February 3, 1938 – December 31, 2022
Violet Betty “Vy” Reed graduated with the class of 1955 from Dearborn High School. She pursued a career in education, earning her B.A. from Western Michigan University and M.A. from Michigan State, then working as a teacher and counselor in Roseville. She found community in the 1960s at Fred’s Bar and later as a member and facilitator of Silver Foxes and the Senior Koffee Klatch at Affirmations.
Detroit Free Press, January 24, 2023
Between The Lines, February 1, 2023 [online only]
May 23, 1936 – December 10, 2022
Native Detroiter Charles Robert Alexander came out into the gay world while a student at Cass Tech. He earned his B.A. at Wayne State University and had a long career with the Detroit schools. An acclaimed artist, he was active with Affirmations and MCC Detroit, and in 1997 received the local LGBTQ Lifetime Achievement Award. Alexander wrote more than 700 columns over 27 years for Between The Lines.
Between The Lines, December 22, 2022
Driving Mother Knickers
February 20, 1989 – November 19, 2022
LGBTQ community artist, activist, and icon Marissa “Rizza” Marie Benton attended Haslett High School, where as a senior they won a portfolio award for their art. They were later stylist at and operator of the Roots Hair Lounge salon at Wild Ferns Wellness in Lansing. Benton also served on the board of the Salus Center. They were survived by their son Oliver and by five days by their partner Sydney Eckhoff.
WKAR, December 9, 2022
Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes
November 28, 1965 – August 21, 2022
Dearborn native PJ Redbird Two Ravens of Ypsilanti graduated from the University of Michigan in 1990 and earned an MSW from Eastern Michigan University in 1999. He worked at U-M as a sleep technician and an HIV/AIDS social worker. He also formed the group Gender Explorers and volunteered with HARC. Two Ravens was preceded in death by his fiancé Amy Chesbro and was survived by his partner Jay.
Ann Arbor News, September 8, 2022
March 8, 1954 – April 12, 2022
James Patrick “Jimmy” Dowdle, known to many in the LGBTQ+ community as Poodles, was born in Battle Creek and graduated in 1972 from St. Philip Catholic Central High School. After moving to Detroit, he joined the waitstaff at Menjo’s, later served as manager, and was co-owner for several years in the early 2000s. For the last 16 years of his life, Dowdle tended bar at Danny’s Irish Pub in Ferndale.
OutPost, May 2022
Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care
April 2, 1949 – April 9, 2022
Artist, educator, Detroit native, and Royal Oak resident Monica Mary Molinaro graduated from Troy High School in 1967. She later attended the College for Creative Studies and earned a graduate degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1983. Her paintings and collages were showcased at such venues as Cade Gallery, CCS, Gallery 911, Flip, and posthumously as part of the Mighty Real/Queer Detroit exhibit.
Metro Times, April 27, 2022
February 2, 1968 – January 1, 2022
Damon Michael Williams was born in Flint and graduated with the class of 1986 from Grand Blanc High School. He relocated to Columbus where he attended Ohio State University. At the time of his death, Williams worked as Educational Coordinator for OhioHealth. He was preceded in death by his mother. Survivors included his father, his siblings, and his boyfriend Ricky.
Lawrence E. Moon Funeral Home
April 29, 1930 – January 1, 2022
Denison University graduate James Willis Toy moved to Detroit in the late 1950s to become a church organist. In 1970, he helped co-found the Detroit Gay Liberation Front and the Ann Arbor GLF. A year and a half later co-founded the Human Sexuality Office at the University of Michigan, where he earned his MSW in 1981. Toy’s activism and achievements for Michigan’s LGBTQ community are unparalleled.
Between The Lines, January 13, 2022
James W. Toy papers at the Bentley Historical Library