Farewell, friend

War vet, ac­tivist Charles Stevens dies.

GA Voice - - Front Page -

Charles Stevens, 88, of De­catur, a beloved Ge­or­gia gay ac­tivist and mil­i­tary vet­eran, died May 4 peace­fully in his sleep.

A me­mo­rial ser­vice was set for Satur­day at 4 p.m. at the Phillip Rush Cen­ter.

Stevens was a United States Navy vet­eran of World War II and the Korean con­flict. He was a life mem­ber of the Ge­or­gia Chap­ter of Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans for Equal Rights (AVER) and also a long­time mem­ber of At­lanta Prime Timers, an or­ga­ni­za­tion for older gay and bi­sex­ual men and their loved ones.

Stevens was also well-known for rid­ing in a jeep with other mem­bers of AVER at the front of the At­lanta Pride pa­rade as part of the color guard.

Many friends posted to so­cial me­dia and to Stevens’ Face­book page to ex­press their love and ad­mi­ra­tion, in­clud­ing Danny In­gram, past na­tional pres­i­dent and past Ge­or­gia pres­i­dent of AVER.

“I have never met a more hon­or­able, gen­er­ous, or ded­i­cated in­di­vid­ual,” In­gram wrote.

Stevens is also be­ing praised for his ded­i­ca­tion to com­mu­nity ac­tivism, which in­cluded the fight to over­turn the ban on gay peo­ple serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.

Ge­or­gia Voice spoke to Stevens sev­eral times over the years. In 2011, for a story about At­lanta’s aging LGBT pop­u­la­tion, Stevens spoke about grow­ing old and stay­ing ac­tive in the com­mu­nity. From that story: [Stevens] pulls out a yel­low Post-It note from his worn brown leather wal­let to show a hand­writ­ten list of all the or­ga­ni­za­tions he’s in­volved with: Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans for Equal Rights, Ser­vice­mem­bers Legal De­fense Fund, At­lanta His­tory Cen­ter, At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­dens (he vol­un­teers on week­ends), At­lanta Prime Timers (for older gay men), and he’s on the board of his condo as­so­ci­a­tion as well.

“I can’t re­mem­ber them all,” he said with a smile.

Stevens moved to At­lanta in 1958 while work­ing for the fab­ric man­u­fac­turer Scala­man­dré, a high-end fab­ric and tex­tile com­pany based in New York.

“It was a gay-friendly in­dus­try so it was easy to be gay,” he said. “I didn’t come out un­til I was 25, but by the time I was 13 or 14 I knew there was some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

With Prime Timers, Stevens cre­ated a buddy sys­tem so ev­ery­one has a buddy to check in on ev­ery day, whether through the in­ter­net or by phone.

“There was one time when a mem­ber was hurt for sev­eral days in his home be­fore some­one in­quired about him and he was checked on,” Stevens said.

He wor­ries for other older LGBT peo­ple, es­pe­cially those with­out much money.

“I’m con­cerned hous­ing is too costly for many on a limited in­come. I live alone in a condo com­plex where there are 246 units and there are 30 gay peo­ple living there, I’m guess­ing,” he said. “Most of us live alone.”

Stevens is happy to grow old as an openly gay man.

“I wouldn’t want to be younger again,” he said.

Charles Stevens rid­ing at the front of the 2014 At­lanta Pride pa­rade with mem­bers of the Ge­or­gia chap­ter of Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans for Equal Rights. (Photo cour­tesy AVER)

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