Looking over his glasses the 25 year old Angelo seemed to be gauging my authenticity as he quizzed my knowledge.

When I recounted the story to my friend, urban planning guru Steve Patterson, he quipped “You’ve been living in cool city neighborhoods since he was in elementary school”.

After that prickly first impression I slowly began to understand and appreciate him. I recently gave him a big drunk pat on the back and told him he was alright.

Angelo’s life is Cherokee Street. Walk down the gritty stretch any given day or night and you’re likely to spot him dining at Black Bear Bakery, conversing on the sidewalk or holding court at Foam.

After what he calls a “dreadful” and lonely upbringing as an awkward gay kid in exurban St. Charles County he felt an instant connection with the area.

“When I came to Cherokee Street I found a welcoming atmosphere. Despite my social awkwardness and strange personality I found acceptance and appreciation. I never won a popularity contest in my life; but now I’ve been twice-elected as board member on the local taxing district.”

The business community knows and respects his dedication to the neighborhood, including Randy Vines of STL-Style. “Angelo’s unwavering optimism about Cherokee is inspirational” said Vines.

Today not much happens on Cherokee that Angelo doesn’t know about. “Block by block there are people that amaze and excite me every day. So many people doing so much with their lives; giving hope for the future of this community and, of course, my own future.”

Angelo loves the historic brick architecture, and because he lives, works, and plays in the area he doesn’t need a car.

“Cherokee is, quite frankly, my first home. That’s largely why I am so fanatical about it. Cherokee is my home and Cherokee people are my family.”