Alvin Elton, who died last Sunday from the coronavirus at 56, was one of the Northwest Side’s best-known and best-liked competitive dart players.
He enjoyed Chicago pleasures. “Italian beef sandwich and a Bud Light, and he was a happy guy,” said his wife Gretchen Meyer, director of customer service at the city Department of Aviation.
“He approached everybody as a potential friend,” said his buddy Pete Citera.
And “Even though he was living in Chicago, probably about 300 days of the year, he was wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt,” his wife said.
Mr. Elton, who had worked as a pipefitter, was proud of his roots in two Sioux tribes. As a youth he spent summers on reservations in South Dakota, forging close ties with family members there. Later in life, he went to Chicago pow wows. He was thrilled when he found his tribal flag at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
He took ill last week. “Just like everybody else, we thought maybe it’s a cold,” his wife said. But by March 20, “He felt really bad.” He underwent a chest X-ray, which showed “quite a bit of pneumonia.”
He sought treatment at Resurrection Medical Center. On March 21, he seemed stable, but on March 22 his condition worsened and a doctor called his wife at 9:30 p.m. and urged her to get to the hospital.
“Thankfully, the governor’s [stay-at-home] order had already been in place,” Meyer said. Because of little traffic, “I got there in 10 minutes” from their Jefferson Park home.
Her husband was on a ventilator and wasn’t conscious. She was able to suit up in protective gear and be in the room with him when he died. She’s grateful that hospital officials allowed her to stay with him a while longer.
“I was in two layers of gloves, but through the gloves, I was able to touch his face,” she said. “I held his hand for a little bit.”
And even though she knows most people are doing the best they can in an unprecedented situation, she has been frustrated by a lack of official coordination about the coronavirus.
“There was a lot of misinformation, a lot of wrong information,” his wife said. “The funeral director had to make at least two visits to the hospital [to collect his body]. I never got the [cause of death] results. I tried calling the state, I tried calling the hospital,” she said. “Finally I got an ICU doctor” to confirm it.
“It’s just frustrating,” she said.
“Everybody’s talking about flattening the curve,” but with little in the way of government guidance or instruction, she made her own decision to self-quarantine.
“I’m doing it because I feel it’s my job and my responsibility,” she said. “I haven’t let my mother or sister or my best friend” come in close contact.
She’s finding quiet solace in their home with their beloved cat, Kitty.
They met while playing darts against each other in a Windy City Darters match at Mullen’s Sports Bar & Grill near Touhy and Western. “We just hit it off,” she said. “It was a Thursday night. We exchanged phone numbers and emails. I had an email waiting for me by the time I got to work Friday morning and he asked me to go to a Cubs game Saturday morning. I went and we never looked back.”
“He was just so friendly and warm,” she said, with a quietly self-assured, take-me-or-leave-me personality.
His buddies called him by his initials, “ACE,” said Citera.
Mr. Elton’s parents were part of two Sioux tribes in South Dakota. His mother, Adeline Marie Stands and Looks Back, was a member of the Rosebud Sioux. His father Arthur A. Elton was a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
One of his ancestors was Chief Stands and Looks Back, his wife said. The chief’s photos are in the collection of the Library of Congress.
His mom and dad met at the American Indian Center on Wilson Avenue after moving to Chicago in the 1970s to participate in a federal program that promised vocational training to Native Americans. His father became a pipefitter and his mom specialized in accounting, his wife said.
They raised Alvin and his sister Anne on Brummel Street in South Evanston, where he made lifelong friends. He went to Chute Middle School and Evanston Township High School. Young Alvin loved basketball, softball, baseball and hockey and skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado.
He adored Portillo’s Italian beef. “He had a local butcher he loved,” Joseph’s Finest Meats on Addison Street, his wife said, “and he and the butcher concocted the perfect mix of meat to make the best burger in the world.”
His favorite food was what he called “Indian tacos” — fry bread, ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
He was a big fan of Bruce Springsteen and he saw U2 in concert about 20 times, and if he couldn’t get tickets to see the Irish group, he’d travel to other cities, including Vegas, to enjoy shows.
Mr. Elton taught himself to play the piano and did a lovely version of Journey’s “Faithfully,” she said.
He enjoyed discussing World War II history.
“Star Wars was his all-time favorite” movie, his wife said. Because she works for the Department of Aviation, “He insisted on driving me to work some days because he could see airplanes up close.”
He treasured a collection of handmade star quilts made by his mom and other relatives, gently cleaning them and preserving them. “Knowing that my mom made them and what the star quilt means to the Indian community, I don’t want to let them go,” he told his wife.
In addition to his wife and his sister Anne Gavin, Mr. Elton is survived by his nieces Kayla Carlson, Abby Carlson and Katrina Carlson and nephew Billy Gavin. A celebration of his life will take place in the future, his wife said.