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    In Memoriam

    Toni Morrison (1931–2019)

    Acclaimed author Toni Morrison, born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, died peacefully at age 88 this week following a short illness, according to her publisher Knopf. She was best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, but wrote many other influential novels, such as Jazz and Paradise. For her extraordinary body of work, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, making her the first black woman ever to earn this prestigious honor.

    Her portrayals of black women would, at times, have feminist and/or homoerotic undertones. As Autostraddle writer Carmen Phillips wrote this week, after sharing how Morrison’s books helped her to overcome self-hate and depression: “Toni Morrison laid bare the kind of secrets that we barely even whispered to each other, the shames that we buried underneath our quick tongues and sisterhood hugs and fashion slays. She wrote for black women, and for that she is ours. There are going to be countless eulogies and write ups about the author and Nobel laureate. I assume that most of them will be a more thorough undertaking of her life’s accomplishments than the hazy rumination of one queer black girl about the summer of 2013. The thing is, Toni Morrison helped save my life. Today I wanted to make sure that she knew that.”

    There is little doubt that Morrison’s unparalleled legacy will live on. She ended her Nobel Prize address with: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”


    Reid Pierre Condit (1940–2019)

    Longtime LGBTQ grassroots activist Reid Pierre Condit died on July 10. Over the past several weeks, this largely unsung member of our community has been celebrated by fellow activists and friends, such as Ken Jones.

    Jones shared that Condit “dedicated his life to serving the LGBT community of San Francisco. Reid was one of the first volunteers I worked with on Parade Day distributing our day-of’ publication, On Parade.” He added that Reid served as the “Recording Secretary and Corresponding Secretary for dozens and dozens and dozens of grassroots movements in the San Francisco Bay Area. A frontline worker bee, and the keeper of a WORLD of Minutes of our grassroots organizing in the 70s and 80s. Minutes, T-shirts, buttons, our story.”

    Outside of his significant volunteering, Condit worked as a writer at EHDD Architecture on the Embarcadero. A Stanford graduate (class of 1962), he served in the Army and learned several languages. According to the Bay Area Reporter, “he was assigned to spy on the Russians” during his time in the military.

    Condit later became known as a bathhouse proponent, due to his championing these spaces, particularly in the early to mid 1980s. At the time, due to fear of HIV/AIDS spread, the San Francisco Health Department asked courts to close gay bathhouses in the city. When the closures happened, Condit and others attempted to have the bathhouses reopened. Condit remained actively involved with this issue over the decades, as evidenced by existing letters to the editor—even as recent as five years ago—that he wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.

    Jones, however, said that Condit “was so much more than a bathhouse proponent.” Announcing his death, Jones wrote, “I worked with Reid for a couple of decades with Pride, and on the Pat Norman Campaigns for Supervisor. Reid has the largest collection of ‘left-over’ merchandise and memorabilia … newspapers … buttons … minutes. I trust they will find their way into the LGBTQ Archives.”

    David Tessler (1943–2019)

    Steven “David” Tessler, a Castro landlord who for a number of years also owned the popular clothing boutique City Island Dry Goods formerly at 598 Castro Street, passed on July 9 after suffering a stroke several months prior. San Francisco Bay Times photographer Rink attended Tessler’s memorial service on July 28 at the San Francisco Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

    “One guest spoke about how he and his husband lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and David gave them a refuge in his Castro Street apartment building (at 577 Castro Street), ahead of dozens of better qualified renters,” Rink said. “A church member spoke about David giving shoes to shoeless people on the street, from his frequent garage sales. The emotional minister and church members, and his nieces, spoke about his seemingly endless generosity.”

    Born in New York, Tessler attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts prior to his family moving to Miami, Florida. He served two years in the Navy before moving to San Francisco in the late 1960s—the same time that Rink also arrived in the city. Tessler immediately fell in love with San Francisco and decided to make it his permanent home.

    His newfound sense of freedom here was reflected in the fashions sold at his clothing store. As he was quoted by author John Polvin in the book Giorgio Armani: Empire of the Senses: “People today are willing to be comfortable, both physically and socially. They have no use for constraints or formality.”

    As Rink indicated, though, Kessler is most remembered for his generosity. At great personal and financial expense, he provided compassionate end of life care to his partner of twenty years, Tom Mullan, and to his beloved aunt Fay Simon and sister Toby Tessler. He is survived by his other sister, Naomi Fine Sloan, along with numerous nieces, grandnieces and grandnephews.