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Longtime D.C. nightlife figure, sports enthusiast Tarik Pierce dies at 45

Beloved community activist worked as manager for U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

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Tarik Pierce (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Tarik S. Pierce, who served for the past 13 years as a Curriculum and Competency Manager at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and was a beloved figure in D.C.’s LGBTQ sports organizations and nightlife venues, died on July 6 at his residence in the Columbia Heights neighborhood at the age of 45.

The cause of death couldn’t immediately be determined, but friends said he told them he was feeling ill and staying home in the days immediately prior to his passing.

“He was loved by so many people because he included everyone in whatever he did, he always had that beautiful smile, was super nice and cared about the community,” said David Perruzza, owner of the D.C. LGBTQ bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own in a Facebook posting. “He was literally a perfect human and was one of a kind,” Perruzza wrote.

“Imagine a life lived completely to the fullest – that was Tarik Pierce,” said Dito Sevilla, co-owner of the Little Gay Pub in another Facebook posting. “His optimism, warmth and kindness radiated from a smile as real as it was wide.”

Sevilla said Pierce was a regular and admired patron of many of the city’s LGBTQ bars and clubs.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, honored Pierce in 2022 with its annual Heroes Award for his long-standing contribution to organizations and activities that bring positive change to the community.

In a write-up on Pierce’s community activities, Capital Pride said he had been “entrenched in the LGBT sports community, having played in leagues for flag football, kickball, darts, bocce, dodgeball and cornhole.”

The write-up says Pierce, among other things, served on the board of the local Stonewall Darts, was a captain for Stonewall Dodgeball, and a captain and umpire for Stonewall Kickball. It says he also served as a volunteer for the Capital Pride Alliance and the annual LGBTQ High Heel Race on 17th Street held each year just prior to Halloween.

As if that were not enough, the write-up says Pierce was a co-founder of Pub Crawlin’ for Tots, a group that raises money and collects toys for kids in the greater D.C. area for the Toys for Tots organization. Since 2009, Pierce and his group had worked with local LGBTQ bars and businesses to raise more than $50,000 and more than 4,000 toys for area children, the Capital Pride write-up says.

In a July 2015 Washington Blade story about a Stonewall Kickball tournament, Pierce provided insight into his role as a participant and leader in numerous sports teams and leagues.
“It’s my theory that if you become part of a community, at some point you should step forward as a leader,” he said. “I make sure that my team is involved in the fundraisers and the charitable community support.”

Pierce’s Facebook page says he was born and raised in Florence, S.C. His LinkedIn page says he received a bachelor’s degree in financial management and a master’s degree in human resources development from Clemson University in South Carolina.

His LinkedIn page says he served as a Workforce Development Specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2004 to 2006 before taking on the position of Training Officer at the Commerce Department.

According to his LinkedIn page, he began work at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, where he held the post of Curriculum and Competency Manager until the time of his passing.

“The ladder on which so many climbed, the shoulders on which countless friends stood, and the light by which so many new faces in this city found their way is gone,” said Sevilla in his Facebook tribute to Pierce. “In his actions, deeds, and souls touched, he lived four lifetimes,” Sevilla wrote. “He was the brightest flame, the greatest star, and his loss leaves us all a little darker, a little colder.”

An announcement by the Ideal Funeral Parlor in Florence, S.C., says a Celebration of Life for Pierce was scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 17 at Door of Hope Christian Church in Marion, S.C. The announcement says interment would be held at Florence County Memorial Gardens in Florence.

“Memorials and Condolences may be mailed to Ideal Funeral Parlor, Inc., 106 E. Darlington Street, Florence, S.C. 29506,” the announcement says. It says a message for the family can also be left at idealfuneral.com.

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Obituary

Longtime D.C. resident, humanitarian Eric Scharf dies at 65

Center Global volunteer passed away on Sept. 21

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Eric Greene Scharf of Washington, D.C., passed away on Sept 21, 2023, at age 65 after a long battle with cancer. Eric was the first born with his twin brother, Edward (Ted) at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn., on April 22, 1958, to Patricia K. and John Stewart Scharf. He spent his early childhood in Syracuse, N.Y.; Essex Junction, Vt., and Barrington, R.I., until he was five when the family moved to Yarmouth, Maine. 

Eric graduated from Yarmouth High School in 1976 and the University of Southern Maine in 1980. As a youth he volunteered at the Yarmouth Merrill Memorial Library, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Falmouth, Maine, and on various Episcopal diocesan events and programs. While in high school and college he worked as a driver and assistant to the Right Rev. Frederick B. Wolf, sometime Bishop of Maine which took him on travels across Maine, the U.S. and even to Africa.

After graduating from college, Eric moved to Washington, D.C., where he spent 43 years as an association executive and mental health advocate. He was rarely satisfied with the world as he found it and was determined to make it right. He worked on addiction issues, help for LGBTQ refugees, depression and bipolar initiatives — for world peace even. We have more room for hope because of Eric’s work.  

His work with professional trade groups included the Passenger Vessel Association, National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America and the American College of Nurse Practitioners. In retirement he served as the D.C. voice for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and advocated for LGBT asylum issues. Eric was also involved in electing several mayors and other leaders in the District of Columbia from the mid 1980s on and worked on the staff of Anthony A. Williams.

Eric was a cradle Episcopalian who attended St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Dupont Circle. He was a founding member of the national church’s Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS and in the Diocese of Washington, the Episcopal Caring Response to AIDS. Both organizations worked to educate the church at large about the epidemic and provide services locally to people suffering from the disease.

Eric is survived by his twin brother, Ted K. Scharf of Augusta, Maine, brothers Scott W. Scharf and his wife, Susan of Portland, Maine, and Steven C. Scharf of Portland, Maine. He is also survived by his father, John Stewart Scharf of Tilton, N.H. He was predeceased by his mother, Patricia K. Scharf.

In lieu of flowers, Eric asked that donations be made to: 

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church: 1517 18th St., N.W. Washington, D.C., 20036

Capital Clubhouse, Inc.: 1517 18th St., N.W., 4th floor Washington, D.C., 20036

or

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: 55 East Jackson Blvd., Suite 490, Chicago, Ill., 60604

A memorial service will be held at St Thomas’ Episcopal Church at 1517 18th St., N.W., Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, at 2:30 p.m.  The service will be streamed live on the St Thomas’ Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/StThomasDC

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Obituary

Local resident, sales manager Malek Zaarour dies at 72

Lebanese American beloved for his support and respect for others

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Malek Sleiman Zaarour (Photo courtesy of Alexei Michalenko)

Malek Sleiman Zaarour, a native of Beirut, Lebanon who immigrated to the U.S. in 1991 to pursue degrees in business administration and accounting in the D.C. area before specializing in kitchen appliance sales, died on Aug. 23 from pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

His domestic partner, Alexei Michalenko, said Zaarour, who spoke Arabic, English, and French, spent his early years living in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and for a short time in Athens. Michalenko said his partner developed a keen understanding and respect for different cultures that drew the admiration of those he knew and befriended during his more than 20 years living in the D.C. area.

“For me, he was a living example of what all people should be,” said Michalenko. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And that was the greatest thing about his openness,” his partner said.

A write-up on Zaarour prepared by Michalenko says he was the sixth of nine siblings born in Beirut on Sept. 26, 1950. After graduating high school, he joined a government teaching program and earned a bachelor’s degree in math at Beirut Science University, the write-up says.

It says he left Lebanon for Saudi Arabia in 1976 shortly after the start of the Lebanese civil war. In Saudi Arabia he worked as a sales manager for a Lebanese company that specialized in kitchen cabinets and appliances, the write up says.

After 13 years in Saudi Arabia, he returned to Lebanon for one year, according to his partner’s write up. He then spent three months in Athens, before immigrating to the United States in October 1991, the write-up says.

For the next several years, the write up says, Zaarour pursued degrees in business administration and accounting from Strayer University in Maryland while working for the Sears department store chain in the kitchen appliances department.

Malek Sleiman Zaarour

Under a U.S. immigration policy that considers someone’s sexual orientation as grounds for asylum due to possible persecution and danger if they return to their home country, Zaarour was granted asylum and became a U.S. citizen in October 2014, the write up says.

“Malek met his late partner, Thomas W. Wadlow, in September 1991,” the write up continues. “They formed a love partnership for 20 years, traveling to various places and beaches and entertaining guests until Thomas’ passing on Oct. 28, 2011,” it says.

“Five years later Malek met his current partner, Alexei Michalenko, with whom he shared seven and a half years of life, fun and travel,” according to the write up. “After selling the house he shared with Thomas in S.E. Washington, Malek moved in with Alexei, sharing an apartment in Alexandria, Va.”

The write up says Zaarour was diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2019 for which he was successfully treated. But in October 2022 he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and suffered the “challenging side-effects of chemotherapy, until deciding to cease further treatment and requested hospice palliative care until his death,” the write up says.

Zaarour is survived by his partner, Alexei Michalenko; his sisters, Afaf, Souad, and Mariam; his brothers, Ameen and Khodr (Zeineb); several nephews and nieces among whom he was especially close – Ali (Katrina), Mohamad, and Beleal, Ahmed and another Mohamad; and many friends in the U.S. and abroad.

The write up says final funeral arrangements were carried out through Islamic International Funeral Service, with prayers offered at the Islamic Guidance Center, also known as Ahlul Bayt Mosque, in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a burial held in Forest Green Park Cemetery in Morganville, N.J.

“May Malek’s memory continue to be a blessing to all who knew and loved him and whom he knew and loved,” the write up concludes. 

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Air Force veteran Charles Albee Riley dies at 75

Known for a passionate drive to succeed

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Charles Albee Riley

Charles Albee Riley, a U.S. Air Force veteran, passed away at Inova Hospital in Alexandria, Va., on June 12, 2023, with family at his side, according to a statement released by family. He was 75. 

Riley was known for his passionate drive to succeed, his family said, which allowed him to excel during his service in the U.S. Air Force. As a gay man he could not serve openly, and ultimately found his true calling as a real estate agent. His success allowed him to provide for his husband and children.

His hard work and personable demeanor proved an invaluable trait for a man who began in the Air Force and progressed to a Staff Non-Commissioned Officer and was able to thrive in his true calling as a Realtor in the Washington, D.C. area, the statement says. He loved being a Realtor. In both endeavors he accumulated numerous accolades and awards. 

The youngest of three children, Riley was born Oct. 21, 1947, in Philadelphia, to Helen Arathusa Riley (Albee) and Marion Eugene Riley. He loved art and had a passion for drawing. He attended William B. Evans Grade School and Yeadon High School, both in Yeadon, PA. 

According to the statement, his dream was to attend art school, but it was 1966 and his uncle advised him to enlist in the service before he got drafted. He took that advice and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force just a few short weeks before he received the draft notice in the mail. After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Riley returned to Philadelphia and on January 5, 1967, he married his first love Charlotte Ann Riley (Doan). She remained one of his closest friends throughout his life. Soon after they were married, he and Charlotte moved to Minot, N.D. where he worked on the Minuteman Missile. In 1969 they had their first of three sons, Scott Warren Riley.

He was discharged after four years and in 1970 they returned to Philadelphia to reunite with family and embark on a career in banking. This endeavor was short lived and in less than 2 years, they were expecting their second child and the benefits the Air Force provided compelled him to reenlist. In 1972, they welcomed Kyle Patrick Riley. Riley would go on to change career fields and switched to administration and then served in Okinawa, Japan; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, where in 1977 he and Charlotte had their third son Matthew Charles Riley; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. Riley closed out his career with tours at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., and his last duty location was Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. 

“Our mother, Charlotte, is the epitome of strength and love,” the statement reads. “When dad decided to live his life as a fully integrated gay man, she singlehandedly held the family together.” 

Riley met Wayne Edward Schwandt at a Gay Fathers Coalition (GFC) Halloween Party for the children of gay fathers in 1984. “Chuck and Wayne had their first kiss that night, and he became the love of my dad’s life. … Dad came out in a time when it was difficult and taboo to be gay. He would often talk about his and Wayne’s courtship and how there were no examples of how to be a male/male family with children. The Gay Fathers Coalition was so important to them and was an amazing support network.” 

Riley loved the arts, the theater, and “every time we hear Barbra Streisand, a song from Evita, or Cher, we will think of Dad and over time our tears will become smiles. He was a wonderful and thoughtful man. Dad will forever be in our hearts.” 

He is predeceased by his husband Rev. Dr. Wayne Edward Schwandt, his brother William “Bill” Riley (Eve), and his daughter-in-law Sherry Riley (married to Scott). Riley is survived by his former wife Charlotte Ann Riley; sister Lynne Leonardo (Joseph) of Aldan, Pennsylvania; sons Scott (grandchildren Brian (Alina and great-grandson Jameson) of Ranson, West Virginia, Kyle (Kathy and grandchildren Samantha, Sean, Shane) of Chesapeake, Virginia; Matthew (Michele and granddaughter Jordan) of Allegany, New York and close friend Dean Daniel of Elkridge, Md. 

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at Immanuel Episcopal Church-on-the-Hill, 3606 Seminary Rd, Alexandria, Va., at 11 a.m.. In lieu of flowers, Chuck’s family has asked that a donation be made in his name to the Human Rights Campaign. 

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