June 15, 1981 – December 10, 2018
Born in Lansing, Jesse James Sherman Melot graduated from Fulton High School in Middleton in 1999. He later earned his Associate’s at Lansing Community College and his Bachelors from Sienna Heights University, going on to work as operations manager for Farm Bureau Insurance. Melt met his future husband Derek Melot in March 2004 and the two wed in October 2013.
Lansing State Journal, December 14, 2018
July 23, 1927 – March 5, 1998
Originally from Illinois, Frank Lloyd Bigger Jr. worked as manager and bartender at Joe Covello’s in Lansing from 1975 to 1991. He went on to manage JB’s Saloon for three years before helping launch the Esquire Bar in 1994. The Lansing Association for Human Rights recognized Bigger with a Prism Award in 1995. Following his death in a car accident, an annual euchre charity event was named in his honor.
Between The Lines, April 16, 1998
October 10, 1951 – February 10, 2010
Born in Lansing, Darnell Austin Clark graduated from Everett Hight School in 1970 and as a youth performed with the Suitcase Theater on two tours in Europe. He was later employed with Oldsmobile as a purchasing technician for more than 30 years. Clark died at age 58 of complications from diabetes and was survived by his life partner John McGarey.
Lansing State Journal, February 18, 2010
April 6, 1949 – September 28, 2021
Lansing resident Ilona Rae Sabo-Shuler was born in Grand Rapids, graduated from South High School, attended Calvin College, and later studied at Garrett Theological Seminary in Illinois. After serving as pastor of Williamston United Methodist Church from 1982 to 1994, she became a real estate agent in East Lansing. Sabo-Schuler was preceded in death in 2020 by her partner of 42 years Jean Fillingham.
Palmer, Bush, & Jensen Family Funeral Home
February 14, 1964 – March 17, 1991
Oregon native Carl Lee Fezatte moved to Lansing in his youth and was later employed at Trammp’s nightclub. He took his own life at age 27 following a standoff with police at a highway rest area. Fezatte was survived by his partner Terry “Mike” VanAlstine.
Lansing State Journal, March 19, 1991
June 26, 1947 – December 7, 2010
Michael David Scott was born in Lansing and graduated from Central High School in Kalamazoo in 1966. He later worked as a chef in Lansing and at Michigan State University. Scott was a noted local drag performer and in June 1972 won the Miss Capital City title at a pageant held at Joe Covello’s. Days later he led the first-ever Pride parade down Woodward in Detroit and sang at the rally in Kennedy Square.
Lansing State Journal, December 13, 2010
September 15, 1963 – December 16, 2007
Lansing native James Michael Nickoff was kicked out of his home at age 15. He survived on dishwashing jobs and worked his way through college, earning his B.A. in accounting at Michigan State, where he was active in the Lesbian-Gay Council. After he moved to San Francisco, he served on the founding board of Equality California and married his partner Dave Lawson in 2004. Nickoff took his own life at age 44.
Bay Area Reporter, December 27, 2007
September 7, 1973 – March 31, 2020
Denison resident Rebecca Pauline Dunn was born in Lansing and attended Grand Valley State University and Aquinas College. She worked as a beloved bilingual education elementary teacher with the Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than two decades. Dunn and her partner of 22 years Melanie Auzins were married in the summer of 2019.
Grand Rapids Press, April 7, 2020
April 25, 1926 – September 5, 2015
Mary Elizabeth Pyle was born in Lansing and graduated from Lakeview Highland High School in Battle Creek in 1944, a member of its first graduating class. She was employed as a secretary with Post Cereals for more than 30 years and after retiring in the mid-1980s moved to Phoenix. Pyle was preceded in death by her partner of five decades Patsy Spahr and in her last years wintered back in Michigan.
Avink Funeral Home & Cremation Society
November 5, 1961 – October 22, 1994
Lifelong Lansing resident Paul Darwin Morgan, better known as Darwin, graduated from Hill High School in 1979, then attended Lansing Community College and Michigan State University. Morgan later worked as a mental health counselor and performed as an actor with the Riverwalk Theatre, the Lansing Civic Players, and Spotlight Theatre. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 32.
Lansing State Journal, October 25, 1994