Thursday, January 12, 2012

AIDS QUILT MEMORIES: Recalling Tom Tell And Ron Washburn, With Sister Butch, Peat, And Queeni

By Patrick Hall

The return of the AIDS Quilt for Advent brought back many memories of those members of St. Aidan’s, and friends of St. Aidan’s, who died of AIDS.

Many of them were VERY involved in our parish, serving on the Vestry, including Kenneth Buckley, Ron Washburn, Peter Hayn who later became ordained, Fr. Jim Markunas, etc. But this remembrance is about Tom and Ron.

In the late 70’s, Rev. Lin Knight asked me to be the Bishop’s Representative to The Parsonage, which was the first official presence of the Episcopal Diocese in the gay and lesbian community. The Parsonage was established by Bishop Swing, at the urging of two gay priests, Bernard Mayes and John Williams. It was located in a small rental home behind Herth Realty, at 555A Castro Street. Soon after I started attending Board meetings there, I met Ron and Tom.

At about the same time, HIV was discovered and AIDS became a death sentence throughout the gay community (and among our St. Aidan’s community).

Ron and Tom were very active in publicizing the AIDS epidemic, as well as quelling rumors regarding its transmittal. When the Episcopal National Convention was held in Anaheim, Ron and Tom enlisted a group from the leadership of the Parsonage to travel there to raise awareness of AIDS within the Episcopal community. They would gather the latest articles and statistics about AIDS, and then each morning Marilyn and I, and Ron and Tom, and Bill Lorton and others, would hand out “The Daily AIDS Update” to the conventioneers as they entered the convention center each morning. Marilyn would especially target those with a purple shirt. Ron and Tom also began handing out small swatches of rainbow ribbons, with straight pins, so you could pin it on your shirt or blouse, to show your support of those with HIV/AIDS.

Finally, Ron and Tom became HIV positive themselves. During their illness, they continued to be active in AIDS awareness, helping to establish the first World AIDS Day, and attending, as I recall, the first three World AIDS Conferences. Ron succumbed first to the disease, and a few months later, Tom.

Before they died, Marilyn and I had planned a trip to Italy, and included Assisi on our itinerary, intending to go for the day. Tom and Ron said, “If you are going to Assisi, you really must stay overnight.” We did, and it was a magical, spiritual night to be in the quiet realm of St. Francis after all of the tour buses have taken the masses back to Rome.

If you look at the medium size panel in the middle of the bottom of our Quilt panel, you will see “The Bickersons” [Bill Lorton’s nickname for them] “Ron Washburn, Tom Tull, Sister Butch and Queenie (their two cats) and Peat” [their dog]. We miss them all.”

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful to read something about Tom and Ron even after they passed away for a long time. Two great & caring guys who touched my heart with their joy and generosity. We had a wonderful and inspiring time when they both visited me in Germany. Seeing them being remembered gives comfort, as it shows good people doing good things really changes something in this world.
    Willi, Germany