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Mildred Pagan, Lathrop Homes Community Activist, 1955-2014

When Mildred Pagan moved into the Julia Lathrop Homes in the late 1970s, she was an anxious teenage mother with three small children fleeing an abusive marriage, her daughter said.

But she quickly became well-known among her neighbors in the public housing complex and eventually became their fiery, outspoken leader and organizer.

"She lived in Lathrop for so long, everyone called her 'Mom,'" said Mrs. Pagan's daughter, Reina Marcelle. "She raised her kids there and was there for over 35 years. She knew what it was like to have a tough time, so she believed in helping other people. Lathrop now looks like a down-and-out place, but my mother didn't see that. She saw home."

Mrs. Pagan was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, her daughter said. When she was 10 she moved with her family to Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.

She married at 14 and gave birth to her first of three children that same year. By the time she was 19, Mrs. Pagan realized she couldn't stay with her husband. And although she lacked education and was unemployed, she needed a way out.

When she got an apartment at Lathrop Homes, where the rent was based on her income, the place became her salvation and redemption.

Because the housing complex was made up of low-income residents, Mrs. Pagan took it upon herself to become a servant in her neighborhood.

"The great thing about Mildred, she had her own challenges, but every time she came to me, it was about some other family that needed help," said Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, 1st. "There was never one ask of me for her or for her family. She was a true-blue advocate for her community. She had a lot of influence because she was so genuine."

Over time, Mrs. Pagan went from being just well-known to becoming an official community activist, which put her face-to-face with elected officials, city leaders and influential administrators. She was elected president of the Lathrop Homes Local Advisory Council in 2013 and served as vice president of the group for four years before that.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Pagan is survived by her second husband, Jose Elizondo; two sons, Edelmiro and Moises Pagan; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Carmen Pagan.

A wake will be held at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Casey Laskowski Funeral Home at 4540 W. Diversey Ave. A funeral will follow at 10 a.m.

Keywords: Lathrop Homes, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Mildred Pagan, obituary

Posted in Lathrop, LSNA in the Media