January 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm EST | by Kathi Wolfe
In memoriam: Those we lost in 2016
celebrities dead 2016, gay news, Washington Blade

David Bowie, Lady Chablis and Edward Albee were among those we lost in 2016. (Photo of Bowie by Elmar Jr. Lordemann; screen capture of Chablis courtesy YouTube; Washington Blade photo of Albee by Michael Key)

“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” wrote queer writer Carson McCullers in her novel “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”

Below are some of the many LGBT people and allies who will live on in our minds and hearts.

David Bowie, 69, the queer, musician and actor, died on Jan. 11. Bowie had been fighting cancer for 18 months. “Blackstar,” his last album, was released days before his death. “It was a final, classic Bowie move – releasing an album without fanfare and letting the art stand on its own,” editor Kevin Naff wrote in the Blade.

Art historian Hugh Honour, 88, died on May 19 in Tofori, Italy. For more than 50 years, Honour and his partner John Fleming edited and wrote many books. “All the genius of the masters seem to tremble in the sunbeams and dance upon the waves,” Honour and Fleming wrote in “The Venetian Homes of Henry James, Whistler and Sargent.”

Connie Kopelov, 90, who had Alzheimer’s disease, died in Manhattan on May 28. Kopelov and her partner of 23 years Phyllis Siegel were the first same-sex couple to be legally married in New York City. The couple wed on July 24, 2011, the first day that same-sex couples could marry in New York State.

Melvin Dwork, 94, who was dishonorably discharged from the Navy for being gay in 1944 when he was 22, died in Manhattan on June 14. In 2011, the Navy changed his discharge to honorable.

Cultural critic John Gruen, best known for his autobiography “Callas Kissed Me…Lenny Too! A critic’s Memoir,” died on July 19 in Manhattan at age 89. In the memoir, Gruen called himself  “a critic, gadfly, busybody, father, husband, queer, neurotic workaholic.”

Elliot Tiber, a businessman and gay rights activist, 81, who was instrumental in organizing the landmark Woodstock music festival, died on Aug. 3 from a stroke in Boca Raton, Fla. Many young queer people “take their current freedom for granted,” Tiber told Publishers Weekly in 2011, “Coming out in the summer of 1969 was the most dangerous yet liberating thing that ever happened to me.”

Johnny Nicholson died at his Manhattan home at age 99 on Aug. 4. Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal were among the “New Bohemians” who frequented his restaurant, the Café Nicholson. John T. Edge called the Café “a canteen for the creative class” in the “Oxford American.”

Iconic Mexican singer Juan Gabriel, 66, died in his California home on Aug. 28. “He has passed on to become part of eternity and has left us his legacy through Juan Gabriel, the character created by him for all the music that has been song and performed all around the world,” his publicist told the Associated Press.

Over 30 years, Gabriel sold more than 100 million albums and wrote more than 1,500 songs. Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieta called Gabriel “one of the greatest musical icons of our country.”

Actor Jon Polito, 65, who appeared as gangsters in Coen brothers films, died on Sept. 1 in Los Angeles from complications of multiple myeloma. He married his husband Darryl Armbruster in 2015.

The transgender performer Lady Chablis, 59, died on Sept. 6 in Savannah, Ga. Chablis, who had pneumonia, is best known for being featured in the 1994 bestseller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” “She was The Lady Chablis from morning to night,” Midnight’s author John Berendt, told the New York Times. “She had a great repartee, and she had a way with words.”

Edward Albee, the greatest playwright of our time, died after a brief illness on Sept. 16 at age 88 in Montauk, N.Y. Albee is best known for his groundbreaking play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” After the Tony-winning play ran on Broadway, it became an iconic movie starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Bill Cunningham, 87, the beloved New York Times fashion photographer, died on June 25. Cunningham was known for his sense of style as well as for getting his photos of AIDS benefits and of LGBT people into the New York Times long before the paper used the words “AIDS” or “gay.”

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