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    Anna Damiani Has Left the Building …

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    On February 25, the San Francisco LGBTQ community unexpectedly lost a legend and I lost a friend and fellow “Political Sister/Elder Stateswoman” when Anna Damiani, 65, wheeled her way over the rainbow bridge to eternity. Anna, best known as the “Purple Lady” for her obsessive love of purple clothing, embodied the spirit of this quote by filmmaker Woody Allen: “Showing up is 80% of life.” 

    Anna was notorious for never backing down from a challenge, always speaking her mind (even when the recipient didn’t want to hear what she had to say), but her claim to fame was always responding with a resounding “yes” to the question, “Can you do me a favor and help with … ?”

    Anna’s professional career was summed up in the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club’s tribute to her penned by Gina Simi, former co-chair: “In addition to her work with Alice, she staffed Senator Mark Leno for more than 15 years, served as President of the Golden Gate Business Association, Board member of San Francisco Pride, and as Mayor Willie Brown’s liaison to the LGBT community. In her early career, Anna was a strong advocate for women and the LGBT community while working at Pacific Bell. Her advocacy led to strong support for domestic partnership benefits and expanded marketing strategy for the LGBT community.”

    Tributes have poured in from elected officials, political operatives, fellow Democratic club members and the many friends she made over her 40+ years in San Francisco; all variants of the same theme, that Anna could always be counted on to show up. 

    After her death was announced, it seemed that every LGTBQ community member and ally in San Francisco had pictures with Anna; of course, they did, because Anna showed up everywhere. Despite mobility issues and reliance on a wheelchair to get around, Anna could regularly be seen giving treats to her many canine friends from her perch in front of Spike’s Coffee in the Castro, or presiding over the check-in table of events throughout the city.  

    I first met Anna in 2002 when she began her 15-year employment with former Assemblyman and State Senator Leno. I got to know her better in 2008 through my involvement with the Alice Board. Her apartment in Noe Valley was on my way home from pretty much everywhere in the city, so my role as one of her “designated drivers and wheelchair schleppers” gave us the opportunity to forge a deeper friendship. 

    Even though I was sometimes the recipient of her criticism on how I was running the Alice Board or regarding a decision I made on the Pride Board, I respected Anna’s opinions and admired her for being an early pioneer in both the women’s liberation and gay rights movements. When I asked her what brought her to San Francisco, she said, “In 1977 I was living in South Florida and when 70% of your neighbors go to the trouble of voting to deprive you of a place to live and the ability to get a job, you don’t hang around.” 

    For those of you who are not familiar with the voter-sanctioned attacks on the gay community in the late 1970s, Anita Bryant, former beauty queen and shill for Florida Citrus, led the effort to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance against “homosexuals” in Dade County; 70% of voters agreed that it was perfectly OK to discriminate against gay people. The ordinance was not reinstated until 21 years later in 1998.  

    By the time I got to know Anna, she was a quiet leader who shunned the limelight and didn’t need fancy titles. When I was vice-president of SF Pride and then co-chair of Alice, I repeatedly asked her to serve in leadership roles and every time she said, “No, but I’ll help out wherever I’m needed.” One of the best quotes about Anna came from Julius Turman, (also of blessed memory, RIP Julius) when he was the Legal Advisor to the Pride Board. During a contentious meeting regarding a lack of volunteers for an event celebrating the opening of a sponsor’s new hotel, Julius suggested we ask Anna. When a new Board Member doubted that she’d come, Julius’ blunt response perfectly summed up Anna, “Please, Anna Damiani would show up to the opening of an envelope.”  

    Anna cemented her place in Alice Board lore and legend as the “check-in” person for all Alice events. She had very specific requirements: “two printed copies of the list in 14-point font.” Even as the club moved to digital processes, someone always found a way to get Anna her printed lists in 14-point font; we never did find out what she did with the second list and now that she’s gone, we’ll never know.  

    While I am devastated by this staggering and tragic loss, it gives me comfort to think of Anna free from pain, no longer reliant on her trusty wheelchair for mobility. If there is a heaven, I have no doubt that when Anna reached the pearly gates, she brushed St. Peter aside and said, “Move along, I’m in charge of check-in now. Get me two lists in 14-point font and bring me the dogs. I have treats in my pocket.” 

    Farewell, Anna. You will be missed. May your memory be a blessing.

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is a Former Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a proud graduate of the Emerge California Women’s Democratic Leadership program, was a San Francisco Commissioner, and has served in leadership positions in multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations.

    Published on March 10, 2022