Larry Biondi, 58, was a highly respected staff member at the Progress Center for Independent Living (PCIL) on Madison St. His colleagues called him a fearless advocate for disability rights. Horacio Esparza, PCIL’s director, said, “Larry’s legacy of 28 years of tireless fighting for the rights of people with disabilities will always live on. He was arrested dozens of times for resisting during so many protests, for yelling at the world that people with disabilities count too.”
Gary Arnold, PCIL’s program director, explained that many in the disability community are unhappy with the way Jerry Lewis’ annual telethon portrays children with muscular dystrophy, always showing them as sick or weak.
“Larry was a regular at the annual MDA Telethon protest,” Arnold recalled, “and one year I tagged along. Before heading out to the protest, a few people, including Larry, called the MDA donations in order to tie up the phones.”
Biondi was also a regular in Springfield testifying before legislators in the House and Senate advocating for disability rights.
Because he was born with cerebral palsy, he was confined to a wheelchair and had a severe speech impediment. His office mate, Clark Craig who also was born with the disorder but in a milder form, would interpret for him.
Those disabilities, however, never prevented him from living life fully. It was like he was competing in the hundred-yard dash with the addition of having to jump over hurdles.
An example of Larry’s feisty determination is the time he was robbed while traveling on the Blue Line to a dentist appointment. Two men approached him. One stole his phone which was mounted on a bracket on his wheelchair, while the other used his joy stick to wheel him part way out of the open train door.
At that point any fear that might have been in the PCIL Advocacy Coordinator left him. He shifted his wheelchair into reverse, got all the way back on the train, approached the guy who had his phone, grabbed his coat and started yelling at him.
Esparza wrote a tribute to his colleague in which he said, “From Larry I learned that no disability has limits, that limits are set by society.”
Larry told him that as a child he wanted to ride a bicycle, but the doctors told his parents that would be impossible. “And with that big smile that characterized him, Larry said, ‘And guess what? … I ended up putting hundreds of miles on a trike my parents bought me.’
“That was Larry,” Esparza concluded, “strong, a fighter, defying great adversity.”
He also had a sense of humor, Esparza said. “Larry had a language limitation and in a conference in which we both presented, I heard him ask the participants: ‘What university degree do you think I studied?’ and the participants mentioned all except what they would never imagine. Larry, smiling, said, ‘Communication Sciences’.”
Esparza spoke for the staff and clients at PCIL when he said, “Thank you Larry for being my friend, my fighting partner, my great example and mentor. You taught us that we should live life smiling.”
Lawrence J. “Larry” Biondi, 58, died on June 28, 2021. Born on Feb. 17, 1963, he spent 28 years tirelessly fighting as an advocate for social justice, especially for persons with disabilities. His leadership and great legacy will be remembered by his colleagues at the Progress Center for Independent Living and ADAPT.
Larry was the son of the late Beatrice (nee Zimmerman) and Roy Biondi; the nephew of Anna Marie Pierotti and Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J.; the cousin of Anita Kidd, Maria Pierotti and Peter Pierotti; and other cousins, Atina, Peter, Nicholas, Matteo, Giana and Luca; and many other Zimmerman cousins.
A visitation was held on Tuesday, July 6 at 9:15 a.m., followed by a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at Queen of All Saints Basilica, 6280 N. Sauganash Ave., Chicago, IL 60646. Entombment is private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Larry’s name can be made to the Progress Center for Independent Living, 7521 W. Madison St., Forest Park IL 60130. If you’d like to view a LiveStream of the Mass, please visit Larry’s obituary at www.smithcorcoran.com. More info 773-736-3833.