June 21, 1953 – November 20, 2008
St. Joseph native Valerie Jean Connell became a champion horse rider during her school years, taking part in multiple horse associations and winning prizes at the Michigan State Fair. After graduating from Edwardsburg High in 1971, she joined the U.S. Army, later earned her B.S. and M.S., and went on to teach social studies in Florida. Connell was survived by her partner Lenora Ledwon.
Miami Herald, November 23, 2008
October 10, 1953 – October 8, 1978
Born in Battle Creek, John Wayne Schallberg attended Climax-Scotts High School, graduated from American Beauty College, and operated the Masquerade Shop in Climax. He was a participant in the Kalamazoo Gay Liberation Front and, as Nadine, was one of several drag queens who rode the hood of a Ford in Detroit’s first pride parade in 1972. Schallberg took his own life just before his 25th birthday.
Kalamazoo Gazette, October 10, 1978
February 16, 1953 – February 14, 2011
Originally from Florida, Steve Nader got his start as a gay dance club DJ in Atlanta, Georgia. After moving to Michigan in the 1970s, he helped found the Disco Pool Detroit record pool and went on to spin discs at such bars as Five West, the Gas Station, Menjo’s, the Detroit Eagle, and Off Broadway East. He lost his life to prostate cancer at age 58.
Between The Lines [online only], May 7, 2015
July 23, 1953 – May 1, 2019
Warren resident Chrissy Surewater attended Fordson High School in Dearborn, studied at Rochester College in Rochester, and worked at Precision Imagery and as a photographer for Ford Motor Company. She was also a longtime member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, for three years serving as office administrator. Surewater was survived by her beloved fiancé Michelle Fox-Phillips.
Between The Lines, May 2, 2019 [online only]
November 27, 1953 – January 13, 1993
James Ernest Moyski was born in Detroit, graduated in 1971 from Walled Lake Western High School, and earned his B.S. from Eastern Michigan University. He worked as a licensed cosmetologist, was active in theater and dance, and resided in Ferndale with his lover William Markel. Moyski also performed for 8 years with the Detroit Together Men’s Chorus. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 39.
Cruise, January 20, 1993
October 10, 1953 – December 15, 2019
Toledo, Ohio native Susan Sharon Bright graduated high school in 1971 and worked for Chrysler Motors for 30 years. A University of Michigan sports fan, she also enjoyed biking and fishing. Bright resided in Temperance with her loving wife Betty Jackson.
J. Gilbert Purse Funeral Home
June 15, 1953 – July 27, 2015
Vande Jane Grewer of Troy earned her B.S. in retail management in 1975 from Michigan State University. She was as a licensed real estate agent in Metro Detroit and attended the First United Methodist Church of Birmingham. Grewer’s life partner Tamara Dowd survived her.
Detroit News, July 31, 2015
January 11, 1953 – December 26, 1995
Cappisene Ford, known to most in the gay community as Ms. L.T.D. (for La Twiggy Darling), began to entertain in the 1970s at the Escape, My Fair Lady, and other Detroit bars. She later went on to perform in Paris and Hong Kong. From 1979 to 1980 she served as Records Officer for the Michigan Organization for Human Rights. She died from AIDS-related complications at age 42.
No known obituary
November 16, 1953 – November 16, 2004
Michael Sweazey of Canton and formerly of Garden City began bartending at Gigi’s in Detroit in the mid-1970s and was one of six employees to inherit ownership of the bar after the death of Tony Garneau. For many years he worked as Gigi’s show director and performed female impersonation under the name Vanessa LaSalle. Sweazey was survived by his life partner of 28 years Steven McAfee.
Between The Lines, December 2, 2004
Vanessa LaSalle at Our Community Roots
March 2, 1953 – June 7, 2006
Detroit native and Center Line resident Jamie Marie Phillips-Fox was a pioneering transgender volunteer and activist in South East Michigan. With her future wife Michelle Fox-Phillips, she founded what was then known as Transgender Detroit. Phillips-Fox was also involved in Crossroads, Transgender Michigan, Affirmations, and PFLAG Detroit.
Detroit News, June 10, 2006
Between The Lines, June 15, 2006