October 16, 1927 – January 13, 1995
Detroit native Raymond Edward “Ray” Johnson graduated from Cass Tech High School and took art classes at the Ox-Bow School in Saugatuck. He later studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina before moving to New York City in the late 1940s. Johnson became an acclaimed collagist and performance artist. He relocated to Long Island at age 41 and ended his life at age 67.
New York Times, January 19, 1995
How to Draw a Bunny
December 9, 1946 – October 21, 2020
Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised by his mother in Detroit, Frederick Weston attended the High School of Commerce and went on to earn his Bachelor’s from Ferris State. In his 20s, he moved to New York, where he worked low-paying jobs while relishing the gay scene and creating an array of visual arts. A long-term survivor of AIDS, Weston gained recognition for his artistic genius only late in life.
POZ, October 29, 2020
New York Times, November 18, 2020
March 2, 1925 – March 21, 1986
A 1944 graduate of Southeastern High School in Detroit, potter and sculptor Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” Sauer earned her BFA at Cranbrook Academy and her Masters at Wayne State. As one of the pioneering “Damsels of Design,” she worked as a designer of automobile interiors for General Motors from 1955 to 1962. Sauer later taught and shared a home in Harper Woods with her partner Julie Sabit.
Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1986
How Margaret “Peg” Sauer Inspired the World
September 19, 1938 – September 10, 1998
Walter Leroy Brown of Erie, formerly of Southgate, grew up in Ohio and as an employee of National Amusement later worked as a manager of cinemas in Ann Arbor and Detroit. In the mid-1960s, he served as “mother of the bride” for a same-sex wedding held at the Park Lane Apartments across from the Diplomat Lounge in Detroit. Brown died during heart surgery at age 59.
Monroe Evening News, September 12, 1998
April 22, 1948 – December 18, 1978
Muskegon native Gregory Don Williams graduated with the class of 1966 from Muskegon Catholic High School and subsequently attended Michigan State University and Wayne State University. In June 1972, he took part in Michigan’s first-ever pride celebration in Detroit. At the time of his death, he was employed with a Wall Street brokerage firm in New York.
Muskegon Chronicle, December 20, 1978
April 4, 1941 – December 29, 2020
Evelyn Joseph Fisher attended the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods and earned her M.D. from the Wayne State University Medical School. As senior specialist for infectious disease at Henry Ford Hospital, Fisher saw her first patient with AIDS in 1982. A year later Fisher was instrumental in helping to found Wellness Networks to serve the needs of people with HIV in southeast Michigan.
Detroit News, January 16, 2021
Between The Lines, February 4, 2021
August 4, 1977 – December 3, 2021
Jamie Louise Bissell grew up and attended college in Indiana. After earning her J.D. at Valparaiso University in 2005, she moved to Michigan where she first lived in Trenton and worked in law firms. She later moved to Livonia and took a job with the Wayne County Friend of the Court. She also served as president of her union local. Bissell was survived by two children and her wife Molly Pastori-Bissell.
Owen Family Funeral Homes
September 28, 1937 – September 2, 1985
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Clifford William Kelley worked as a regional sale representative for Detroit Edison and was involved in Wayne County politics. While separated from his wife, he was found murdered in his Royal Oak apartment. Known as “John” in the gay world, Kelley was last seen leaving an adult bookstore near Woodward and Six Mile in Detroit with another male.
Detroit Free Press, September 6, 1985
Cruise, November 13, 1985
April 16, 1960 – January 4, 2018
Lesbian writer, filmmaker, and punk musician Rayya Mokdessy Elias was born in Syria, grew up in Metro Detroit, and graduated from Center Line High School. She moved to New York in the 1980s, returning intermittently to Michigan, living in Warren and Royal Oak. Elias directed the film shorts Anonymous and Lunchroom and authored the memoir Harley Loco. She was survived by Elizabeth Gilbert.
The Cut, January 5, 2018
The Alpha Wolf
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