Among the pioneering women who have donned the Chicago Force over the years, one was sadly lost too soon when Veronica Gazzillo (born Soper) passed away in Evanston, Illinois at the age of 39. A former All-Star who went on to serve as an assistant coach for the Force, she was part of a dominant offensive line unit that paved the way for Sami Grisafe to become an All-World quarterback.
The recipient of the Force’s Offensive MVP Award in 2010, she was also an All-Star when the club participated in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL). After her career reached an abrupt end due to an injury, she served as a member of head coach John Konecki’s staff. Known affectionately as Ro, the highlight of her coaching tenure included the WFA national championship season in 2013. As a side note, her cousin, Jamie Menzyk was also a member of the Force.
Prior to football, Gazzillo was a multi-sport star at George Washington High School, excelling in basketball, softball and volleyball. Afterwards, Gazzillo served in the United States Army as a member of its military police. Given a Chapter 15 discharge for her same-sex preference, it serves as a painful reminder of what many in the LGBT community had to endure in years past.
Having made her living most recently as a union ironworker for over a decade, she is survived by her wife, Tori Gazzillo. The couple married near the corner of Addison and Halsted streets last June during the Chicago Pride Parade. In addition, Gazzillo had two children, a son, Jason and daughter, Courtney. Her role as a mother tackling the traditionally male-dominated world of football, while having the courage to stand up for her LGBT lifestyle will make her an eternal role model in the female sporting scene of Chicago.