May 13, 2010 at 8:53 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.

Dori Ann Steele, 53

Dori Anne Steele, an author and massage therapist in Silver Spring, Md., died March 4 following a four-year struggle with a debilitating spinal nerve condition known as arachnoiditis. She was 53.

Her partner, University of Maryland Family Studies Professor Robyn Zeiger, said Steele took her own life when the pain from the incurable illness, which eventually would lead to partial paralysis, became unbearable.

Zeiger, who was Steele’s partner for more than 26 years, said she and the couple’s friends and family members remember Steele as a “healer” through her expertise as a certified massage therapist.

Friends and family members will celebrate Steele’s life at a memorial service scheduled for May 23 at the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel, Zeiger said.

Steele began her career as a Silver Spring massage therapist in 1994 after graduating from the Potomac Massage Training Institute of D.C. with a certification in Swedish and deep tissue massage. An Institute biography says she obtained advanced, post-graduate training in specialized massage techniques.

It also says that in 1999, she became a Reiki Master, a term used to describe people trained to perform and teach a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation through massage and meditation.

Zeiger, who wed Steele in Canada in 2006 and again in California in 2008, said that prior to working as a massage therapist, Steele worked as an editor and technical writer for consulting firms that specialized in the fields of health and science. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Goddard College in Vermont.

Steele was a creative writer and poet, Zeiger said. Her book, “Drawing Back the Curtains: A Collection of Lesbian Erotica,” was published in 1990.

Zeiger, a licensed clinical counselor and senior lecturer at the University of Maryland, said Steele joined her in advocating for same-sex partner rights and benefits at the university and elsewhere. In 2007, the two focused on a campaign to persuade the University of Maryland to adopt such benefits.

“She went from a very vibrant, very alive person to another person due to the pain,” said Zeiger.

Zeiger told the Blade that Steele drove to a rustic location on Damascus Road in Gaithersburg where Steele and Zeiger enjoyed the scenery together in past years. Steele parked the car in a church lot and consumed a large quantity of pain medication, Zeiger said.

A Montgomery County medical examiner determined the death was caused by an overdose of oxycodone and alcohol.

“Dori made a rational and brave decision to end her life, given the dire circumstances of her severely painful physical condition,” Zeiger told the Gazette, a Maryland newspaper. “It was based not on depression, but on the fact that she could no longer tolerate the pain.”

The Gazette reported that in a note she left, Steele wrote, “I just cannot see any more doctors, have any more procedures, MRIs, pills.”

In addition to Zeiger, Steele is survived by her sister, Donna Flynn; her brother, Paul Satterfield; her brother-in-law, Harvey Zeiger; her sister-in-law, Susan Zeiger; two nieces; one nephew; and other relatives.

The memorial service in celebration of her life is scheduled to take place at noon May 23 at the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Food & Friends, 219 Riggs Rd., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20011, or Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Rd., Kanab, Utah 84741.

Michael Baker, 64

Charles Michael Baker, a founding member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and a federal government employee for 30 years, died March 1 at Sibley Memorial Hospital of complications associated with acute pancreatitis. He was 64.

Originally from Key West, Fla., Baker attended La Grange College in Georgia before moving to Washington, D.C. He worked at the Office of Management & Budget and later served as director of environmental education for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

During his time at the EPA, Baker founded the federal government agency’s staff diversity group, which organized annual LGBT Pride-related events associated with Federal GLOBE, an LGBT organization of federal employees. He retired from government service in 2008.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington honored him in 2009 with its Harmony Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his involvement with the chorus in a variety of roles for 29 years.

Jeff Buhrman, the chorus artistic director, said Baker was one of the group’s founding members in 1981 and served as its first president elected by Chorus members in 2001 after the group reorganized its governing structure. Baker sang for the chorus for the entire 29 years of his involvement with the group.

“It was the love of his family and friends and his involvement in music and theater that gave him his greatest joys,” says a tribute to Baker prepared by friends.

He is survived by his partner, Trieu Tran of Washington, D.C.; his sister, Sylvia Knight; his son, Matthew; one daughter-in-law; and two granddaughters. Memorial services celebrating his life were held in April in Key West and Washington, D.C.

Everett Waldo, 77

Everett Waldo, a founding president of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and a federal government employee in the 1980s, died April 3 of natural causes in San Diego. He was 77.

Waldo has been credited with playing a key leadership role for the Gay Men’s Chorus in its formative years, working with others to put the group on its path toward becoming a highly acclaimed choral group in the nation’s capital, Chorus officials said.

He was born in Waterbury, Vt., and attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and Miami University in Ohio, where he received a bachelor’s degree in music.

He served in the Army in Frankfurt, Germany, during the Korean War and later attended Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., where he received a master’s of divinity degree. He served as a minister at Methodist churches in Bucksport, Maine, and Accokeek, Md. He later worked for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Washington.

A biography prepared by family members says he moved to San Diego in 1990, where he became involved with the First Unitarian Universalist Church. Kathleen Owens, the church’s associate minister, said Waldo served as an active lay leader and fundraiser for the church.

In a separate tribute to his long association with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, present and former Chorus members said Waldo returned to Washington several times in the 20 years following his move to San Diego to attend and participate in Chorus events. They said he remained a singing member of the Chorus up until his move to the West Coast.

“Given that his achievements throughout his career with [the Chorus] were primarily in the administrative area, it must have pleased him immensely to be a soloist in one of his final concerts, singing the role of one of the ‘Three Little Girls from School’ in ‘The Mikado,’” says the tribute.

“The Chorus next year will mark its 30th anniversary, thanks to Everett and his fellow pioneers and the countless others who followed Everett’s early and crucial example,” it says.

Waldo is survived by his sons, Jonathan and Matthew; four grandchildren; his former wife, Liz; and his sister, Joanne Bixby.

A memorial service honoring his life was held in San Diego in May. Family members requested that donations, in lieu of flowers, be made in his honor to First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St., San Diego, CA 92103.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Thanks for running the obits on “Beverly” Baker and “Evelyn” Waldo (as we affectionately called them). Losing two past presidents of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington within such a short time is a reminder of how much love and devotion was given to the cause by so many over the past 29 years. That GMCW continues to thrive is the best tribute to them of all.

    – Rick Rosendall (GMCW founding member)

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