A tribute to a Son and Brother
As far back as we can remember Gary loved the water and the sea, so it was only natural that he should choose the Navy as a career. After several attempts to join as an officer, he eventually joined the Navy as an Able Bodied Seaman. His dream was to work his way through the ranks. After he was unsuccessful the first year he persevered and in his second year, he was accepted as a sub Lieutenant. This was a higher rank than he had hoped for. His determination, patience and hard work had finally paid off when he later became a Lieutenant.
Gary loved the Navy and the love of his life was the sea.
So it must have been with great heartache and sadness that he resigned his commission and left the Navy after a private blood test revealed he was HIV positive.
We, his family, knew he was gay but did not know he was HIV positive, and it must have been a huge burden because he shared this with no one.
Once he had left the Navy he tried a variety of jobs before going to Australia and working on a trawler. He knew nothing of the fishing industry but was quick to learn. It was hard work, with long hours, but he was happy to be back to his beloved sea.
When the season finished he returned to New Zealand for a short time before going to England where he hoped to get a job as a skipper or navigator on one of the many boats and yachts that sailed in and around the Mediterranean.
Sadly this was not to be. A few weeks after arriving in London Gary became ill. He now had AIDS. I went and brought him back home to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I cared for him for a year before he died on the 12th September 1996.
Although that year was a sad, painful and stressful time, it was also very special. We talked, laughed and cried. There was so much love. I witnessed tender moments between father and son, and between Gary and his younger brother, Sean.
There were rare moments when Gary got depressed and angry, but he didn’t complain and I never once heard him say, “Why me? it isn’t fair.” He seemed to accept his illness and early and untimely death with a calm almost grace-like attitude. He had the courage and was brave. He was a son and brother of whom we are very proud.
Gary was a bright light that shone; HIV flickered that light: AIDS dimmed it, and death extinguished it, but for us who loved him, that light will remain forever in our hearts and memories.
Until we meet again, Gary, know that we love you.
Mum, Dad and Sean
Shane Austen Reid
Shane, we had no other way to show our grief for you.
It was terrible to have heard on the ‘grapevine’ two weeks too late for your funeral. And then the weeks – no, months, as piece after piece was fitted to the puzzle.
I wish so much we could have known the person behind the mask, behind the uniform. That is forever lost to us now. So many lost opportunities.
As the panel says: “What could we do, but light a candle for you”.
This is a candle that will never burn out.
Love from Lisa and Paul.
Shane, you were such a special son and friend. You gave so much love and you took so little. You were always there for me when I needed someone and it breaks my heart when I think that I was unable to be there for you when you needed me so much. If only you had had the courage to tell me. If only I could have held you in my arms and comforted you.
But you are with me every day now. In everything I do and everywhere I go.
You were everything that I would like to be, Shane.
I love you and miss you so much,
Words cannot express how I feel about losing my 28-year-old son, Shane, to an AIDS-related condition.
Shane died just 14 days after finding out he was HIV positive, and out of those 14 days, he was conscious for only 8.
Sadly, I did not know of his diagnosis until he was unconscious.
This has caused me so much heartache. Those precious days when he felt he could not tell me, and at the same time I knew there was something terribly wrong and he didn’t want to talk about it. I know how devastated and frightened he must have felt.
Those few precious days when I could have said so much to him but felt that when he was feeling a bit better he would be able to talk about it. Then suddenly that opportunity was gone.
I think as parents we take so much for granted with our children, especially as they become young adults. We go about our lives thinking
– Of course, they know we love them.
– Of course, they know we are there for them and they can come to us when they are desperate.
– Of course, they know we will support them.
But do they really know these things?
Do we tell them we love them?
Do we tell them they can come to us when they are feeling desperate, ill and frightened?
Do we tell them we will support them?
How much better equipped we would be to deal with the grief and aftermath if when it was over we knew in our hearts that our son or daughter had known we were there for them and had loved and supported them through this terrible time.
How much better equipped our children would be to deal with this devastating news if they knew they could safely come to us and say, ‘I am really ill and I need your love and support’.
I now realise how important it is, that if you think that your son or daughter is in trouble, say something, don’t leave it.
My one hope would be, if I could change the thinking and the actions of just one mum or dad by telling my story, then something positive would have come out of what was my tragic set of circumstances.
Jeffrey Allan Fortune
Jeff – Jessie
Jeff was a very kind person and lived every day to enjoy. He loved to travel and did, all over the world. He loved to dress in drag, but only for very special shows. He loved animals of all kinds, loved birds and warm days.
He was loved by all, for his nature and warmth.
He has 2 brothers, 1 sister and parents who also miss him very much.
He was from Wellington.
I miss him very much.
A Son whose name we cannot reveal
Fireworks: For my Son and others.
This panel, made by a mother for her son, is dedicated to all mothers who have lost sons in the AIDS epidemic. It was inspired by her son’s love of fireworks and it celebrates all the bright, colourful and sparkling aspects of his life. But she says it is also for her because there is no grave site or plaque for his ashes. This panel is his memorial.
His mother tells a story that has become a family legend. “When he was a little boy – he was very small – he had a little grey suitcase and we gave him all his fireworks to put in his suitcase – not the rockets – all the little fizzies and things – those little cartwheels and cathrine wheels. He really wanted to let one off himself. He’d never let a firework off, so his father said, “Oh well, I’ll light one for you, but the minute I light it you are to throw it. He said you are not to stand and hold it because the flames could injure your hands.’ So he did as he was told and threw it the moment it was lit – right into the suitcase full of fireworks.” His mother describes her young son’s tears when he realised what had happened, and his little skinny legs hopping up and down amongst the bangers and cathrine wheels. “Oh, it was sad really. But we laughed and laughed. He didn’t, He was devastated. He had carried his treasure around for days and they all went up in one go.” What he had so looked forward to ended up far too soon. Looking back now this seems to be a symbol for his own life.
Aquamarine coloured Dupion Silk was chosen for the background. His mother said her son loved luxury things and this piece of silk was also the colour of the only brand new car her son had ever bought. The colour also represents the sea which he loved.
A 9cm x 2.5cm padded, red, satin skyrocket bound with purple and gold braid zooms across the top of the panel, exploding into jets of iridescent colour. A long white cord trails out behind the rocket suggesting that it has already travelled as high as it can go. On the bottom portion of the panel, a ‘sparkler’ sends out showers of glittering sparks. Hundreds of glass beads and star-shaped sequins in multi colours have been hand stitched to the fabric in order to achieve this effect.
The words, ‘for my son and others’ are written in silver coloured cord across the central portion of the quilt. The largest and most predominant word is ‘son’. Beneath this the words, “Love you too” appear. This is what mother and son used to say to each other whenever they said goodbye, whether it was after a visit or at the end of a telephone call.
Her son loved travelling and his mother is comforted by the thought that his quilt panel will continue to travel around with all the other quilts as part of the fabric of life in New Zealand.
A Brother whose name we cannot reveal
A Brother whose name we cannot reveal
Leslee made this panel primarily for her brother but it also remembers a friend and all those who have suffered and died in the AIDS epidemic. She does not want anyone else to suffer as her brother did and she hopes that this panel will contribute to the educational function of the quilt.
A dark blue background fabric contrasts with the main feature, a glowing white candle. Leslee said her brother really liked candles. “At the end – when he died – he wanted candles all around his body, and it didn’t happen. So this is his candle because I’ve never forgotten that he didn’t get any.
The waxy effect of the candle has been achieved by using layers of curtain net, and the wax falling down the side – representing tears – has been created from broken Christmas decorations. Her brother loved Christmas And these decorations were part of his last Christmas celebration.
Leaning against the base of the candle is a red satin heart, broken through the middle, where the candlewax tears have come to rest. Leslee says “The heart is for all the people whose hearts got broken. The people that learn that they’ve got AIDS. Their hearts must break from then until the day they die, and the families and the partners, just everyone.” Leslee said her brother didn’t always approve of her dress sense so just for a laugh – and she has shared many laughs with him – she has padded the heart with the remnants of an old cardigan he disliked.
Curved across the top of the panel, in silver lettering, are the words ‘Like a Candle in the Wind’. For the last few years, his life flickered like the flames of a candle, sometimes strong, sometimes weaker. But he loved life and enjoyed travelling, roller-skating, skiing, cars and his pets. At the bottom of the panel, family members have written their names as a tribute to his memory.
Leslee is pleased that her brother’s panel has now joined the New Zealand AIDS Quilt Project. With a twinkle in her eye, she says,”It’s just like him to be floating off and sort of lying around all over the place!”
The Quilt was assembled over two consecutive Sundays by some of Christopher’s family and friends, four years after his death. It began with no intended structure and ended as a collage attempting to depict his spirit and energy. It has provided us with the opportunity to revisit the strength and joy that radiated so naturally from Christopher.
It was evident early in Christopher’s life that there was a specialness about his character that would see him journey far from the small Taranaki town in which he was born and grew up. It was a journey that began in the local repertory theatre, saw him work in Wellington radio, the Auckland record industry, Sydney television, and front fashionable Los Angeles restaurants. At 25 he returned to Auckland where the energy, enthusiasm and style that had always distinguished him blended with the experience of his travel in helping design, establish and run, two of Auckland’s more notable restaurants of the last ten years, the Veranda Bar & Grill and The Metropole.
Even allowing for the tendency to speak well of the dead, discussion about Christopher is peppered with references to his positive nature, his smile, his ability to listen, his readiness to compliment, and the wisdom of his thought. Christopher had a focus on his life which meant he invariably achieved those goals he set himself. Christopher died well, not through accepting it meekly but by knowing his life had been successful.
We have attempted to embody that memory in this Quilt, the sea and sun depict his love of the beach and its culture, the yellows represent his favourite colour and the luminous qualities of his nature, the champagne glass his favourite drink and hedonistic tendencies. The crown symbolizes the treasured life he led, Christopher the little prince, stemming he believed from his caesarean birth. The curtains which encompass it indicate Christopher’s love of the theatre which pervaded his life and his wish to be an actor, director, producer, and writer, all of which he achieved at some level. The bird represents his spirit which still remains. The teddy bear is a tribute from his nephews and nieces who each received one at his last Christmas. The sunflower was Chris’s often gift to his mother, in his words she was his “light and life”.
The pleasure of his company and the agony of his loss will remain as sharp and vibrant among those who knew and loved him as was his own personality.
Craig wrote this about Christopher:
I knew Chris when we were acting, dancing and singing together in a number of shows in New Plymouth. He stayed at my parents’ house sometimes between shows, after some huge parties and then occasionally when we’d catch up socially. I was always very fond of Chris, as was my mum, who choreographed the shows. I lost touch with Chris. But I often remembered the fun times we shared. I was searching for him on the net just to see what he’d been up to, and found him here. I didn’t know.
An amazing guy who I will always remember.
Craig McAlpine Added August 2011
The two telephones depicted on the panel represent the way in which Stephen kept in touch with all his friends around the world throughout his life. He made friends easily and kept in touch with all of them, as well as family, by telephone, a pastime which consumed many hours every week.
The NZ – UK – USA – UK – NZ links show where Stephen chose to live throughout his adult life. The old style telephone at the top is similar to one his mother had at the time and the push-button one at the bottom represents the type of phone he used.
Stephen was an Old Boy of Nelson College, consequently, the College colours form the background for the Quilt. The fantails, along with white herons, were his favourite birds.
While living in London, Stephen owned/managed various nightclubs etc. in the West End, with many of Britain’s top entertainers being regular patrons. Stephen got to know them all on a personal level. After he died, there was a memorial service for him in St. Stephen’s Chapel, in London’s West End, the church is packed to overflowing, and among those attending, was literally a Who’s Who of the British entertainment industry at the time. This time in London is remembered on the Quilt by the multi-coloured links between the telephones, from the disco lights in the night-clubs.
Stephen spent the last few months of his life in Nelson Hospital before being flown to his mother’s home where he died. This was covered extensively in the local newspapers at the time.
Stephen was one of the first people to die as a result of AIDS in New Zealand and the first one in the South Island.
Michael J (Mike)
Michael J (Mike)
I asked Mike when we saw the Quilt in Nelson a few years ago if he would like one made. His reply was his usual way of dealing with things like this – it was up to me. The decision to finally make one followed a lot of procrastination over the years and it wasn’t until after he died that it was almost forced on me by a friend. I asked his family what they thought of the idea and there was no hesitation so I set about organising what we have before us today.
The material for the main part of the Quilt was easily selected. Mike had a piece of velvet set aside for some upholstery work and there just happened to be a piece which measured up almost precisely. We added some black backing material and set about designing the rest.
Mike’s name had to be in denim, one of his favourite materials. The name was cut from a pair of his well used and faded jeans and frayed just like most of his cut-offs which he wore constantly in the garden during summer. The gold cord under the name reflects Mike’s appreciation of some of the better things he liked to have around him.
The flowers represent his love of gardening, in particular, the orchid and hibiscus. Both that he cultivated at his home are being re-established in gardens in Northland and Auckland as memorials.
The rainbow flag is one that Mike picked up on one of his trips to San Francisco and it seemed appropriate to go with the text.
The text accompanied a piece of music that we first heard in Vancouver, Canada. We were at a brass band concert called ‘Beyond the Rainbow’ and this piece came about halfway through an excellent program. It was dedicated to those who had passed on or in effect gone beyond the rainbow. It had been composed just a few years before in Texas and this was one of the few public performances. It was a very moving piece of music and as we all stood to acknowledge the performance, Mike jabbed me in the ribs and said, “You can play that at my funeral.” We did play it at his funeral but only after I’d spent months tracking down a recording in the United States and obtaining what is possibly the only copy in New Zealand.
The Quilt for Mike is handed over in acknowledgement of his struggle with HIV, his courage in the face of the pain and the courage of his family and friends to stand by him. He left us some undeniable lessons in life and some surprises in the broad spectrum of people whose lives he touched. He was basically just an ordinary person who never achieved anything earth shattering but he left us all with something. I will never forget my time with him and what he gave me. The writings that accompany the Quilt for Mike are lessons to us all. We as close family and friends have learnt from him, we would also like you to learn from him.
OTHER THOUGHTS ABOUT MIKE
He had a simple philosophy for dealing with the virus – keep everything simple. He ate what he felt like when he felt like it; slept when he wanted; worked when he wanted
He had a positive, relaxed attitude to it all and often discussed details of what he wanted should the inevitable happen
He was a middle-distance runner at school and later took on marathons
In his teens, Mike had been an avid horse rider and competed in show jumping. He was also a bit of a tearaway and several times because of his antics, fell off his horse. One such occasion broke some bones in the lower back and pelvis area and it was this that would come back to annoy him as the HIV progressed
Despite the pain, he had a great understanding of life and often debated at length on any subject with whoever would take up the challenge. Often it would be his mother and when he started to go down she noticed by his shortened conversations on the phone and the lack of debate over the latest political or social upheaval
It was not easy for his parents to watch him as the virus took more of a hold. They helped to nurse him during his last months and keep him at his home where he wanted to be. Their understanding and compassion helped a great deal
Mike was a parent himself and became a grandfather just over a month before he died
It was not usual for Mike to ask for help but this he did of an old friend when he found out what he had. They sat in a bar and over rum and cokes they made a commitment to either beat it or see it through till the end. They didn’t beat it but the friend became the lover and Mike died in his arms after almost nine years together.
from Sally, his sister-in-law:
He had a dry sense of humour and was a caring soul. I watched as he bounced my little children on his knee singing them little ditties I had never heard of.
Some things, I guess, are the same the world over – like dying
I remember how his eyes would light up and crinkle at the edges when he smiled. I remember the sound of his laughter whether he was laughing at the world or at himself
When I was pregnant with my first child I was on the phone with him one day and was struck suddenly by an urge and just blurted it out, “Boy or girl, this baby’s middle name will be yours”. And it is. My daughter’s middle name is Michael. Why I don’t know
Maybe I hoped it would instil a bit of his spirit in my child, a bit of his ability not to take life too seriously
If I have learned anything from his life it is to be yourself, speak your mind and live with the consequences. He was an interesting, wonderful, caring, unique individual
Other photos of this block
Panels in this Block
|A Brother whose name we cannot reveal
|02 April 1964 - 30 January 1996
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|A Son whose name we cannot reveal
|02 April 1964 - 30 Jan 1996
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|4 October 1960 - 23 January 1993
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|16 June 1964 - 12 September 1996
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|Jeffrey Allan Fortune
|3 April 1966 - 9 November 1995
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|Michael J (Mike)
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|Shane Austen Reid
|22 December 1965 - 11 February 1994
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|12 October 1945 - 28 April 1987
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