Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Good Witch

:: memorial service for bonnie ::

I'm not pretending to any "final words" about Bonnie Tinker, as I'm certain her legacy will live on, including in these journals, continuing to reveal aspects of her character. Certainly this memorial service seemed more like a beginning than an end.

Bonnie's Love Makes a Family was about making marriage a safe institution for same-sex couples. That was a radical idea when she started, plus few people talked about "domestic violence" in those terms, so her idea of a shelter for battered women, escaping dead ends, sometimes with children, came across as really "out there" at the outset. Her elders, including state authorities, would accuse her of trying to split nuclear families asunder, thought the county jail would serve just as well, to protect women with records, as runaways, street walkers, homosexuals, as whatever kind of delinquent outcast deviating from strict norms.

One of the more enjoyable parts of the program involved multiple readings from a declassified police report from the 1970s, which was clearly respectful of Bonnie and her work, suggested she was a terrorist in service of some revolution, other words of high acclaim. Later speakers expressed some wistfulness in not having files as thick as hers. She was an activists' activist, with both parents role models, her dad a Protestant minister, her mom a psychologist.

My duties involved staying alert and moving, playing the "outside security" role, which I'm pretty used to doing, although Raven had more experience with specifically gay pride events (I reported to her). We didn't really think Bonnie's political foes would stage something stupid, but wanted to assure the more skittish among us that we were on top of it.

Mostly we anticipated medical events, not political, which proved to be what happened (some heat exhaustion and dehydration, a nose bleed, nothing too serious).

First Congregational Church
on the south park blocks, across from the art museum, proved an ideal venue in many ways, capacious and picturesque. A wedding was scheduled for later but even though our program went well into the afternoon, our hosts were most gracious and accommodating.

Among the attenders were a who's who of Portland's long time activists. I watched Martin Gonzalez taking in Sherrian Haggar's remembrances, chuckling a few times, both former colleagues at AFSC back when I used to volunteer around the office more. The mayor made an appearance, will again on August 6. So many others... but I don't want to get into list making here.

Bonnie's family, still reeling from the suddenness of this loss, had some deep grief to express, and the service made space for that, even if the mood was celebratory, in the sense of honoring a fallen hero who'd achieved many victories along the way.

Bonnie and I were not close friends, although my wife was her organization's bookkeeper for some years. I was never at her house to see the legendary garden, didn't know her next of kin. However, her good humor, kindness, and serious dedication to improving living standards were not lost on me. I felt privileged to know her to the extent that I did and will continue as a torch bearer for some of her pet causes.