Jack Birkinsha

January 22, 1940 – December 18, 2001

Jack Birkinsha of Byron Center was a Kansas native, earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and retired from the Great American Life Insurance Company.  As an attorney in Detroit in the late 1970s, Birkinsha served as a trustee for the monthly paper Metro Gay News and, as a member of the Committee for Gay Rights, helped push for the city’s Omnibus Human Rights Ordinance.

St. Joseph News-Press, December 25, 2001

Sheila Fortuin

Sheila Fortuin pic

May 3, 1952 – November 23, 2016

Born in Byron Center, Portage resident Sheila Fortuin graduated from Byron Center High School in 1970, and attended Ferris State University for a short time before taking a job with the city of East Grand Rapids.  She later worked at the Rock-Tenn paper plant in Otsego until its closure in 2004.  Fortuin and her life partner Trish Breithaupt shared 21 years together.

Life Story