Billi Gordon

Billi Gordon pic

September 2, 1954 – February 22, 2018

Wilbert Anthony “Billi” Gordon Jr. graduated from Union High School in Dowagiac, class of 1972.  He left seminary to attend the University of Michigan, where he became involved in gay activism, including as spokesperson for the Ann Arbor Black Gay Caucus.  Gordon went on to become a celebrated model, entertainer, writer, and neuroscientist.  He was survived by his spouse of 30 years Robert Schallert.

Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2018

Jim Martin

James Martin pic

April 5, 1944 – December 10, 1985

Born in Elmhurst, Illinois, James Martin earned his B.S. and M.S. from the University of Illinois before earning his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1969.  After a year clerking for a federal appeals judge, Martin joined the UM Law School and had a distinguished 15-year career there while living a discreet gay life in Ann Arbor.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 41.

Ann Arbor News, December 22, 1985

Jennifer Holiday Chanel

Jennifer Holiday Chanel pic

June 9, 1969 – November 15, 2020

An early member of the House of Chanel, Jennifer Holiday Chanel graduated with the class of 1987 from Flint Central High School and went on to attend Eastern Michigan University.  She performed at the Nectarine in Ann Arbor, later worked at Gigi’s in Detroit, and won the Miss Gigi’s title in 1997.  The Performers Awards of Detroit honored Chanel with its Bookie Stewart Hall of Fame Award in 2017.

Between The Lines [online only], November 19, 2020

Nona McKenna

July 7, 1940 – October 20, 2008

Nona Diane McKenna of Dexter was born in the Upper Peninsula town of Hermansville, graduated from Roosevelt High School in Ypsilanti, earned her B.A. in physical education from Eastern Michigan University, and served in the U.S. Marines from 1961 to 1966.  In 1991, she and Sally Johnson became the first same-sex couple to register as domestic partners.  They married in California in 2008.

Ann Arbor News, October 23, 2008

Chester Kallman

Chester Kallman pic

January 7, 1921 – January 18, 1975

Brooklyn-bred Chester Simon Kallman was a librettis, poet, and longtime companion to poet W.H. Auden.  Kallman pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan and while in Ann Arbor he and his roommate Strowan Robertson were the nuclei of a gay social circle.  He went on to write three volumes of poetry and authored or co-authored librettos for several operas.

New York Times, January 19, 1975

Cynthia Wrentmore

Cynthia Wrentmore pic

December 5, 1934 – October 28, 2001

A native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Cynthia Jane (Young) Wrentmore started as a public health nurse with the Washtenaw County Department of Public Health in 1958 and became as its communicable disease coordinator in 1981.  She served on the board for Wellness Networks/Huron Valley, later known as the HIV/AIDS Resource Center, and was a pioneering AIDS educator in the Ann Arbor area.

Between The Lines, November 29, 2001

Geoffrey Fine

Geoffrey Fine pic

January 8, 1951 – May 1, 1991

Geoffrey Martin Fine grew up in Ann Arbor and moved to New York City following high school.  He appeared in a number of Off-Broadway plays before moving back to Ann Arbor in 1975 to study choreography and dance at the University of Michigan.  On returning on New York, Fine pursued stand-up and volunteered with Gay Men’s Health Crisis.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 40.

Outweek, June 12, 1991

Marina Doukales

July 7, 1940 – August 11, 2011

Born in Newport, Rhode Island, Marina Doukales moved with her mother to Ann Arbor in the 1960s.  She later worked as a phlebotomist with the University of Michigan Hospital for 20 years.  Doukales and her partner of 32 years Nora Forde resided in Whitmore Lake before retiring to Desert Hot Springs, California.

Desert Sun, August 20, 2011

Susan Christner

Susan Christner pic

June 23, 1945 – April 11, 2012

Longtime Wyandotte resident Susan Ann Christner graduated from Central High School in Flint in 1963 and earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint in 1976.  She went on to get her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UM in Ann Arbor in 1998 and went into private practice.  She was survived by two sons and her partner Linda Sprankle.

Flint Journal, April 15, 2012

Michele Donnelly

Michele Donnelly pic

December 12, 1958 – July 27, 2018

Dexter resident Michele Lee Donnelly was born in Detroit and graduated with the class of 1976 from Redford Union High School.  She enjoyed camping on Lake Michigan and watching Tiger Baseball and was a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor.  Donnelly and her wife Sherry Smith were together 30 years.

Ann Arbor News, August 1, 2018