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    Newly Discovered Memo Handwritten by Del Martin Reveals Her and Phyllis Lyon’s Desired Legacy

    During the first week of Pride month for 2021, a memo of significance to LGBTQ history, and particularly that of lesbian history, was discovered.

    While Kendra Mon, the daughter of lesbian and civil rights activist Del Martin, was sorting through her late mother’s papers in boxes, she came across a handwritten memo that she had never seen before.

    “My moms saved nearly everything,” Mon said of Del and her longtime partner and later wife, Phyllis Lyon. “The memo was handwritten by my mother.”

    It reads:

                                “The best way to honor us is to carry on the work that has been done—

                                 help combat ageism [,] recognize & promote visibility of elders and support their

                                 issues in the broad GLBT agenda.

                                 Perseverance.

                                 In every loss are the seeds of success [.]

                                 Patience.

                                 Education never ending.

                                 Continue to work with youth, but tell them about our history.”

    The words were written on a Disneyland Pacific Hotel notepad sometime before 2000, as during that year, the vacation destination became Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. Del died in 2008, and the message clearly reflects her and Phyllis’ own advanced ages at the time, as well as their interest in supporting LGBTQ elders.

    The couple attended and spoke at many conferences and events over the years, so it is likely that they were in Anaheim for such a reason.

    It seems fitting that Del’s words have come to new light during Pride month and at a time when Openhouse—an organization dedicated to LGBT senior housing, community, and services—has just announced new housing and a new Executive Director. Del and Phyllis were close friends with Openhouse co-founder and San Francisco Bay Times columnist Dr. Marcy Adelman and her late partner Jeanette Gurevitch.

    Both Del and Phyllis were founding contributors to the Bay Times. To learn more about the trailblazing couple, check out these prior issues of the Bay Times:

    April 9, 2020: https://issuu.com/sfbt/docs/bay_times_04.09.19
    November 14, 2019: https://issuu.com/sfbt/docs/bay_times_11.14.19.birthday_
    November 13, 2014: https://issuu.com/sfbt/docs/revisedbt11.13pp1-32.issu
    February 21, 2014: https://issuu.com/sfbt/docs/2013-06-27

    We also recommend viewing the short documentary One Wedding and a Revolution by the late Debra Chasnoff. It is available via Kanopy with a public library card or university login.
    https://www.kanopy.com/product/one-wedding-and-revolution

    Making Gay History additionally brings Del and Phyllis’ voices to life.
    https://makinggayhistory.com/podcast/phyllis-lyon-del-martin/

    Whichever of these or other sources that you choose, we hope that you will take time to learn more about these remarkable women—forever proud lesbians—and will, as Del had hoped, tell younger generations about their history.

    Photos courtesy of Kendra Mon

    Published on June 10, 2021