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Stephen P. Gorman dies at 69

D.C. resident once served as chair of Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities

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Stephen Peter Gorman, 69, died at home Aug. 19.

Stephen Peter Gorman, 69, died at home Aug. 19 in Washington, D.C., holding the hand of his husband of 26 years, Richard E. Cytowic, M.D.

“The best way to die,” he said, “is in the room of your choice, surrounded by the people of your choice, holding the hand of your choice.” In the 1980s, Gorman served as an AIDS buddy and subsequently had enormous experience assisting the dying. 

He grew up in Waterville, Maine, the third of seven siblings to a family deeply steeped in politics, as he would be. Born profoundly hard of hearing and taunted relentlessly for it during his youth, he overcame the mockery to earn degrees in anthropology, economics, and nursing. He worked in emergency medical rescue and became chair of the D.C. Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities. He was a champion of the marginalized and misunderstood.

Initially invited to Washington in 1994 to house sit for a Georgetown professor, Gorman never left the city. He became manager of Anton’s 1201 Supper Club not far from the White House, previously managed three restaurants in Manhattan, and owned a retail business on Sanibel Island, Fla.

He met Cytowic, a widower, at a party. At midnight when the former was about to leave, Gorman bounded up and said, “Are you hungry?” to which Cytowic hesitated before saying, “I could be.” That began a conversation that went on for three decades. 

Gorman’s hearing loss fortuitously blessed him with a capacious visual memory. He was widely read and equally well traveled. From riding an elephant in Ching Mai to navigating the unlabeled streets of Tokyo, the forests of Australia, or the reefs off Bali, the couple traveled the globe thanks in part to Cytowic’s prominence and invitations as the scientist who rediscovered synesthesia and returned it to mainstream science.

Brain metastasis from his lung cancer caused expressive aphasia, a devastating development for someone as loquacious, open, and socially engaged as Gorman. He succumbed peacefully. As a monk friend said, “A peaceful death is the rarest of blessings.”

He is survived by four sisters, two brothers, and more than 250 living relatives in New England. Memorial services in New England and D.C. will be held at a later date. Query [email protected].

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Longtime LGBTQ advocate Kathleen DeBold dies

Served as transformative leader of Mautner Project

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Kathleen Joan DeBold died Oct. 9. (Blade file photo)

Kathleen Joan DeBold, celebrated D.C. LGBTQ activist, died suddenly on Oct. 9, 2022 in Ocean City, Md. at age 66, according to an obituary released by family and friends. She was born on Nov. 16, 1955 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Francis Charles and Joan Marie DeBold. During childhood, her family moved to Maryland. 

DeBold graduated with a degree in agriculture and life sciences from the University of Maryland College Park in 1977. She worked for the Entomological Society of America and was the first female apiary inspector in the state of Maryland, according to the statement. Her international political commitments inspired her to join the Peace Corps in 1982, where she was stationed in the Central African Republic (CAR) for three years to teach beekeeping. She then returned to CAR with Africare as an extension and training specialist for four more years. While living in Africa, she became fluent in Sango (language of CAR) and French, and she edited BARCA: Bulletin Apicole de la Republique CentrAfricaine, a journal for beekeepers.

Returning to the United States in 1989, DeBold began her work as an LGBTQ activist. She worked at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ candidates to political office; she served as deputy and political director and worked on the campaign for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, among others. While at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, she wrote the book “Out for Office: Campaigning in the Gay Nineties.”

In 1999, she was named executive director of the Mautner Project, an organization for lesbians with cancer. Her leadership at Mautner was transformative; she increased the size and influence of the organization, bringing attention to the issues of lesbians with cancer and health care access for lesbians. Through her vision, Mautner operated as both a vibrant service organization in Washington, D.C., and a national and international leader on lesbian health issues. While at Mautner, DeBold edited, with Victoria Brownworth, the book “Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic.” DeBold worked at Mautner through 2007. 

She served as the interim director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, an organization that supported military service members experiencing discrimination and worked to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also served as administrator for the Lambda Literary Awards during the 2010s.  

In addition to working for lesbian and gay movement organizations, DeBold was a dedicated volunteer. Starting in 1990 and for the next three decades, she was a regular book reviewer for Lambda Book Review and other literary publications. She wrote book jacket copy for Naiad Press, which later became Bella Books. She served as a judge for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in 2014, awarding $8,000 in grants among several authors. In all her work, she brought passion, humor, and joy.

DeBold loved puzzles, jokes, and puns. She created Wordgaymes, an LGBT-themed crossword puzzle that appeared in numerous lesbian and gay newspapers across the country. She also created LGBT cartoons that appeared in numerous publications. She regularly competed in the Style Invitational, sponsored by the Washington Post, earning many mentions, losses, and other accolades.

DeBold was beloved in LGBTQ communities and received many honors. The Washington Blade recognized her as “Most Committed Female Activist” in 2001 and a “Local Hero” in 2005. Women’s eNews named her as one of 21 Leaders of the 21st Century in 2007. In 2015, the Rainbow History Project celebrated her as a Community Pioneer. In accepting that award, she paid tribute to her partner Barbara: “There is nothing in those 40-plus years that I have accomplished alone. I am terribly shy and introverted, which is not the best foundation on which to construct an activist life. But the work is so important and the need for change so great that I’ve just had to cowgirl up.”

In 2019, to honor her Irish heritage she became a dual Irish/American citizen. In 2020, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study Irish at Gaeltacht College in Ireland; unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented this study. 

DeBold was an avid gardener. She loved reading (especially Irish history and poetry), cooking, baking, playing guitar, and singing. And her cat, Buffy.

She is survived by her longtime companion of 48 years (legal wife of nine years) Barbara Johnson of Burtonsville, Md.; her sister Bonnie DeBold (Scott Mann) of York, Pa.; her brother Daniel DeBold (Aldona) of Olney, Md.; sister-in-law and brother-in-law Judith and Abram Peele of Pulaski, Va.; sister-in-law Amy Johnson of Pulaski, Va.; nieces and nephews Erin, Sean, Blair, Kevin, Matthew, Thomas, Justin, Tommy, and Kristina; and grandnieces and nephews Alyssa, AJ, and Anthony. She will also be remembered with love and affection by a large community of family, friends, and people whose lives were changed by her work.

Donations in her memory may be made to Tree-Mendous Maryland or Sinister Wisdom.

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Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate, event promoter Jacob Pring dies at 47

Popular events included parties for people with HIV and ‘Gay Day’ at National Zoo

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Jacob Nathaniel Pring died Sept. 26. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Jacob Nathaniel Pring, a D.C.-area LGBTQ rights advocate whose career included working as a mortgage loan officer and Lyft driver by day while organizing social events and parties at night and on weekends at D.C. gay bars and other venues, including “Gay Day” at the National Zoo, died Sept. 26, at his home in Springfield, Va. He was 47.

His longtime friend Nicholas DiBlasio said another friend and housemate at the group home where Pring lived found him deceased in his room. DiBlasio said Pring’s passing was sudden and unexpected and friends and family members were awaiting the results of toxicology tests associated with an autopsy performed by the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death.

“Jacob was a good man, and he had an engaging personality and a marvelous smile,” according to Sasha Chijoku, one of his housemates who posted a tribute to Pring on Facebook. “Above all, Jacob’s personality was big, and the only thing that was perhaps bigger was his smile,” she wrote.

DiBlasio and others who knew him and posted messages on social media said Pring for many years organized and promoted weekly leather-oriented events at gay clubs and other LGBTQ supportive clubs. Among them were the events held at the D.C. gay bar Green Lantern and the LGBTQ-friendly nightclub Crucible called CODE and XXX parties.

In a January 2013 interview with the Washington Blade, Pring said between 100 and 150 mostly gay men turned out for those events.

“There’s always new people coming in,” he said. “People bring their friends. It’s fun. No attitude, no drama.”

DiBlasio said Pring was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Pring’s Facebook page says his hometown was Levittown, Pa. Pring’s LinkedIn page says he studied computer engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia from 1998-1999 and studied biology at the University of the District of Columbia from 2014-2017, where DiBlasio says he believes Pring received his bachelor’s degree.

“I served in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard,” Pring stated in a September 2020 Facebook posting. “I chose to do my part to keep our country safe,” he wrote, adding, “This stuff about Trump saying crazy things he has said makes me so angry! Please vote that asshole out! Please!”

Pring, an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights, makes it clear in his social media postings that he was a staunch Democrat.

While a student at UDC in 2015, Pring created a student military veterans group called VIRTUES, which he said stood for “Values, Integrity Readiness, Tenacity, Unity, Excellence, and Service.”

In his LinkedIn page, Pring says he worked from 2003 to 2006 as a Senior Mortgage Consultant for the firm Preferred Service Mortgage and in the following year, he held a similar position with Access National Mortgage. It says that beginning in 2020 he served as a loan officer with Intercostal Mortgage LLC.

DiBlasio said about a year later in 2021 Pring switched jobs to resume working as a Lyft driver, which he had been doing periodically in earlier years.

David Mariner, former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, praised Pring for creating yet another important event – Gay Day at the Zoo – which Mariner said served and continues to serve as a fundraising event for the D.C. Center

“He was out as an HIV-positive person and created social spaces for poz men,” Mariner said in a Facebook posting this week.

Mariner was referring to Pring’s launching of a series of “Poz” events for both people with HIV and their friends and loved ones.

“The Poz events bring faces to the disease & helps eliminate the STIGMA surrounding people with HIV/AIDS,” Pring stated in a Facebook message. “The DJs are HIV+ & Jacob Nathaniel Pring himself has been Poz for 7 years!” his message states.

Pring’s friends have pointed to other social media postings by Pring discussing his own struggles with substance abuse and depression. But in recent years, Pring’s postings have said the support he received from counseling and support groups helped him “walk away” from drug use.

“I have had a blessed life,” he wrote in a Sept. 7, 2020, Facebook posting. “Walking away from the drugs for good has me sitting here reminiscing of younger days,” he wrote. “We don’t get to go back but we sure do get to live an older life. I switched gears,” he continued.

“Sex ran my life for 30 years. Now, I feel like a retired older elder,” he stated. “I have lived life to the fullest. I can’t imagine what life has left in store for me. But I have reached a new mental frontier. I feel lucky and blessed to have made it to this new age of living!!!”

But DiBlasio said about one year later the death of Pring’s mother, to whom he was very close, took an emotional toll on him. “That was about a year ago and that hit him pretty hard,” DiBlasio said.

Another one of Pring’s friends, who identifies himself on Facebook as Mike Di, appeared to sum up Pring’s life as he was known to many of his friends and loved ones in a posting on the day he learned of Pring’s passing.

“Jacob, I am so sad to hear the news of your passing tonight. The progress you made over the past 10+ years putting yourself through school, tackling the demons, living clean, etc. It was all remarkable and I’m so proud of you,” he wrote.

“I’m grateful that you left about a thousand pics of yourself (& with friends) here on your Facebook,” Di said. “It’s a gift really…you can never be forgotten, nor the highs and lows of the last 15 years of your life that are documented in the pics.”

Chijoku added in her tribute to Pring, “He was a fine man, and certainly Heaven is being greeted right now with the toothiest grin I’ve ever had the pleasure to know!”

Pring’s sister, Michelle Forrest, said family and friends were planning a memorial service or celebration of life for Pring at the family’s hometown of Levittown, Penn. as well as in D.C, and an announcement would be made when the plans are finalized.

Pring was predeceased by his mother, Paulette Marks of Levittown, Penn. He is survived by his father, John Pring of Bethlehem, Penn.; his brother, Matthew Pring of Texas; his sisters Michelle Forrest of Brooksville, Fla., and Amy Lindquist of Levittown, Penn.; and many friends. Among the friends are Nicholas DiBlasio, Sasha Chijoku, Todd Westberg, Babak Movahedi, John Madej, and Tommy Sanders.

Jacob Nathanial Pring in 2010. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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Co-founder of D.C. LGBTQ Adventuring group Warren Potas dies at 73

Avid outdoorsman organized gay hiking, canoeing, bicycling trips beginning in 1979

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Warren Potas died Sept. 5 at age 73.

Warren Potas, a D.C. area-based computer engineer who designed mainframe computer software for some of the nation’s leading tech companies, including IBM and Unisys, and the co-founder in 1979 of D.C.’s then gay and lesbian wilderness and outdoor group called Adventuring died on Sept. 5. He was 73.

The cause of death was not disclosed by the Budd Funeral Home of Woodbury, N.J., which organized funeral arrangements and released a detailed write-up on Potas’s life that it says Potas himself prepared.

Potas, who was retired at the time of his passing, had divided his time in recent years between D.C. and his hometown of Wenonah, N.J., which is close to Philadelphia, according to Jennifer Budd, the funeral home’s director.

“Warren regarded wilderness/outdoors as the touchstone of his spirit,” the write-up released by the funeral home says. “Additionally, he enjoyed interacting with people, savoring insights that come from the melding of experience, intuition and reasoning, celebrating the joys of the senses, and appreciating and learning from the world of nature,” the write-up says.

It says Potas, who referred to himself as Adventure Man, received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees with a major in computer science and minor in economics magna cum laude from Brown University in Providence, R.I. It says he completed his master’s degree in 1971.

“Over time, the bulk of his earnings were derived from mainframe computer software design and development stints at companies including IBM, Unisys, EDS, Calvert Mutual Fund Group, Systems and Applied Science Corporation, and U.S. government agencies, including Naval Research Laboratory, Indian Health Service, and National Institute of Mental Health,” the write-up says.

“He enjoyed applying a creative, design-oriented approach to problem-solving and was eager to encourage the talent of others,” it says.

The write-up says that an interest in the world of finance, including the stock market, began during Potas’s early teens and continued during his years in college and later years.

“He spent an aggregate handful of years in the ‘70s and ‘80s trading futures markets with substantial success, though failing to break into large fortune,” the write-up says. 

It says one of his early and most memorable outdoor endeavors took place in 1974

In a “late winter cross-country skiing and backpack trek through Yellowstone Park from the South Entrance to the West Entrance.”

The write-up says other major wilderness outings included “bicycle-packing (the Natchez Trace ’75), a month long 1,200-mile ride through the highlands and island of Northwestern Scotland (’76), the Canadian Rockies (’79), and river activities ranging from canoeing the quiet intimate streams of the New Jersey Pine Barrens to operating rafts through major white water on the Salmon (Middle Fork and Main), various stretches of the Green River and the California Sierra rivers.”

The write-up says Potas regarded his co-founding of the D.C. Adventuring group and its ongoing success as his greatest lifetime accomplishment.

D.C. area resident Pete Kostik, the other co-founder of the Adventuring group, noted that the group “is still going strong” and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Kostik said Potas told him he would not be able to attend an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the group because he was at his family residence in New Jersey caring for his ailing mother, who died one year later.

Kostik said at least for Adventuring’s first 10 years, Potas played an active role in helping to organize trips to various locations both locally and across the country.

“Before long the group narrowed its focus to outdoor activity such as hiking, bicycling, canoeing, white water rafting, and the like,” Kostik said. Under Potas’s leadership, the group arranged for trip leaders to organize what Kostik called “elaborate” trips. “There was one down the Grand Canyon. There were bicycling trips out west. And ones closer to home and in other states,” he said.

Kostik said it was Potas’s vision, along with his, during the group’s early years that it would broaden the scope of places for gay people to meet beyond that of the gay bars. “It really filled a need at the time we started,” Kostik said.

The write-up on Potas says he became involved in many other local LGBTQ groups both around the time he helped found the Adventuring group and in later years. Among them were Chesapeake Bay Bears, Lambda Soleil, Four Seasons Garden Club, Ushers, Prodigay, and SigMa.

“From 1979-1982, Warren helped launch and sustain the first independent gay community center in D.C. (GCC/DC) as both a volunteer and board member,” the write-up says.

Funeral director Jennifer Budd said Warren Potas was predeceased by his parents Anthony and Blanche Potas. She said he was an only child. The write-up says funeral services were to be private. There was no suggested organization to support with a contribution in lieu of flowers.

But the write-up on Potas’ life concludes by saying he was a “fiercely committed card-carrying supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Warren Potas
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