January 9, 1940 – July 12, 2019
Farmington Hills resident Zan Alley attended high school and college in Birmingham, Alabama before moving to Michigan where she taught high school in Royal Oak for 17 years. She later worked as a director with the Michigan Education Association, negotiating more than three dozen union contracts. Alley was survived by her partner and wife Murphy Ayers.
Detroit Free Press, July 21, 2019
August 23, 1966 – December 18, 1993
Born in Detroit, Carl Vinson Andrews came out at age 13 and later worked in financial services for the State of Michigan and was active in the state employee labor union. He served as secretary of Dignity-Integrity/Flint in the late 1980s and was involved the James Baldwin/Pat Parker Society in the early 1990s. In 1991, Andrews was profiled in Outweek magazine.
No known obituary
February 20, 1941 – May 19, 1993
Flint native and Swartz Creek resident John Rex Brooks was a graduate of Michigan State University with a B.A. and M.A. specializing in counseling and psychology. He was a teacher and counselor at Longfellow Junior High, later Longfellow Middle School, for 29 years, and was long active in the Flint teacher’s union. He died from AIDS-related complications at age 52.
Flint Journal, May 20, 1993
May 4, 1932 – October 19, 2012
In 1953 and 1954 Barbara Jean “Barb” Sowers played outfrield with Muskegon Belles and the Grand Rapids Chicks in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Born in Detroit, she grew up in Livonia and retired as a high school counselor with the Livonia schools, where she headed the teachers’ union in the mid-1970s. Sowers was preceded in death by Shirley Weaver, her companion of 45 years.
Roberson Funeral Home and Crematory
September 8, 1925 – December 19, 2017
Born in upstate New York, Mable Stewart Merritt moved with her family as a child to Grosse Pointe, where she graduated from high school. She worked as a typesetter for the United Auto Workers union for 40 years. Merritt was interviewed by Roey Thorpe in 1992 about her involvement in lesbian life in Detroit during the 1950s.
Kansas City Star, January 3, 2018
December 25, 1929 – February 7, 2017
Lawyer, professor, and labor activist Patricia Eames earned her BA. at Reed College, her M.A. from Columbia, and her J.D. from Yale Law School. In the 1980s, she served as general counsel for Wayne State University. While in Detroit she and her life partner Connie Hart were active with the Forum Foundation and SEMGLA, the South East Michigan Gay/Lesbian Association.
Reed Magazine, 2017
August 7, 1947 – February 3, 2002
Originally from Waterford, Harry “Kitty” Kevorkian became involved in the Gay Liberation Front in Ann Arbor during in the early 1970s. He, took part in numerous protests, once crashing an event donned in skag drag at the home of the president of the University of Michigan. Kevorkian was a candidate for the city’s mayor in 1974 and later headed the bus union during a 42-day walkout.
Between The Lines, February 21, 2002
August 2, 1934 – June 26, 2006
A graduate of Michigan State University, Clinton Township resident James Johnstone taught math with the Fraser Schools for 30 years. He served as a union leader with the Michigan Education Association, was long active in Democratic politics, and was an ardent supporter of the ACLU, NOW, and PFLAG.
Detroit News, July 9, 2006
May 17, 1915 – May 16, 1996
The daughter of a coal miner, Olga Madar earned a degree in physical education from Eastern Michigan University and rose to become the first woman on the board of the United Auto Workers in 1966 and an international vice president of the union in 1970. Madar resided in Detroit’s Indian Village.
New York Times, May 18, 1996
February 27, 1944 – December 31, 1979
As an openly lesbian bus driver, Carol Ernst became a key leader in the Ann Arbor Transit Employees Union, an advocate for sex worker rights, and a candidate for mayor on the Human Rights Party ticket in 1975.
Gay Insurgent, Summer 1980