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    In Memoriam

    Joan Zimmerman (1936–2021): President of Hadassah, Co-Owner of The Lavender Pages, ‘The Ambassador’ of Fountaingrove Lodge

    Joan “Joanie” Zimmerman was born on July 25, 1936, and died on her birthday this year. A resident of Fountaingrove Lodge—the nation’s first LGBTQ retirement community—Zimmerman and her partner Matile Rothschild were well-known members of the larger Northern California gay community. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2014, “Rothschild and Zimmerman are among the first generation of men and women who are entering old age after spending most, if not all, of their adult lives without hiding their sexual orientation.”

    Zimmerman grew up in San Jose and was an active member of Temple Emanu-El, where she was for some years president of Hadassah (The Women’s Zionist Organization of America). She moved to San Francisco in 1990 and loved living in the Castro, where she became very active in the LGBTQI+ community and was an owner of The Lavender Pages.

    Friendly to all and a fabulous networker, Zimmerman was loved by many. She and Rothschild moved to Fountaingrove Lodge in Santa Rosa in 2013. There she was called “The Ambassador” because of her outgoing and considerate nature.

    She is survived by her children Loren Zimmerman, Perry Zimmerman, and their wives (Julie and Elise); her daughter Leslie Zimmerman; her grandson Christian; and Rothschild, her partner of 20 years.

    Michael Morgan (1957-2021): Conductor and Music Director of the Oakland Symphony

    On August 20, Michael Morgan, Music Director and Conductor of Oakland Symphony since 1991, died at Oakland Kaiser, where he had been admitted the week prior for an infection. He was 63. According to the Oakland Symphony, in May of this year, Morgan underwent successful kidney transplant surgery at UCSF. He resumed conducting last month for the San Francisco Symphony and Bear Valley Music Festival.

    Born in Washington, D.C., Morgan attended public schools and began conducting at the age of 12. While a student at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, he spent a summer at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, studying with Gunther Schuller and Seiji Ozawa. He first worked with Leonard Bernstein during that same summer. His operatic debut was in 1982 at the Vienna State Opera, conducting Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.

    In 1986, Sir Georg Solti chose him to become the Assistant Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for seven years under both Solti and Daniel Barenboim. In 1986, he was invited by Bernstein to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic. As guest conductor, Morgan appeared with most of America’s major orchestras, as well as the New York City Opera, St. Louis Opera Theater, and Washington National Opera.

    In addition to his duties with the Oakland Symphony, Maestro Morgan served as Artistic Director of Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, Music Director at Bear Valley Music Festival, and Music Director of Gateways Music Festival. He was Music Director Emeritus of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera and was on the boards of Oaktown Jazz Workshops and the Purple Silk Music Education Foundation.

    In 2020, he began an association with the San Francisco Symphony as the first curator of their Currents online series, and he recently led the Orchestra on July 23 at Davies Symphony Hall. His programming engaged new audiences and many returned for subsequent concerts.

    “Our entire organization is grieving a profound loss,” Jim Hasler, the Symphony’s Board Chair, said. “Michael’s impact on our community and the national orchestra field cannot be overstated—and he has left us too soon. We have been blessed over the past 30 years, as Michael built the foundations of an Oakland Symphony dedicated to diversity, education, artistic collaboration, and a celebration of music across genres and cultures. His vision of orchestras as service organizations was a beacon locally and nationally. This vision is his legacy, and the Oakland Symphony, Chorus, and Youth Orchestra will renew his commitment for years to come.”

    “This is a terribly sad moment for everyone in the Oakland Symphony family. We have lost our guiding father,” said Executive Director Mieko Hatano. “Michael’s plans and ambitions were set for several seasons to come. He made his Orchestra socially authentic, demanded equality, and he made his Orchestra our orchestra. He fashioned a unique, informed artistic profile that attracted one of the most diverse audiences in the nation. His music reflected his beliefs: reverence for the past, attuned to the future, rooted in his adopted home of Oakland. His spirit will always guide the enduring future of the Oakland Symphony.”

    Morgan is survived by his mother Mabel and sister Jacquelyn Morgan. A memorial service will be announced in the near future.

    If you would like to give in support of Morgan and his legacy, please visit

    James Catherwood Hormel (1933–2021) – Philanthropist, LGBTQ Activist, and Diplomat

    James Catherwood Hormel, the nation’s first openly gay ambassador and a philanthropist who funded numerous organizations, died on August 13 at the California Pacific Medical Center with his husband Michael Peter Nguyen Araque at his side and listening to his favorite Beethoven concerto. He was 88.

    As Equality California said, Hormel was a “true titan” in the LGBTQ community. An heir to the Hormel meatpacking fortune, he was the nation’s first openly LGBTQ ambassador and used much of his resources to further human rights causes and to empower the fight against HIV/AIDS. His extraordinary legacy includes the AIDS Memorial Grove and the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library, where the archives of the San Francisco Bay Times will be housed.

    His life story and numerous achievements are reflected in the following statements, issued shortly after the news of his passing.

    SF Pride

    The Board and staff of San Francisco Pride are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of James Hormel, the first openly LGBTQ+ United States ambassador (to Luxembourg, 1999–2001), a 2005 SF Pride Community Grand Marshal, and a 2010 San Francisco Pride Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

    A philanthropist, a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, and a onetime dean of the University of Chicago Law School, the native Minnesotan came out relatively late in life. He faced sustained attacks from the foes of LGBTQ+ liberation throughout his public career, enough to derail a nomination to become Ambassador to Fiji. Footage of Hormel enjoying a performance by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the 1996 SF Pride Parade tarred him as anti-Catholic in the minds of some conservative senators, but in the end his bid for a top diplomatic post prevailed. Hormel, who was 88 years old and living in San Francisco, will be remembered as a kindhearted and generous man, with a long list of achievements.

    PFLAG National

    Today we mourn the loss of a giant: Amb. James Hormel, a passionate advocate for equality and trailblazer who served as the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador. Our hearts are with his husband Michael and his family. PFLAGers everywhere will strive to follow his extraordinary lead.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi

    It is with the deepest sadness and the greatest appreciation for his unsurpassed contributions to our country and society that I learned of the passing of Ambassador Hormel. We will dearly miss him in San Francisco, in our nation, and around the world.

    Jim Hormel made history as the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador, paving the way for a new generation of leaders and elevating the voices of LGBTQ voices in our foreign policy. With his gentle yet powerful voice and undaunted determination, Jim made it his mission to fight for dignity and equality for all. As the first openly gay Ambassador, he had the courage to be a pioneer and had the patriotism to accept the challenge.

    When the AIDS epidemic descended upon San Francisco, he called on our conscience and rallied the city to help our neighbors suffering from the ferocious disease. His work served as a model for national policy to defeat HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of all affected.

    In our community and country, Jim was recognized as a significant champion of the arts and education. His love of his family and loyalty to his friends made him a beloved figure in our community. It is fitting that Jim’s name is etched in history as the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador, but his extraordinary greatness is forever etched in the hearts of all who know him.

    Paul and I are heartbroken at the loss of our friend. I was honored to officiate at the wedding of Jim and his dear husband Michael. May it be a comfort to Michael, and to Jim’s children Alison, Anne, Elizabeth, James Jr., and Sarah, that so many mourn their loss and pray for them at this sad time.

    Jim’s extraordinary life will always serve as a beacon of hope and promise for LGBTQ children across our country and around the world.

    GLBT Historical Society

    We are saddened to learn of the news that James C. Hormel, the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as an ambassador for the United States, passed away this morning at the age of 88. Appointed by President Clinton to the position, Hormel served as ambassador to Luxembourg from 1999 to 2001. His nomination, first proposed in 1997, was opposed by Senate Republicans and conservative Christians, delaying his appointment. Hormel was known for his steadfast philanthropic support of LGBTQ and social justice organizations. He was among the founders of the Human Rights Campaign Fund (later the Human Rights Campaign), and the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center of San Francisco Public Library.

    “Ambassador James Hormel was a true gentleman and a courageous visionary who paved the way for legions of LGBTQ people in national service,” said GLBT Historical Society Executive Director Terry Beswick. “Throughout my years of activism, I have seen countless worthy causes and individuals lifted up by his unmatched giving, which set a standard for LGBTQ philanthropists everywhere. He will be sorely missed, and I send my heartfelt condolences to his husband Michael P. N. Araque Hormel, his longtime aide Ray Mulliner, and all his family and friends.”

    San Francisco Symphony

    We are deeply saddened by the passing of beloved SF Symphony Life Governor James C. Hormel. A lifetime champion for human rights and the first openly gay United States Ambassador, Jim was a lover of the arts and education and above all a warm and gracious friend to everyone who knew him.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein

    San Francisco lost a great friend today. A philanthropist, civil rights pioneer and loving spouse and father, James Hormel lived an extraordinary life and will be deeply missed by many.

    I had the pleasure of working closely with him on several issues, most notably on the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. I was grateful for his help and expertise as a member of the host committee.

    Tapped to be the ambassador to Luxembourg by President Clinton in 1997, he was the first openly gay person to serve as an ambassador. While his nomination was controversial at the time, his service was distinguished and helped advance LGBTQ rights both at home and abroad.

    In addition to his trailblazing public service, he helped found several LGBTQ institutions, including the Human Rights Campaign and the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library.

    I will miss his kind heart and generous spirit. It’s those qualities that made him such an inspirational figure and beloved part of our city.

    SF LGBT Center

    We mourn the passing of one of the SF LGBT Center’s founders and a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community, James C. Hormel. For decades, Jim tirelessly advocated for LGBTQ+ equality, ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and stepped bravely into the role of being the U.S.’ first openly gay U.S. Ambassador in 1999, amid a barrage of national scrutiny and homophobia. His leadership paved the way for a new generation of LGBTQ+ leaders. He was also a leading philanthropist and actively supported many LGBTQ+ and human rights institutions in the Bay Area, including the Center. Without his generosity and leadership, our movement would not be where it is today.

    Today, the SF LGBT Center celebrates Jim’s immeasurable legacy, and our hearts are with his husband Michael and loved ones. Thank you, Jim, for being a shining beacon for the community. Your contributions will be forever woven into the fabric of LGBTQ+ history in San Francisco and across the country and will be felt for decades to come.

    Project Open Hand

    Ambassador Hormel was one of Project Open Hand’s staunchest advocates and supporters and served as an inspiration for the LGBTQ community by serving as the United States’ first openly gay ambassador from 1999 to 2001. He was an incredible philanthropist to multiple Bay Area organizations and causes, Project Open Hand among them, where we were fortunate enough to call Ambassador Hormel a supporter and friend since 1987.  

    Mayor London Breed

    James Hormel was a trailblazer whose impacts will be felt in San Francisco for generations. All across the city, we can see the impacts of his life, whether it’s in important institutions he supported like the AIDS Memorial Grove or our public library, or in the young people walking down our streets who live in the wake of his courage and activism.

    John Cunningham

    Chief Executive Officer, National AIDS Memorial

    On Friday, upon learning that Ambassador Jim Hormel had passed away, the (AIDS Memorial) Grove is where I needed to be—among its beauty, its soft power to bring healing—a quiet space where I could process my feelings and reflect on the life of this beloved man.
    Jim was a pillar of our community and our nation, a person of great courage, empathy, and generosity—a hero to so many. While profoundly saddened, I wanted to set that aside to consider and celebrate the extraordinary difference Jim made in countless lives, and the powerful legacy he leaves behind. I wanted to honor the love and compassion he shared with us throughout his life.
    Surrounded by the beauty and peace that only the Grove can provide, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this sacred sanctuary, now our nation’s dedicated memorial to AIDS, would be here today had it not been for Jim.  Jim was there at the very beginning when an AIDS memorial was just an idea. He stood up, leaned in, and lent his passionate and influential voice to help raise the funds needed to create the Grove.
    That was Jim. He set his own pain and loss aside to help others, always opening his heart and helping to open doors so that others, particularly young people, could walk through them without the barriers that he, and those before him, once faced.

    James C. Hormel’s biography at the San Francisco Public Library website:

    Published on August 26, 2021