Yesterday, the world lost a truly beautiful person. Adrian Willoughby, Evanston Township High School (ETHS) graduate and Evanston resident, was a tireless warrior for affordable housing and passionate advocate for the homeless. I was honored to meet him when he hosted the DE Racial Justice Book Group and served as a facilitator at Reba Place Church, when we read Matthew Desmond's book, "Evicted."
Adrian died suddenly, and far too soon, at the age of 39. He had so much more to give.
Among many other organizations, Adrian was a board member of Interfaith Action of Evanston, a co-founder of Evanston's Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, and Executive Director at Reba Place Development Corporation.
My heart goes out to his wife and family.
This morning, Evanston resident and office manager at Reba Place Church, Courtney Christine, posted this tribute on her Facebook page and has graciously allowed me to share it:
"Yesterday the world lost. Adrian Willoughby was my friend, landlord, and fellow community servant. I am having trouble tracking down all the non-profits and service organizations and volunteer outfits he was involved with, because he had a way with joyfully connecting people and compassionately giving to so many. He passed while shoveling his own sidewalk, after spending the morning helping other people get their cars started in this extreme cold. A light snuffed out too soon.
About two years ago, my daughter did a school project on House of Peace, the co-op building Adrian helped my family land in when our world turned upside down. Despite his busy schedule, Adrian took time to tell Eve the history of our home. He demonstrated to her that a single person can do so much to bring shalom to their community.
I will always remember Adrian as a gentle soul with a heart of gold and a great sense of humor. Rest well, friend."
An announcement in Evanston's Joining Forces For Affordable Housing newsletter this afternoon read, "[Adrian's] death leaves a gaping hole in our network of affordable housing advocates. Adrian was one of the few who truly understood both the hard numbers behind real estate development and the many tangible and intangible needs of those who cannot afford market-rate housing. He was also one of the few who knew how to reconcile those two seemingly incompatible sides of the same coin. As one of the leaders of Joining Forces, he worked quietly behind the scenes, trying always to make us better. Our sorrow is profound. RIP, Adrian."
Just last week, Adrian posted the following words on the occasion of the death of one of his mentors:
"Sometimes in life we are lucky enough to meet people who make us better, some by being an example for us and others by forcing us to have the hard conversations. I hope all my friends are able to develop or have such people in your lives. Having other perspectives on the good and bad moments in my life has made me less selfish and more aware that we are all somewhere on our journey, none of us a finished book."
Adrian, anyone who knew you was lucky to meet you. You made us all better. You were not a finished book.
[First photo, taken when Adrian attended and spoke at last year's On the Table Evanston, which DE Co-hosted, was taken by Karen R. Kring; second photo by Courtney Christine of her daughter and Adrian]