Lydia Tomkiw (August 6, 1959 - September 4, 2007) was an American poet, singer, and songwriter, best known for her work with the new wave musical group Algebra Suicide, along with her husband Don Hedeker.
Lydia Tomkiw was born in Chicago to immigrants from what is now Ukraine but was then a part of the Soviet Union. Her father Teodor worked at the local US Steel mill, while her mother Zenovia worked at the women's wear department at a local department store. The family lived near Humboldt Park, at the time a largely Polish neighborhood, but which became mostly Puerto Rican by the time Tomkiw was in her teens.
She graduated from Lane Tech high school in 1977 and attended the University of Illinois Chicago campus and later Columbia College, where she received a Master's Degree in Disciplinary Arts. According to the poet Paul Hoover, Tomkiw "became interested in poetry in her first year of college at University of Illinois Chicago, where she took a class with the poet Maxine Chernoff", before transferring to Columbia. She met Hedeker at a gig in 1980 with his band the Trouble Boys. They soon started dating and started Algebra Suicide in 1983.
The band was popular in the Chicago area, and had a strong, if small, following elsewhere, especially Europe, where they toured in 1990. But while they enjoyed much critical success, financial success was lacking. Lydia purchased a club, the Club Lower Links, in 1991 with several partners, but within two years she was forced to sell her share. She and Hedeker divorced in 1993, and while they remained together professionally a bit longer, the end was clearly in sight. Algebra Suicide broke up for good in 1995.
Later years and death:
After the divorce, Lydia moved to New York City in the East Village. There she developed a solo record, Incorporated, which tapped a number of avant garde artists like the Legendary Pink Dots for production and performance help. She also continued to perform her poetry at various readings around the city. Though she continued to write poetry and some fiction (reportedly including a novel called Ugly Kids), she had to take other jobs, including temp work, to make a living. She spent her last years in Phoenix, Arizona near her family. She died in September 2007 of unspecified causes.
Her grave seems to be at the Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery in Chicago.
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