WEST TOWN — Derek Dziak, a talented musician, actor and longtime bar doorman at The Continental, has died. He was 33.
Dziak, a West Town resident, died Monday after suffering from complications related to an infection he'd contracted while in the Bahamas on his honeymoon, according to Miles Brindley, a friend who set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Dziak's grieving wife, Avalon.
"We all know Avalon. We love her and cherish our time with her. She just got married back on October 14, 2016," Brindley wrote in the GoFundMe campaign, "Help Avalon," which has raised $8,950 from 151 people since its launch Monday.
Avalon Dziak said Derek Dziak died at 10:38 a.m. on Monday at Rush Hospital.
Avalon described the outpouring of support and the number of people whose lives were touched by her husband as "overwhelming."
Avalon, an actress, met Derek last year while they were working together on a play, "Knocking Up the Mob," at the Greenhouse Theatre.
"It was a whirlwind romance," she said.
Tim Baird, manager of Cleo's bar where Dziak had also worked over the years, in addition to Estelle's, The Burlington, Metro and Smart Bar, said everyone who knew Dziak has been impacted by his death.
"He touched everyone, so many lives," Baird said.
Brian Nielsen, one of Derek's best friends, said that "Derek made friends everywhere he was, and working at so many popular places helped him make even more."
Dziak was born on March 5, 1983 in La Grange Park and graduated from Lyons Township High School in 2001, Avalon Dziak said.
After high school, Derek began studying music at Columbia College, first as a commuter to the city while living at home, and eventually moving to Chicago, Nielsen said.
"His first job in Chicago was working as security staff at the Metro. While there, he also had shifts working the door at Metro's Smart Bar. He started working at the Continental about 10 years ago and worked there concurrently while working at Metro and Smart Bar," Nielsen said.
Nielsen said Dziak had been at The Continental almost since the bar's beginning at 2801 W. Chicago Ave. and it was Dziak's most regular and long-running job.
"As Derek started making income from voice and commercial acting, he left the other bars to spend more time auditioning for acting work. He always kept his position at Continental. He tended bar there as well as working door shifts. That shift [of career] paid off: He has since been on 'Chicago Fire,' 'Shameless,' and 'The Patriot,' " Nielsen said.
Maggie Ednie, who was Derek Dziak's roommate from 2008 to 2016, said that Derek was a genuine, caring and wonderful person, who was dedicated to pursuing his passions on top of his bar jobs.
"He would get up and go to three auditions, go to work, go to band practice, get some food, go to bed. He was always moving. I would feel bad about myself because he would get so much done before I even woke up," Ednie said.
Avalon and Derek were married in Humboldt Park's rose garden and then celebrated at The Continental.
On her husband's Facebook page, Avalon Dziak wrote, "We joked the other day that David Bowie was selectively harvesting all the awesome people for the other side. We thought he was only taking celebrities. But, Derek, you were just too awesome and made the cut. Have fun with Bowie, but damn it I'm going to miss you. Love you, soulmate."
Nielsen said that Derek was the best friend anyone could possibly ask for.
"I'm grateful for how much time I got to spend with him. His time with Avalon was short, but it was the happiest time of his life," Nielsen said.
Grieving friends took to Dziak's Facebook page to post memories, photos and videos.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Check back for updates.
Headshot of Derek Dziak, a musician, actor, new husband and doorman at The Continental and formerly Cleo's. [Facebook/Derek Dziak]
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