November 24, 1957 – November 6, 1996
Timothy Dean Stempniewski attended Aquinas High School in Southgate and held degrees in education, nursing, and music. He worked as a home-care nurse for Henry Ford Hospital and served as a church organist. In the 1990s he was active with several recovery groups at Affirmations. Stempniewski was found slain in his Detroit home at age 39.
OutPost, January 22, 1997
December 8, 1998 – February 16, 2019
Dani Som, also known as Dani Sommerville, was born in Southfield and was a 2017 graduate of Berkley High School. He received a Spirit of Detroit Award in 2015 for achievement and leadership, including his involvement in music and theater, as well as extensive volunteer work. As an out young trans man, Som was active with Affirmations and FtM Detroit. Months after moving to Oregon, he took his own life.
Between The Lines, April 11, 2019
October 8, 1947 – May 16, 1994
Born in Detroit, Carl Rippberger graduated from Denby High School and served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a U.S. Army draftee. He bar tended at Tiffany’s before acquiring the Escape Lounge, which he opened as Backstreet nightclub in 1979. Rippberger served as president of the Detroit Bar Guild and helped raise funds for Wellness House and Affirmations. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 46.
Detroit Free Press, May 19, 1994
Cruise, May 25, 1994
February 15, 1944 – November 3, 2014
A native of Ecuador with a Bachelor’s from Columbia University and a Master’s from American University, Ernest “Tito” Gutierrez Jr. enjoyed a 20-year career at the Kresge Foundation in Troy. While a resident of Royal Oak, Gutierrez served on the board for Affirmations and played a significant role in capital fundraising for construction of the community center’s own building in downtown Ferndale.
Between The Lines, November 13, 2014
January 13, 1964 – October 25, 1995
Jeffry Florian Kucharski of Dearborn earned a piano scholarship to Wayne State University. He later received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Michigan and his J.D. from the Wayne State Law School. Kucharski worked as helpline coordinator at Affirmations Community Center and enjoyed traveling with his partner of 12 years Tom Wilczak. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 31.
Between The Lines, December 1995
Between The Lines, December 1996
December 2, 1965 – May 17, 1994
Born in Detroit, James Douglas Drain served in the U.S. Army from 1984 to 1986 and was active in the organization Men of Color. He later worked as office manager for Affirmations Community Center. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 28.
Affirmations newsletter, July 1994
October 29, 1961 – February 10, 2000
Scott Lawrence, a homeowner in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, graduated high school in Warren and was employed with area advertising agencies. He volunteered with Affirmations Community Center and for a time worked as a waiter at the Backstage Deli. Lawrence was survived by his life partner Ron Fisher.
Between The Lines, March 9, 2000