The director of Philadelphia’s first Office of LGBT Affairs died this weekend at 42 from breast cancer.
Gloria Casarez was appointed as the city’s first LGBT liaison by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2008 after being the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) from 1999 to 2008, according to WCAU.
“Gloria was fun, serious, strong and kind person who always wanted to do more for others and who fought for equality of rights for all people,” Nutter said in a statement. “She was a clear, strong voice for the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia and across America.”
Casarez’s work for LGBT equality and justice in Philadelphia earned multiple awards from both local and national organizations. Casarez was the recipient of the Community Service Award from the NAACP, the Cherly Ingram Advocate for Justive Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Kiyoshi Kuromiya Award for Justice from Philadelphia FIGHT, according to WACU.
“We loved her so much,” Franny Price, executive director of Philly Pride Presents, told Philadelphia Magazine. “We came together to talk about Gloria, to try to cheer each other up, to look at some old pictures of her. She was a leader of our community for a long time.”
Casarez was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37 but continued to fight for LGBT, homeless and AIDS rights. She was a founding member for Empty the Shelters, which works nationally to combat housing-rights and economic-justice issues, according to Philadelphia Magazine.
“She was an awesome woman,” Casarez’s wife, Tricia Dressel, told Philadelphia Magazine. “She was incredibly passionate and full of life. She was a warm, fierce leader who knew how to bring people together to work for a cause.”
Casarez is survived by her wife and mother.