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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Gordon Nary

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Interviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

This interview concerns the editor and publisher of Profiles in Catholicism. He is a man of integrity, goodness, and a willingness to create a magazine for all. He works tirelessly at this job and publishes it bi-monthly. He provides both national and international news.

Dr. Knight: Where did you attend university? How has this helped you to publish Profiles in Catholicism?

Gordon: I did my undergraduate work at Loyola University in Chicago. During the Korean War, Loyola was accepting students in high school that could pass the entrance exam. So I joined Loyola when I was a student at Marmion Military Academy in Aurora, Il. I did my post-graduate work at DePaul.

Ironically, my first writing experience was at Marmion where I wrote a gossip column of who was dating who, etc.

Dr. Knight: What was your first job?

Gordon: Technically, my first job was when I was 6 years old. My father paid our milkman to let help him with his deliveries in Aurora, Illinois. Milk was then delivered in a horse-drawn milk wagon. When I was 17, during the summer, I lied about my age and said that I was a graduate of Northwestern University and got a job as Assistant Metallurgist in Batavia, Illinois making 90-millimeter shells for the war. My primary responsibility was taking samples from the different steel shipments to determine their tensile strength which in turn determined the temperature that that batch of steel would have to be heated since the chemical composition of each batch of steel was different.

Dr. Knight: What was the most interesting job that you had?

I was a Shamus in an orthodox Jewish funeral home. In the orthodox Jewish religion,

the deceased cannot be left unattended until the funeral and burial.

The origins of the word are unclear, but it may have comes from the Irish name Seamus. It is possible it comes from "shammes", which has two meanings - the candle used to light the other eight candles of a Hanukkah menorah, and the caretaker of a synagogue.

The term Shamus was also used to connote a detective in many of the older movies. It was apparently first used that way in "The Shamus," a detective story published that year by Harry J. Loose (1880-1943), a Chicago police detective and crime writer; the book was marketed as "a true tale of thiefdom and an expose of the real system in crime.

Dr. Knight: What was your initial profession?

Gordon: I worked in the insurance industry designing new forms of coverage. I created an accidental death benefit for Catholic students who were killed returning from a church service in which Mass was said daily for one year. A boy in Ames Iowa was killed by a train coming home after serving Mass on Thanksgiving. which was the first time that Masses were provided as a death benefit. Then I developed some of the first sports disability insurance policies.

Dr. Knight: When did you decide to be an artist?

Gordon: I was working an 80 hour week for years and decided to choose another profession. I went to Switzerland to study with an artist friend of mine. I was then featured in several galleries in Chicago and across the United States. I was featured several times with my art on WTTW-the local PBS station. One of my clients has posted one of my pictures online

Dr. Knight: When and why did you become involved in the AIDS pandemic?

Gordon: A friend of mine who was Vice-President of the AMA suggested that I try to do something to help address the AIDS epidemic. I founded the Physicians Association for AIDS Care in 1987 as the first organization to support physicians as they struggled to care for people who, given limited treatment options, were quickly dying of AIDS-related complications. PAAC delivered education to US physicians about nutrition, pain management, opportunistic infections, and other complications of HIV disease. It also tackled contentious public policy issues. The US Centers for Disease Control ultimately resolved the dispute by issuing less restrictive guidelines that incorporated much of PAAC’s input. At its peak, PAAC represented almost 500 US physicians.

I then started The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care We took on controversial advocacy positions. 50 Ready To Risk Own Lives To Test AIDS Vaccine by Sue Ellen Christian Chicago Tribune We also published a monthly journal.

I also launched a weekly TV program that was carried by some PBS stations, Here is an interview that we did with a woman a day before she died that has received more  than 269,000 hits

Dr. Knight: What were you most proud of when you worked in AIDS?

Dr. Knight: You have received many honors. Which one were you most proud of?

Gordon: Being named to the CDC’s Smallpox Advisory Committee.

Dr. Knight: In your travels who are some of the people that you have met?

Gordon: Pope St. John XXIII, Princess Margaret, Elizabeth Taylor, Eartha Kitt, Cameron Mackintosh, Dame Judi Dench, Marcello Mastroianni, Turhan Bey, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Lyndon Johnson, David Schwimmer, John Mahoney who was a close friend, Dr. Robert Gallo, and the Dalai Lama.

Dr. Knight: You worked in Ukraine for a while. What did you do there?

Gordon: After founding Medical Advocates for Social Justice, I traveled to Ukraine every other week I was helping train physicians there to care for people with HIV/AIDS. I had many of the US Guidelines translated into Russian and brought physicians to the United States to attend AIDS conferences.

However, I was also smuggling nevirapine into the Ukraine which was helpful in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Ukraine government was so corrupt at the time, they wouldn’t allow the drug even though it was free for mother-to child transmission because they couldn’t get a kickback on it. If I had been caught, I could have been jailed in Ukraine.

Dr. Knight: I understand that you served as a catechist.

Gordon: Yes, about forty years ago at St Edmond Church in Oak Park Illinois. I was teaching high school students.

Dr. Knight: When and why did you start publishing Profiles in Catholicism?

Gordon: In 1999, We only have two commandments - to love God and our neighbor as ourselves – both of which most of us fail. I was hoping to help people learn who our neighbors are and some information about their lives and the issues that are of interest to them.

Dr. Knight: What is your favorite book? Movie?

Gordon: My favorite book is a series titled The Alexandria Quartet by Larry Durrell who was a friend. PBS did a series on The Durrell’ in Corfu, I also love A Disarming Spirit.

My favorite film is Citizen Kane.

Dr. Knight: What is your favorite music recording?

Gordon: Chet Baker’s You Don’t Know What Love is. Chet and I met at the old Blue Note in Chicago and became close friends until, his tragic death

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