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Prominent D.C. Realtor, avid traveler Kurt Rieschick dies at 50

McWilliams Ballard executive was longtime city resident

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Longtime D.C. resident Kurt Rieschick, who served as a vice president for the local real estate company McWilliams Ballard and who along with his husband traveled extensively to international destinations, including their favorite city of Paris, died at home on Jan. 16 of a heart attack. He was 50.

David Klimas, his husband and partner of 22 years, and Rieschick’s sister, Jacqueline Costell, said Rieschick appeared to be in excellent health and had no advanced signs of heart disease other than the fact that his father died of a heart attack at the age of 52 in 1998.

Klimas’s posting of the news of his husband’s passing on Facebook drew an immediate outpouring of messages of sympathy and admiration for Rieschick from dozens of people who knew him, including many friends and business associates.

“Today is my saddest day,” Klimas wrote in his Facebook post. “My beloved. My person. My number one. My best friend. My husband died early this morning from a massive heart attack,” Klimas wrote. “I will never be the same. I will never forget him. He was my life.”

Klimas said he and Rieschick had vowed to get married as soon as same-sex marriage became legal, and he said the couple did so when D.C.’s same-sex marriage law took effect in 2010. 

Rieschick was raised in Columbia, Md. His sister said he graduated from Columbia’s Hammond High School in 1988 shortly before he attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Prior to beginning his real estate career with McWilliams Ballard, Rieschick worked from 1996 to 2000 as a product training manager for the Bureau of National Affairs or BNA, the then D.C.-based company that published newsletters and research reports on business, government, and academic related topics.

Rieschick traveled throughout the U.S. selling and teaching BNA subscribers about various BNA electronic publications and services as part of his responsibilities with the company, his LinkedIn page says.

He began his affiliation with McWilliams Ballard in 2000, according to a career summary of Rieschick’s tenure with the real estate company published on its website. The write-up says Rieschick had experience “across most real estate product lines, selling condominiums, lofts, townhouses, and unique style row homes.”

It says Rieschick, who had the title of vice president, managed “all aspects of the sales process from hands-on sales, marketing, broker outreach, sales reporting” and other aspects of the sales process. The write-up says he sold properties in the price range of $200,000 to over $2.5 million.

Klimas, who also works as a vice president for McWilliams Ballard, said that at the time of his passing Rieschick was acting as the lead sales agent for a new high-rise condominium apartment project near the Washington Nationals baseball stadium called Kennedy on L at 37 L St., S.E.

“We did everything together,” Klimas told the Washington Blade. “We worked together at the same company for the last 21 years. We traveled together. We did French lessons. We went traveling throughout the world,” said Klimas, who noted that Rieschick was especially fond of traveling to Paris and France after the two became fluent in French.

According to Klimas, his husband was a “huge” fan of Madonna.

“We saw Madonna around the world,” Klimas said. “We followed her concerts, every last one of them. And we saw her in Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Miami. We loved to travel. We traveled extensively,” he said in recounting Rieschick’s love for travel and for attending Madonna concerts.

Costell said she and her family, including her and Kurt’s parents, were supportive of his being gay and she, her husband, and her two kids welcomed Klimas as part of the family.

“I personally became a huge advocate for gay rights,” she said. “And then when I got married and had children, I wanted my kids to grow up with that love that I gave to my brother and all of his friends,” she said.

Costell selected her brother and Klimas to be godfathers to both of her children. At her request, the two attended and participated in her daughter’s and son’s baptismal ceremonies on separate occasions at a Catholic church in Baltimore with the full approval of the priest in charge, Costell said. The two kids were about three months old at the time of their respective baptisms in 2005 and 2007, with her brother and Klimas holding the two babies during part of the ceremony.

As a dedicated uncle, Rieschick, with his partner and husband, Klimas, at his side, stopped by her home nearly every holiday, she said. “I mean every Christmas, every single birthday, Easter – every holiday,” she said, that Rieschick and Klimas came over for a visit.

Costell said her brother’s untimely death has prompted her to consider taking action to encourage all public buildings and residential apartment buildings to have on hand a defibrillator, a medical device used to administer an electric shock to the heart to resuscitate someone whose heart stops from a heart attack.

Klimas told the Blade he attempted to resuscitate Rieschick after calling 911. He said emergency medical workers arrived in about 10 minutes of his call, but they were unable to save his husband’s life.

He and Costell said a highly restricted funeral viewing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 22 or Jan. 23 at a Northwest D.C. funeral home. Costell said the downtown D.C. lockdown related to the presidential inauguration had as of Tuesday prevented her brother’s body from being transported from the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office to the funeral home.

Meanwhile, due to COVID-related restrictions, the funeral home has said it would not allow more than eight people to attend the viewing, which was to take place before Rieschick was to be cremated.

Klimas said he is planning a “huge” celebration of Rieschick’s life sometime this summer, with the hope that the COVID vaccine distribution will have lessened the epidemic to the point where a large in-person gathering can be held.

“It’s going to be a MadonnaRama party and it will be held at Number 9,” said Klimas in referring to the D.C. gay bar on P Street, N.W. near Logan Circle. Klimas said Number 9 co-owner John Guggenmos, a friend of his and Rieschick’s, has agreed to stage the MadonnaRama event like the ones Guggenmos has put on at his clubs in the past. Among other things, it includes playing audio and video recordings of Madonna’s performances, Klimas said.

“I’m going to have it catered and have a free bar and hire people to sing,” Klimas said. “It’s going to be a huge party for everybody in honor of Kurt.” 

Klimas and Costell, who said her family will participate in the memorial celebration, said they will announce the date and location for the event as soon as they determine it can be arranged.

Rieschick is survived by his husband, David Klimas; his mother, Carol Stvan; his sister, Jacqueline Costell; his niece and nephew, Carlin and Jackson; his father-in-law, James Klimas Sr.; his brother-in-law, Jimmy; and many friends in the D.C. area. He was preceded in death by his father, Kurt Walter Rieschick Sr.; and his mother-in-law, Gilda Klimas.

In lieu of flowers, which the funeral home will not accept due to COVID restrictions, Klimas and Costell are inviting friends and others who knew Rieschick to contribute in Rieschick’s name to the American Heart Association and Raising Malawi, a charitable organization founded by Madonna in 2006 to help orphan children and others facing severe poverty in the African nation of Malawi.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirement that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than a three day requirement to accommodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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