House music producer dies of COVID a month before expected birth of son he always wantedon December 5, 2020 at 12:20 am

Chicago house music producer Matthew Agostini’s first son is due to be born Christmas Day.

Agostini, known as Turk to his friends and Dirty Turk in the music world, won’t be present for the birth.

Two days before Thanksgiving, the 50-year-old Logan Square resident died from pneumonia caused by COVID-19. His death came less than two hours after he was taken by ambulance from his home to the hospital.

Agostini’s death was a shock to his many friends, who flooded a Facebook remembrance page with stories of a talented and funny man whose passion was music but who supported his family by working as an electrical rigger on television and movie sets.

Jessica Tapper, 38, his partner of nine years and mother of their 3-year-old daughter Violet, said they already had picked the name Matteo for their son-to-be.

A recent ultrasound showed the boy has his father’s nose.

Matthew “Turk” Agostini posed beside an ultrasound photo of his son, who is due to be born on Christmas Day. He’ll have his father’s nose.

Tapper told me that, during one particularly difficult recent day, her young daughter had told her: “Don’t cry, Mommy. Put your feelings away.”

Tapper said Agostini was devoted to Violet but had begged her for a son since they began their relationship.

Agostini has two older daughters from previous relationships — Devin Whitman, 29, who lives in Arizona, and Lucia, 14, in California.

“He always wanted a baby boy,” said Whitman, who spoke glowingly of her dad. “Violet was his world. He loved being a father.”

In an online tribute, she described him as: “The King of Useless Information. The bearer of bad news. The most Sicilian of all Sicilians and the King of the Lower East Side. Type One Warrior… Poet. Musician. Artist. Sculptor.”

Whitman and her mother have established fundraising sites on Facebook and to help pay for Agostini’s funeral and to support his younger children.

Agostini, a well-traveled native New Yorker, moved to Chicago 12 years ago to focus on his music because of the city’s status as the home of house music. Whitman said he considered himself a “deep house” musician.

“He called it progressive jazz house,” she said.

Agostini was also a songwriter and session musician, playing keyboards, guitar and bass.

“He would be walking down the street and just start writing a song in his head,” Tapper said. “He’d call his own voicemail and hum the song so he wouldn’t forget the melody.”

Agostini learned electrical work as a teenager and later operated his own contracting business, his daughter said.

In Chicago, he worked on most of the major TV shows shot here as a member of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 476. His specialty was setting up generators for filming locations outside the studio.

As a teenager, Agostini aspired to be a professional breakdancer. He competed in contests along the East Coast and appeared briefly as a dancer in the 1984 movie “Breakin.’ “

His brand of humor was along the lines of “breakin’ balls,” as one of his old buddies put it.

“He liked to roast people,” Whitman said. “He made people laugh until they cried and peed their pants, literally.”

Matthew Agostini with his oldest daughter, Devin Whitman.
Matthew Agostini with his oldest daughter, Devin Whitman.

Tapper said she and Agostini stuck close to their apartment since she learned she was pregnant shortly after the pandemic began in March.

Agostini, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, was careful to wear a mask when he needed to go out, she said.

He was sick for two weeks before he died, his symptoms becoming progressively worse, with a cough and fever. He suspected he caught the virus at a pharmacy where another customer was coughing and not wearing a mask.

Even as his breathing became labored, he never sought treatment and wasn’t diagnosed until he went to the hospital the night he died.

Tapper isn’t sure of this but suspects “he was afraid of dying on a ventilator.”

When the ambulance came, Agostini walked to it and went to Norwegian-American Hospital.

“He was there for an hour and a half, and then he was dead,” Tapper said.

Why do I keep writing about COVID victims?

Maybe so that we aren’t tempted to put our feelings away.

Jessica Tapper, Matthew Agostini and their daughter Violet last year riding the CTA's Christmas train. 
Jessica Tapper, Matthew Agostini and their daughter Violet last year riding the CTA’s Christmas train.

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