RIP: Pittsburgh’s Queer Community Loses Two Important Members

Today brought sad news to, well, me and many other individuals in the LGBTQ community.  First, came word that one of the godfathers of Pittsburgh's modern queer community had passed away at the age of 60.  Randy Forrester (I'll insert the obit when it is published tomorrow) has been hailed for man things:  founding Persad Center, running as the county's first openly gay candidate, putting an end to bar raids, and just generally stepping up and stepping out as a leader throughout the past 30+ years. 

Randy received numerous accolades and honors for his contributions to our entire community.  All I have to offer is that when someone says “Jim and Randy,” most people smile and know exactly who you mean.  That's a life well-lived, if far too short. 

Another sad note followed a few hours later.  Longtime lesbian health advocate and faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, Dr. Deb Aaron passed away yesterday at the age of 51.  Deb was instrumental in completing a comprehensive needs assessment for the LGBTQ community, as well as a researcher with the ESTHER project — she paid attention to health disparities for lesbians.  Her contributions to academia and the wellness of lesbians are too numerous for me to enumerate.

I had the privilege of serving on the board of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center with Deb for a few years.  We also spent one long evening selling soda and chips back in the early days of Celebrate the Night.  She was a lovely person, very classy and just amazingly smart.  She was also part of the “Dykes on Bikes” in the Pride Parade and a lot of fun. 

Deb will be laid to rest in her mother's hometown. A local memorial service is scheduled for June 13, 2008 at 1 PM.  Her family has two requests in lieu of flowers:

(1)   Pittsburgh Cancer Center's fund providing assistance to patients and families:
      UPMC Cancer Centers Patient Assistance Fund
      Development Department
      UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1B
      5150 Centre Ave
      Pittsburgh, PA 15232

(2)   Support for graduate students in Health and Physical Education , University of Pittsburgh:

      Office of Development
      University of Pittsburgh
      School of Education
      5613 WWPH
      Pittsburgh, PA  15260

Checks should be made payable to:  University of Pittsburgh.  Indicate that donation is in memory of Deborah J. Aaron, PhD

God speed our dear friends.  Pittsburgh is a better place to be gay because of both of them.  As new generations of queer women and men step up and step out, their legacies will continue.  And I am sure their many beloved friends and family members will carry their memories for the rest of their days. 

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