CHICAGO — The director of a local non-profit is being remembered for her joy, tenacity and infectious energy. No matter what she was going through, Amanda Longe-Asque had a way with words.
“I was seeing a cardiologist and urologist, I said I’m a joyologist,” Longe-Asque told WGN-TV, last year. “I want to bring joy to any person that comes in contact with me.”
On a Sunday afternoon in January, those who knew and loved her searched for the words to describe what she meant to them.
“It was beautiful to work with her, just beautiful,” Marge Nykaza said. “She taught me so many things about life, I just loved her. So, she really was the heart of Harmony Hope and Healing.”
Nykaza is the founder of Harmony Hope and Healing, which uses the power of music to transform lives. Longe-Asque is their biggest success story.The non-profit helped in her recovery from addiction, incarceration and homelessness. She received her college degree and was later named the co-executive director. The full-circle moment was upended by Covid-19, before vaccines were available.
“Her courage over the past two years has been amazing and that word tenacity,” Nykaza said.
Robbed of her voice, Longe-Asque spent months in intensive care until a double lung transplant in 2021 saved her life. She fought to recover, her voice grew stronger and she returned to work. But months later, she was back in the hospital after her body eventually rejected the lungs.
“She put on a brave face to the very end, even in the hospital bed when she didn’t feel like there was much hope, she kept going,” said one of her daughters, Lola Longe.
Longe-Asque died in December. She was 54 years old.
“When I got the word she had passed, it was a range of emotions, grief and sorrow and sadness,” said HHH program manager, Zahra Baker. “But also gratefulness that I had the opportunity to work with her, know her, and be within her field of joy and light.”
Joy and light carried into the celebration of life to remember Longe-Asque, the force of nature and energy that she was, and the spirit and purpose that live on.
“Don’t be afraid to continue to hope and use your voice,” she told us in 2019. “Everybody has a voice. And use it to help other people and to strengthen yourself.”
Harmony, Hope and Healing will host its annual heartbeat fundraiser on April 30.
Photojournalists Audrey Haynes, Bart Bishoff, Bradley Piper, and Ted Parra contributed to this reporting.