PILSEN — A Chicago Public Schools teacher was identified as the woman killed in a fire early Monday in Pilsen.
Kathleen Gomez, 48, of the 1800 block of South Peoria Street, died at Stroger Hospital after being pulled from the fire, officials said. Gomez was an English as a Second Language teacher at Gage Park High School, and previously taught at William Penn Elementary School in North Lawndale.
Jasmine Jackson, a teacher who worked with Gomez at William Penn and is running 28th Ward alderman, said she was shocked when she heard Gomez had died. Gomez taught bilingual students at Penn, was interested in real estate and was very health conscious, she recalled.
“She had a pleasant personality,” Jackson said. “She really cared about her culture, her community and talked about preserving it.”
At 1:45 a.m. Monday, firefighters responded to a blaze that started in a living room on the building’s second floor, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, Langford said. No functioning smoke detectors were heard while firefighters put out the fire, he said.
On Tuesday evening, Pastor Larry McCarthy Jr. of Moody Church, 1635 N. LaSalle Dr., said Gomez had been a parishioner at the Old Town church for at least eight years.
He remembered her as a vivacious, energetic and enthusiastic person who was devoted to her faith.
“Her faith was very important to her,” McCarthy said. “I saw that reflected in the way that she seemed to seek spiritual and biblical counsel, even regarding day to day decisions.”
For several years, Gomez would volunteer her time during the summer to help with the Moody Church’s bible school attended by more than 400 children annually, McCarthy said.
“She was enthusiastic about her service to the Lord Jesus Christ,” he added.
Two weeks ago, McCarthy recalled a conversation with Gomez who was slated to move from teaching at Gage Park High School to Roberto Clemento Academy Community High School in West Town.
“The transition was supposed to happen this week…and she was very enthusiastic about that,” McCarthy said.
Officials at Gage Park High School, Roberto Clemento Academy Community High School and Chicago Public Schools did not return calls about Gomez’s death Tuesday.
McCarthy said he hopes people remember Gomez for her tremendous faith.
“It was the thing that buoyed her, encouraged her, enabled her … and gave her an enthusiasm for life — to live it as well as she could,” McCarthy said.
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