July 3, 1923 – August 31, 2020
Mt. Pleasant resident Jean Roberts grew up on a farm in rural Iowa and attended Western Michigan University, where she played tuba in the symphony. She went on to teach physical education in Kalamazoo and at Comstock High School and later worked as a counselor in the Reed City schools. For 15 years, Roberts and her life partner Janet Bush operated J & J Leather.
Morning Sun, September 1, 2020
April 22, 1935 – January 6, 2018
Painter, sculptor, and pioneering filmmaker Jere Van Syoc graduated from Lincoln High in Ferndale. She went on to earn her B.A. and M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later taught at Western Michigan University and Nazareth College. In 1977, Van Syoc co-founded Aradia in Grand Rapids, where her home was known as “a palace for the goddess.” She died at age 82 in West Virginia.
High Lawn Funeral Home
Jere Van Syoc Collection at The Woman Behind the Camera
May 29, 1944 – April 6, 2005
Martha Charles of Lathrup Village was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana and as a toddle moved to Detroit, where she graduated with the class of 1962 from Cass Tech High School. After earning her B.A. from Western Michigan University, she taught middle and high school in St. Clair Shores. Charles was active in Women Together and co-founded the group Lesbian-A-Sisters. Her partner Sue Brooks survived her.
Between The Lines, May 12, 2005
February 4, 1938 – February 27, 2009
Portia June Fagan was born in Kalamazoo, attended Richland High School, graduated from Western Michigan University, and had a long career as a tax preparer and real estate broker. In 1994, she came out as lesbian in the Kalamazoo Gazette to “break down stereotypes.” Fagan and her life partner Janice O’Dell retired to Arizona in the early 2000s.
Kalamazoo Gazette, March 11, 2009
September 23, 1948 – August 7, 2012
Kalamazoo nutritionist Diana Zhenhua Artz-Iffland earned her B.S. from Western Michigan University and her M.S. from Michigan State University. She was a longtime member of the People’s Church and, with her life partner River Artz-Iffland, was active in the pioneering local lesbian organization Lavender Morning. For 18 years the couple operated Pandora’s Books for Open Minds.
August 26, 1928 – April 12, 2013
Born in Escanaba, William James Hirn earned his Bachelor’s from Western Michigan University and did his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. After teaching in Muskegon and Ann Arbor, he moved to New York State, where he was on the early faculty of Rockland Community College. Hirn and his life partner of 48 years Joseph Rogers retired to Spain and later lived in Houston and Las Vegas.
Escanaba Daily Press, April 19, 2013
June 18, 1929 – April 28, 2016
Gobles High School graduate Ruth Evonne Ketchum attended Western Michigan University and worked for many years at Upjohn pharmaceuticals. She played on the Brodys competitive fast-pitch softball team as catcher. Ketchum also took part in Kalamazoo’s annual Pride parade, attended Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and belonged to Phoenix Community Church.
Kalamazoo Gazette, May 1, 2016
April 30, 1933 – October 2, 2015
Wanda Hope Jubb was born in Nunica and went on to a distinguished career in education. She earned her Bachelor’s and two M.A.s from Western Michigan University and her Ed.D. from the University of Alabama. She taught and coached in the Vicksburg Public Schools and for 24 years served with the Michigan Department of Education. She was preceded in death by her partner Muriel Van Patten.
Lansing State Journal, October 11, 2015
June 14, 1932 – September 5, 2015
Battle Creek resident Betty Clark graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1950 and earned her B.A. and M.A. in education from Western Michigan University. She taught elementary and junior high in the Harper Creek Community Schools from 1960 to 1986. Clark was survived by her life companion of 65 years Silver Lee Garske.
Battle Creek Enquirer, September 7, 2015
July 23, 1937 – April 12, 2006
A native of Kansas, Mary Frances Fenton earned her B.F.A. at the University of Oklahoma. She later earned her M.A. at Western Michigan University, where she served a professor of graphic arts for nearly three decades. Fenton and her partner of 24 years Mary Appelhof participated in the lesbian group Aradia in Grand Rapids and were long active in the women’s community in Kalamazoo.
Lesbian Connection, September/October 2006