One step ahead, he found East Village

President’s Message by John Scheer 

Gonzalo Flores, better know as Charlie, made his first major move from Puerto Rico to New York City in 1947. In 1978 he moved again to what used to be called the DePaul neighborhood, then in 1980 to his current East Village home.

He has been a pioneer, and a wise investor.

Charlie Flores moved to Chicago with his wife Matilda, four daughters and three sons, and started his career as a pipefitter for Western Electric on 22nd Street and Cicero Avenue. I didn’t know Charlie, but his life moves were several years ahead of my own. I bought my first condo on West Armitage Avenue in 1982, on what would have been on the same block as Charlie. In 1995, I moved across the street from Charlie on Winchester Avenue.

His new East Village home needed a lot of upkeep. He installed new floors, repaired the ceilings and walls, and cleaned the graystone front.

Gang members, their friends and families populated most of the block. Charlie and his family learned to live there peacefully through respect and distance. He developed neighborhood relations with several other families on the block that were not affiliated with the gangs. His youngest son, Alex, the last of his children still living at home, kept out of the gang environment by completing high school in Lakeview. Charlie also kept a close eye on his son to make sure he was not part of any gang.

Charlie has continued to buy property for his children as they married and started families. He continues a tradition of family gatherings in East Village, Wicker Park and Humboldt Park as his family has spread to these communities. And he makes an annual visit to visit his sister and three brothers in Puerto Rico. Yes, Charlie owns a home there too. If history repeats itself, Puerto Rico may be my next destination.

Chicago baseball history has a page for Charlie Flores. The catcher for the Saxton team in the independent league played in Comiskey Park, Wrigley Field and Washington Park stadiums.

His family have seen a lot of East Village changes. Aldermen, mayors and police commanders have come and gone. Many other local establishments have closed or moved. Charlie is happy with his contributions to the neighborhood and views most changes as improvements.

The Flores family story has helped make East Village the community it is today. Charlie is outside his building frequently talking with neighbors or watching his dogs. Stop by and say hello.
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