed, so there were departmental libraries all over the place. We worked in a social sciences at NORC, at National Opinion Research Center, so that there was a lot of cross-disciplinary stuff. Not only political sciences and sociology, but biology and medicine.
Patrick Bova: [00:21:00] They needed somebody to go libraries for them, that's what the librarian did. It was like a runner. I was walking one day, coming back from the educational library and Jim was out with a friend of his. He had come for lunch and they were walking around the neighborhood and Jim saw me and I was reading, because whenever somebody asked me to get something I would look at it.
Patrick Bova: [00:21:30] I was walking back and reading. In those days I was young and I could, I had good balance. He saw me and whistled. I didn't hear it. Later that night I was in the graduate library school at the time at the university, and I was at the university library studying until, it was about 10 o'clock when the library closed.
Patrick Bova: [00:22:00] Then I decided to go out cruising. I just wanted to see what was going on in the street. I walked to 57th Street, which is near the university where there was a bookstore, that had a display, was lit up. Now, this place is desolate, this about 10:30 at night, nobody's around. What I was thinking or hoping, I don't know but it was a kind of desperate kind of feeling.
Patrick Bova: [00:22:30] I was smoking and I was standing in front of the bookstore looking in the window, Darby was there. He had come back with his friend and the friend went somewhere, and Jim saw me again. He came over, it was only, not even 20 feet away, and asked me for a light on his cigarette.
Patrick Bova: [00:23:00] I don't know whether I made this up or not, but I thought, "What a corny line," right? We walked around and then we went up in his friends apartment and we made it. It was exhilarating, just a wonderful, wonderful experience. He wasn't, like me very much and I liked him.
Patrick Bova: [00:23:30] One thing led to another, we eventually got together. He had a motorcycle, a little motorcycle. I always referred to it as a, "Sewing machine with wheels," like one horsepower motorcycle, and he used to drive on the Outer Drive and on these expressways. He lived in a storefront. I mean, this was somebody who was completely different from anybody I'd ever met. He was a very free spirit person.
Patrick Bova: [00:24:00] I went there and met some of his friends. Went to a party and he introduced me. Then he would come to my place. I was living alone in a rental apartment at the time. We'd have dinner and we'd snuggle and stuff. Then after the summer ended the landlord said,
Patrick Bova: [00:24:30] this was a third floor apartment, similar to what we have here, that I had to then either get a roommate or I had to pay the full amount of the rent. Darby at the meantime, I'm talking about Jim, I call him by both names-
Mason Funk: Hold one second.
Patrick Bova: Jim had just gotten a job teaching high school on the South Side, he lived on the North Side,
Patrick Bova: [00:25:00] so he suggested that maybe we move in together, because I worked here at NORC, and he could take the bus to his job on the South Side, we didn't have a car at the time. That seemed like a good idea, so we got together three months after we met. He came with his little dog and his player piano, and his other stuff, and we got together and that's when it started.
Patrick Bova: [00:25:30] It just happened to be on July 17, 1963, at 10:30 in the ... but who's counting? That actually was yesterday, and we didn't realize it we were so busy with our yard sale. I said, "Darby come on, we have to have a Martini to celebrate our anniversary."
Mason Funk: 63 years?
Patrick Bova: Yeah.
Mason Funk: No, 53, right.
Patrick Bova: 53 years, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:26:00] This is at a time, I guess I want to ask you, was this common at the time for two guys to meet and kind of form a relationship and move into together against a backdrop of a society where nobody was out, nobody was gay and nobody was talking about this? Set this in the context of the period we're talking about.
Patrick Bova: I really can't address that because he was much more aware of what was going on-
Mason Funk: [00:26:30] Say his name.
Patrick Bova: Jim was much more aware of what was going on in the gay community in so far as, there was one that was recognizable, I certainly wasn't. Later I think I realized that there were other people like us in Hyde Park, but when we got together it was very difficult for us to get an apartment together. We also had a little dog so that was a little complicating factor. But most of the times we were told that,
Patrick Bova: [00:27:00] "We don't rent to two single men." Even though it's a university community, and at that time dormitories were not as prolific as they are now, and there were a lot of students out here living in houses like this that had been broken up into apartments. I never did quite understand that. We finally found a ramshackle place in a converted apartment building just a block west that took us in,
Patrick Bova: [00:27:30] and so we lived there with our dog. No, I'm not sure that I was aware of any other couples at that time. It wasn't until later maybe, and I couldn't put a time on it either that I became aware of that. Now, remember I was not going to gay bars and he was not,
Patrick Bova: [00:28:00] we were not, we were more interested in each other I guess and our careers. He was starting to teach and I was starting to get really into my job and so on, so we were very much homebodies I think you could drive, yeah.
Mason Funk: You mentioned you guys were very different, what were some of the things about Jim that just drew you to him?
Patrick Bova: [00:28:30] I can remember-
Mason Funk: Be sure to mention his name.
Patrick Bova: Yeah. My birthday was coming around, June 1st. No, I'm not sure, it couldn't have been on my birthday because we met in July. Anyway, there was some special thing and he gave me a card celebrating it.
Patrick Bova: [00:29:00] Earlier I had complimented him on how tender he was toward me, I described it as, "Cosmic tenderness". It was so overwhelming that somebody would be so loving and attentive, and so on. He gives me this card and he signs it, "CT". I didn't know what it meant, really.
Patrick Bova: [00:29:30] Anyway, that aspect is very, very kind and solicitous. He's gregarious and also garrulous, but that means he gets along with people, loves people, and loves me and all that. He's also headstrong and I'm not. If he has to do something he does it, he just plows ahead.
Patrick Bova: [00:30:00] This is an example, a pedestrian example of this, if we're going somewhere I will map the route, I will find out what time it is. I will do GPS, I do all kinds of things. Then I will be ready to leave way before we have to be there. Darby will still be diddling on his computer, and stuff like that. He says, "Oh, don't worry about it, don't worry about it."
Patrick Bova: [00:30:30] He's says "We'll get there on time." I would say every time we do, we get there on time. So there's a contrast in how we approach things. I'm a little more wary and he is more confident and optimistic about things, so that's how we get things done. Now, I watch the details and once in awhile that does come in handy, but most of the time it's, he's the driving force, very much so in our relationship, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:31:00] When did you begin to conceive or was it just from day one that this was it? I mean, did you guys have any fights? Did you ever think, "Oh, you know maybe this isn't going to work out as well as I thought."? Tell me about how you envisioned your relationship as you looked into the future?
Patrick Bova: [00:31:30] I don't think there was any doubt from the beginning that this was something that was going to last. I remember one time, I was wearing contact lenses when we met, so he didn't know I wore glasses, and we were actually in my apartment before we moved in together. I remember, I was sitting on his lap for some reason, I don't remember and I revealed to him that I was wearing contact lenses.
Patrick Bova: [00:32:00] They were hard lenses and I had to get them out. Then I put my glasses on, and I said, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you this." He says, "Oh, don't worry," he says, "I'll be the only person in this household, in this family," he said, "To wear glasses," because I was still wearing the contact lenses,
Patrick Bova: [00:32:30] so he mentioned family. We thought about far in future very early in our relationship. Where are we going to be when we're like we are now, you're 80 and I'm 70 or something like that? It was much forward looking. One of the things that did not come up at that time, because it was not possible,
Patrick Bova: [00:33:00] but did come up later. This is an interesting aspect I think to your question, it's now possible and for a long time it's been possible for gay people to adopt children. We've had the discussion way beyond the time when we would even consider it, like more recently. I'm of the opinion that there's nothing greater than to raise a child, I think that's a wonderful thing to be able to do.
Patrick Bova: [00:33:30] He would not have agreed with that, so we would have argued about that, and probably would not have done it, had it been possible. I think part of it is because he was a teacher and he'd had enough of kids, even though there were high school kids, and so on. Yeah, we have argued, there's no question about it. He's got a terrible temper and so do I,
Patrick Bova: [00:34:00] and so yeah, there have been times. But I would say, we're much mellower and have been for a long, long time. I mean, we're old, you know?
Mason Funk: When you were younger and you were both maybe a little bit more tempestuous would you have a good fight, like knockout, drag out, I don't mean physically, but I ... ?
Patrick Bova: There were a couple of times that I walked out just on silly things. Maybe-
Mason Funk: [00:34:30] Just one sec. Okay, just start over.
Patrick Bova: Somebody is hitting his pipe. Yeah, there were times I think when we would have ... nothing physical but a lot of shouting and so on. Then abruptly closing doors and leaving and so on. That's happened a couple of times, but that's years and years ago. They were usually minor things.
Patrick Bova: [00:35:00] I remember one time we were out with a friend of ours for dinner and I was driving, we came back. I can't remember what the argument was about, but I was so pissed that I parked the car and I got out and walked home. It was just in the neighborhood. He was really stunned, but luckily he had his key so he could drive.
Patrick Bova: [00:35:30] So, there have been instances, sure. It's always not sweetness and light, it doesn't always do that, but most of the time, yes.
Mason Funk: Yeah, Just wait for this jet to go over.
Patrick Bova: I would say, I would say-
Mason Funk: Just one sec, just hold for the jet.
Patrick Bova: [00:36:00] It's taking its time, isn't it?
Mason Funk: Pardon me?
Patrick Bova: It's taking its time.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Okay.
Patrick Bova: Okay.
Mason Funk: You were going to tell an anecdote of maybe about a fight.
Patrick Bova: That was one of them. There was another one, I can't remember. It's an interesting question because I don't remember a lot of instances like that, actually only two or three.
Patrick Bova: [00:36:30] I can't remember the specifics of the one where I walked out of the house and oh, just awful. Then I came sheepishly right back a couple of hours later. He said, "How are you doing?" Then we made up, yeah. I would say it's now we're very ...
Patrick Bova: [00:37:00] I've talked about this before, I got the question and maybe I'm anticipating the question you might ask is, what do we talk about other than day to day things? It's most that. We spend a lot of time together not talking, perfectly happy and contented. I think that's significant to be able to be quiet and just ...
Patrick Bova: [00:37:30] We have a place in Michigan near South Haven where we go probably once a week in the summer. It's about a two hour drive, I drive. No radio, no music, we'll talk about trivial things, but that's it, it's silent time together, because we live in a house where there are people around all the time.
Patrick Bova: [00:38:00] We have circles of friends where that's all we do is talk. It's I think telling that you can do that with somebody. Sometimes I want to tell people to just shut up because silence is soothing. That's another characteristic I think of our relationship.
Mason Funk: Is it?
Patrick Bova: Yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:38:30] Yeah, sometimes Jay and I are in a restaurant and I don't why I do this, but I look at other couples and they're just chatting away. I think, "Oh, shouldn't we be talking more?"
Patrick Bova: Same thing, yeah, yeah. But you're there with him, that's the thing. You're having a drink. If we needed to talk, we will if there's something that we need to talk about.
Mason Funk: Right. Yeah, Jay's much better at going with the flow than I am. Like, he's "If we're not talking, we're not talking, what's the big deal?"
Mason Funk: [00:39:00] Part of the purpose of this project is to ask people what they remember about the changes that have occurred. You know, like as gay and lesbian people began to collectively come out of the closet. What are some of the things you remember, if there are any, of kind of notable moments or times when you were more aware of the world changing for gay people
Mason Funk: [00:39:30] towards a more open and accepting environment for gay and lesbian people, anything come to mind?
Patrick Bova: Yeah, one sort of negative thing, but it's also reflective I think of what was going on. In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and I'm not sure that it was particularly connected with that, but there was a blood drive
Patrick Bova: [00:40:00] at where I worked, at National Opinion Research Center, and I wanted to give blood-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Probably best if you just start that story over again. Hold one second.
Patrick Bova: Gee, it's particularly busy.
Mason Funk: Okay. "In the early years ... "
Patrick Bova: There was a blood drive in the early years, I'm talking about probably '84 something like, it's in that area.
Patrick Bova: [00:40:30] There was a blood drive at where I worked at NORC. I volunteered, and to give blood you had to go to the university hospital. I did, and when I checked in they gave me a sheet paper, and the copy looked like Xeroxed many, many times, because it had flicks of black on it, you know,
Patrick Bova: [00:41:00] over and over? It was a statement that you had to sign, "I am a homosexual and I have had sex with a man in the last year," before I could give blood. I turned the paper in, now this is in front of people. This is the first time I ever had said that, I said, "I am a homosexual and I'm willing to give my blood,
Patrick Bova: [00:41:30] but I'm not going to sign that, because you are eliminating the people we're trying to help," something like that, and I stormed out. I was really upset. Look, I understood really what was going on, this is before the screening that took place and so on, but it was just so aggravating. That's the first time that in public that I actually said that.
Patrick Bova: [00:42:00] I think the other thing, we got more involved with the gay community in Chicago, I think probably because it became more obviously that there was one. I'm talking about the North Side, Boystown area, although we didn't do a lot of bar hopping, well we found out about things like Equality in Illinois,
Patrick Bova: [00:42:30] which was then called, The Illinois Federation for Equal Rights, which is the statewide lobbying and activist group that puts forward on gay and lesbian issues, and we joined that. Then they would invite us to things, and then we started to meet people. You know, that was happening all over the country. I think the AIDS crisis certainly was an impetus in that, in getting people together
Patrick Bova: [00:43:00] now the common enemy was not only the larger hetrosexual community, which was, "Discriminating" but also the AIDS crisis, which needed attention and support, and so on. That's how we got involved, and that's how we became more obvious. Then things became to be more open just generally,
Patrick Bova: [00:43:30] so there was a lot more report in the newspapers. I remember a Sunday supplement, I can't remember what newspaper it was, maybe The Sun-Times, it was like the Sunday magazine, newspapers very often had those in those days. On it were four members of the gay community and they gave them,
Patrick Bova: [00:44:00] "The Four Gray Wolves," or something like that, or "The Great Gay Community." I'm sure that's in this book that I'm reading. That was really exhilarating that in a major city newspaper you're seeing people of a gay community given ... it's almost like being on the cover of Time, but locally. That springs to mind when you asked the question,
Patrick Bova: [00:44:30] what were the evidences of it? Jim got involved with the Gay Veterans Organization. We talked earlier about his coming out to his family. The same thing happened with my family, but indirectly. They would come to visit us-
Mason Funk: "My Family."
Patrick Bova: My family would come to visit us. They would find out one way or another that we were embroiled in this activism
Patrick Bova: [00:45:00] for equal rights for gay people in the military. I mean, we didn't shove that ... somehow they realized that, they realized, "Oh, my god they're gay," after being together for 20 years, or however long it was, and then we could talk about it. That was the thing. Then my sister-in-law particularly asked me.
Patrick Bova: [00:45:30] She was very interested then, she says, "Why would gay people want to join the military?" I mean, that was an attitude of a lot of people. This one step away from why do people want to join the military at all, right? Why would gay people? "Well, that's not the idea." We explained, "You should have the right, the ability to do it if you want to. If you don't want it, fine, it's your personal thing, but it should be legislated that you can't."
Patrick Bova: [00:46:00] She appreciated that. Gradually I think that when we had our Civil Union, this is of course relatively recently when things were pretty much out in the open, we had a Civil Union, they knew about it. When we visited that summer they gave us party,
Patrick Bova: [00:46:30] it was like a little reception in honor of our ... gifts and everything. A cake, Martinis, the whole bit. It was so moving that my family would do that. My brothers, my two surviving brothers, their wives, their kids, they're all there. It was at the beach on Lake Erie, just amazing.
Patrick Bova: [00:47:00] It was like, in a way, a culmination of a gradual kind of opening up to the family. I never came out to my mother, although I think she knew, but somehow I didn't want to burden her with it, but I was also afraid to do it, because I was afraid of the consequences, so I never came out to her.
Patrick Bova: [00:47:30] This party I mentioned was way after she died.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, just so I have or whoever uses this interview, has the set up, you start talking about the party, but you didn't say who these people were. You could maybe say, what years did you guys have your Civil Union, do you remember?
Patrick Bova: Yes, it was 2011 in June. This party was held the following summer,
Patrick Bova: [00:48:00] probably in July or August. I don't know how the family found out about it, but they did. The people at the party were the family members that were around. My two brothers, surviving brothers,
Patrick Bova: [00:48:30] and my sister, yes I think she was there, yeah, she was still alive, and their kids. It was my family, and of course Jim was with me. That's another thing, we used to go together to Erie, Pennsylvania to visit my mother every summer, and other people in my family. He started going with me probably-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Say, "Jim."
Patrick Bova: [00:49:00] Jim started going with me years ago. I would never go to Erie myself so we would go together, and we'd stay in my mother's house. My mother loved him, she just thought he was so cute, and played Scrabble and he played cards, and he did all the things that she loved, and so on. We were accepted as a member of the family,
Patrick Bova: [00:49:30] he was accepted as a member of the family. Just as I was accepted as a member of the family here in Chicago, Jim's family, but we never talked about it.
Mason Funk: That is really interesting. You said '38 you were born, right?
Patrick Bova: Yeah.
Mason Funk: [00:50:00] So, I'm 20 years younger and I think by the time I came of age it was kind of considered the done thing that you came out to your family.
Patrick Bova: Oh, man.
Mason Funk: You didn't kind of spare your parents. In reality, it was my parents who finally asked me.
Patrick Bova: Oh, really?
Mason Funk: Yeah. That's a whole separate story, this is not the point of this interview, but I'll tell you that story later.
Patrick Bova: That's wonderful.
Mason Funk: But that's interesting, I think it is kind of a different generation.
Patrick Bova: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Patrick Bova: Also, there's some little back story to that though, if I may-
Mason Funk: Back story to what, sorry?
Patrick Bova: [00:50:30] To the generational difference that you referred to. Living near us was my mother's sister and husband, and their children. There were two boys and a girl. Both of the boys were gay.
Patrick Bova: [00:51:00] The one that I mentioned that I had spent some time in New York with was one of them, his name was Frank. He came out to his family and it was devastating. He came out in such a way, I mean it's bad enough from their eyes that the son is gay. Well anyway, he goes to New York to go to school, drops out.
Patrick Bova: [00:51:30] He discovers New York the way I discovered Chicago, and becomes almost like a hermit. Then he meets them in the Hotel Roosevelt near Grand Central Station in the lobby, and he's wearing stage makeup. Now, he's not a drag, why he was doing that I don't know, and they knew that. I mean, they knew that there was something about him,
Patrick Bova: [00:52:00] and he revealed his, then sexuality to his parents in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, and they had no idea. I mean, they were clueless. There was no context for them. They knew about queers, and stuff like that, but it was all kind of hearsay, it was all my mother's comments about happy people, not, this was sort of in the air but very vague.
Patrick Bova: [00:52:30] Then there it is all of a sudden in the spotlight with his son wearing this greasepaint, oh my god, it devastated them. Now, my mother knew about it, they were close, they knew that Frank was gay. My mother alluded to that a couple of times that she was hoping that I was not going to end up like Frank.
Patrick Bova: [00:53:00] As if it was a choice or somehow, yeah. I always said, "Well ma," there I was, changed the subject of him, so it was in the air. That may be another reason that I was very hesitant to talk to her. When I would visit my mother at Christmastime I always went myself to Erie to be with her at Christmas, she was alone by that time. Her third and fourth husband had died,
Patrick Bova: [00:53:30] and my brother had also died, because she was living alone. Even though her other family is around I thought that would be ... you know? I loved my mother so it was not surprising. We'd have these real heart to heart conversations late at night with a coffee pot and Christmas cookies. I mean, there was this wonderful, kind of warm ... and I could not tell her. I got so close, so close.
Mason Funk: [00:54:00] Really?
Patrick Bova: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Do you remember like, because that resonates again, I have a certain memory of not telling my mom before coming out. But you know a specific conversation when it just felt like it was on the tip of your tongue or ... ?
Patrick Bova: No, no, just the feeling. We might have been talking about Darby, Jim my partner and what we'd been doing and so on.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] Your mom would say, "What's Jim up to?"
Patrick Bova: Oh, yeah.
Mason Funk: Yeah, you talked-
Patrick Bova: She was very much interested because I was there without him. Yeah, it's kind of sad I guess in a way. But I think she knew, in the sense that ... and I think it would not have been a problem. But I'm thinking back now, because the emotion is not so strong now as it was then,
Patrick Bova: [00:55:00] it was fresh, and so on. So, I don't really have regrets about it, but it would have been interesting I think to have done it, yeah.
Mason Funk: Interesting. Coming out. That's one of the themes needless to say of this project, coming out and not coming out stories, yeah, yeah.
Patrick Bova: You know, most of my coming out has been very, very muted
Patrick Bova: [00:55:30] and kind of like for people at work, but just gradually you start using words and stuff like that, where then you realize, yeah, yeah.
Mason Funk: Right. I'm going to check in with you, is that ... ?
Scott Drucker: It just popped two seconds ago.
Mason Funk: I saw that. The sun shifted in, what the flowers behind you as well, like technicolor. Why don't we pause real quick?
Scott Drucker: [00:56:00] Okay.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Scott Drucker
Date: July 08, 2016
Location: Home of Patrick Bova and Jim Darby, Chicago, IL