April 22, 1935 – January 6, 2018
Painter, sculptor, and pioneering filmmaker Jere Van Syoc graduated from Lincoln High in Ferndale. She went on to earn her B.A. and M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later taught at Western Michigan University and Nazareth College. In 1977, Van Syoc co-founded Aradia in Grand Rapids, where her home was known as “a palace for the goddess.” She died at age 82 in West Virginia.
High Lawn Funeral Home
Jere Van Syoc Collection at The Woman Behind the Camera
September 4, 1993 – June 11, 2019
Grand Rapids resident Alice Joy Anderson was born in Holland. Anderson’s creativity drew her to mythology, literature, music, architecture, history, and photography, and a passion for LEGO building blocks. Her studies took her to India and Iceland. At age 16, Anderson entered Hope College, where she worked as a set carpenter in the Theater Department and earned her B.A. in studio art in 2016.
Holland Sentinel, June 21, 2019
November 17, 1956 – February 21, 1995
Mitch Thomas, also known as Thomas Robert White, was born in Flint, graduated in the Carman High School class of 1974, and served in the U.S. Air Force. White was employed for many years by Abbott’s Meats but was better known as a painter, sculptor, and regular performer at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 38.
Flint Journal, February 23, 1995
September 19, 1967 – July 23, 2011
David Blair, better known as Blair, was born in Newton, New Jersey and moved to Detroit in the 1990s. He achieved national recognition as an openly queer socialist poet, artist, singer-song writer, and activist. Blair also taught poetry to Detroit Public School students and at the Ruth Ellis Center. Among his many achievements were a National Poetry Slam title and the BENT Writing Institute Mentor Award.
Between The Lines, July 28, 2011
Metro Times, August 3, 2011
April 27, 1932 – May 28, 2013
Born in the small town of Quincy, Muriel Van Patten earned her B.A. and M.A. at Eastern Michigan University. She taught visual arts at Fenton High School and served as an elementary art teacher and principal in the Wayne-Westland Schools. She retired from the Michigan Department of Education. Van Patten had her own art shown in numerous exhibitions. She was survived by her partner Wanda Jubb.
Detroit News, June 2, 2013
July 13, 1951 – January 23, 2015
Activist, artist, and entrepreneur owner Christine Johnson was born in Cincinnati and moved to Chicago, where she co-founded the Metis Press Collective, a lesbian feminist publisher. She met her life partner of 34 years Nancy Poore in 1981 and the two later moved to west Michigan. The couple rented vacation cottages and operated a kayak rental business.
Grand Rapids Press, January 27, 2015
Lesbian Connection, May/June 2015
Nancy Poore & Chris Johnson video interview at Chicago Gay History
May 21, 1921 – March 4, 2004
Joan Jeanette Corbin was born in Armada, grew up in Richmond, and moved to Los Angeles in 1946. With her then-partner Irma Wolf, Corbin was a founding member of the board for ONE Incorporated, publisher of ONE magazine. She served as art director for ONE under the pseudonym Eve Elloree from 1953 to 1963. Corbin continued to draw into her 70s, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
No known obituary
Joan Corbin papers at the ONE Archives
May 8, 1925 – March 23, 1993
One of the most esteemed African American artists in Detroit history, LeRoy Foster was renowned for painting public murals in numerous buildings, including Cass Tech High School and the Frederick Douglass branch of the Detroit Public Library. As with many gay men of his generation, Foster was arrested on charges of accosting undercover vice in the 1950s.
Detroit Free Press, March 26, 1993
January 25, 1921 – December 26, 1997
Actor and artist, Clifford Reynolds Jr. grew up in Highland Park and attended what was then called Wayne University in Detroit. He married in 1945, moved with his wife to California in 1952, and they divorced in 1968. A radio and television performer, Reynolds was survived by companion Lorne Gay.
Bay Area Reporter, January 1, 1998
February 27, 1936 – November 26, 2011
Gordon Barnard moved to Detroit when he was five and came out into Detroit’s gay world while in high school at Cass Tech. A graphic artist, Barnard worked as a graphic designer for Michigan Consolidated Gas Company for 35 years. His partner of 22 years, William Ownby, preceded him in death in 1994.
Between The Lines, April 22, 2011