Frank J. Zampatori Jr., a longtime D.C. resident and Democratic Party activist who became involved in gay rights causes in the 1970s, died April 15 at his Capitol Hill East home. He was 68.
Friends and family members said he died of natural causes believed to be linked to heart disease.
D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) said she and Zampatori became friends in 1978 when the two worked on then-Council member Marion Barry’s first campaign for mayor. It was a time when Barry became one of the first of the city’s big politicians to aggressively court the gay community for support.
Zampatori a short time later became a member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, a local gay advocacy group, and worked on LGBT rights causes over the next 35 years. Bonds said he became a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee in the 1980s and remained active in local Democratic Party affairs until the time of his death.
At the recommendation of LGBT activists, Barry appointed Zampatori in the 1980s to the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, making him the first openly gay person to serve on the alcohol regulatory body.
Antonette Russell, a friend and neighbor of Zampatori’s, said Zampatori also played a key role as a Capitol Hill East civic activist. In recent years, according to Russell, Zampatori closely monitored city plans for developing a tract of land where the former D.C. General Hospital was located to make sure development wouldn’t have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood where Zampatori lived.
“He monitored that closely,” she said, in a way that benefited the neighborhood.
Friends said Zampatori worked most of his career as an official with the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission, a joint federal-state agency that coordinated economic development programs for the nation’s Appalachian region.
“He was a very active, very committed community person,” said Ron Collins, a retired D.C. government official and friend of Zampatori’s.
“He was on the front lines of the LGBT struggle when it wasn’t easy to be there,” Collins said. “We owe him a large debt of gratitude.”
A memorial service for Zampatori was scheduled to take place 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at Pope Funeral Home at 2617 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. After the memorial service friends and family members planned to “celebrate Frank’s life and share how he made such an enormous impact on the community” at Trattoria Alberto restaurant at 506 8th St., S.E., around 8:30 p.m., according to Russell.