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
March 27, 1959 – February 26, 2016
Debra Lynn Robinson of Sister Lakes was born in Battle Creek, graduated with the class of 1976 from Gull Lake High School, and studied at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She worked as a master electrician at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant and belonged to IBEW Local 131. In 2014, Robinson married her partner Patricia Cloud who preceded her in death by five months.
Battle Creek Enquirer, March 2, 2016
May 25, 1939 – September 17, 2017
Born in Mason, Karen Anne Knudstrup graduated from Mason High School, earned her Bacherlor’s in social science in 1961 at Michigan State University, and went on to teach physical education in Catholic and public high schools in Chicago. She was a delegate in the teacher’s union and also served in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Knudstrup was survived by Diana Haskell, her partner of 52 years.
Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2017
September 16, 1955 – April 19, 1993
Dallas Skeet Williams Jr., from Detroit, moved to San Francisco to live a more openly gay life. He worked as a nurse and a massage therapist and became involved in modeling, bodybuilding, doing drag, photography, and performing in adult videos. As a revolutionary HIV+ union activist, he protested with ACT UP and fought police brutality. Williams lost his life to diabetes.
Bay Area Reporter, May 13 1993
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