Roger Winters, who gave keynote at first Seattle Pride, remembered for lifetime of LGBTQIA civil rights work

By Renee Raketty

Seattle mourned the passing of Roger Winters, an early pioneer in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. He passed away this week in his Shoreline home after suffering a recent bout of pneumonia. The former Capitol Hill resident and property owner was 75 years old.

“The Seattle community — and the world at large — lost a true champion for gay rights with his passing,” said Krystal Marx, Executive Director of Seattle Pride. “Roger’s decades of advocacy and political savvy helped to propel LGBTQIA+ rights forward in a way we would not have had without his involvement.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan agreed. In a written statement to CHS, she spoke of his relentless efforts to obtain equality for the LGBTQIA+ community. “Roger Winters worked for decades to ensure the dignity, rights and true equality for LGBTQ individuals. His voice and personal courage were unflagging over the almost 30 years that it took for LGBTQ people to get civil rights legislation,” said Durkan. “In the last four years, we have seen that these rights are far from guaranteed. This administration has directly targeted the transgender community and critical LGBTQ protections. In just the last few weeks, a U. S. Supreme Court Justice stated that hard fought wins for LGBTQ equality should be rolled back, and that some discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is a constitutional right. To honor the memory of Roger Winters and all of the other LGBTQ leaders we have lost this year, we must continue to fight.”

Susan Priebe, who met Winters in 2002 and became close friends, spoke with me to discuss Winters’ passing. She has agreed to handle his affairs on behalf of his family.

“Roger was deeply intellectual and also a fun-loving character — going from a profound philosophical statement one minute, to singing a ditty from a 50’s sitcom the next. He was a very loving and caring person, spending hours upon hours of personal time on issues and projects to improve everyone’s lives,” she said. “Roger was an insanely involved person, politically astute, a creative soul, and a very devout atheist… In the LGBT arena alone, Roger was involved with many groups from 1977 through the rest of his life.”

“Roger was a go-to leader and pioneer who helped pave the way for LGBTQ equality,” former Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said.

Winters grew up in a conservative Christian household in Indianapolis and spent time on farms during his youth. He attended Indiana University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. He went on to attend Harvard University on a fellowship where he became a Senior Tutor at Dudley House on campus and, later, graduated with honors in Political Science. He became an intern for Senator Birch E. Bayh, Jr., a Democrat from Indiana. In 1972, he joined the faculty of Central Washington University, where he was a Assistant Professor of Political Science. It was here, when he became involved in Seattle politics. He traveled from Kittitas County, where CWU is located, to attend board meetings of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in Seattle.

“We white boys started out conservative because we were invisible enough to pass in a gay-unfriendly world,” Winters wrote to me in a text on March 23, 2019, while discussing his upbringing and personal growth. “Those of us who got active recognized that other people who couldn’t or wouldn’t pass were really needing the legal protection and anti-discrimination [law] we were after but we didn’t understand their point of view. We embraced diversity and sought to be inclusive.”

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Remembering Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan

Bakan, middle, whooping it up and celebrating the early returns for R74 on election night 2012 (Image: CHS)

Bakan, middle, whooping it up and celebrating the early returns for R74 on election night 2012 (Image: CHS)

George Bakan, Capitol Hill resident and publisher of the Seattle Gay News from the days when the AIDS crisis dominated its pages through marriage equality and 2020’s pandemic-postponed Pride, has died.

The 78-year-old reportedly passed away working at his desk on the paper he helmed since 1983 in a lifetime he also filled with fighting for civil rights, community activism, journalistic enthusiasm, and love of a good argument.

The Seattle Lesbian reported his death Tuesday:

A pioneer in the LGBTQ+, HIV and AIDS communities, Bakan was beloved by many who were influenced by his natural wit and personality. In the latter part of his life, Bakan devoted the majority of his time advocating for marriage equality, affordable LGBTQ+ senior housing and telling the stories of our time. He was the editor-in-chief of the SGN for nearly four decades.

According to a biography Bakan provided when he ran to lead the Capitol Hill Community Council in 2014, Rudolph George Bakan was born in Seattle, “raised in rural Bellevue and in the 1960s he moved with his family to Eastern Washington” — Continue reading

Outsider artist Darryl Ary remembered

Ary (Image: Vermillion)

A regular part of the scene around Broadway and a favorite of the Capitol Hill art world, artist Darryl Ary passed away in November. He will be remembered this week in a gathering at gallery and bar Vermillion.

According to city records, he was 63.

CHS noted Ary, who many knew from his regular presence in his wheelchair in front of the Broadway Dick’s Drive-in or at City Market, in 2015 as artist Baso Fibonacci made a public call for people who had purchased Ary’s paintings over the years to help curate a show of his work. In 2013, then City Arts magazine designer Dan Paulus called Ary one of his favorite artists in Seattle.

“Darryl Ary has been on his grind for the past twenty years, hawking his wares on the mean streets of Seattle, rain or shine,” Paulus said. “Scavenging scrap lumber for canvases, he paints and scratches brutalist images that have just enough pop culture jazz to simultaneously charm and repulse.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill neighborhood and ‘Right to Try’ patient advocate Donovan remembered

(Image: Jim Diers)

Friends and loved ones are remembering Ann Donovan. The former Capitol Hill Community Council president and activist raising awareness for metastatic breast cancer died this week, according to a Facebook group set up by her supporters.

A wife and mother, Donovan is remembered for her activism and support of the Right to Try bill in Washington to give terminally ill patients better access to experimental therapies. Continue reading

Plymouth Pillars, music, and good dogs — Goodbye to the Mayor of Melrose

Jones in 2011 (Image: CHS)

Friends, family, and City of Seattle officials are remembering Patrick Jones, the “Mayor of Melrose,” and his outsized work dedicated to a small area of the city.

Jones died last week reportedly in his sleep. He was ready to turn 61 this summer.

Jones, with his story of recovery from addiction as a former Marine and hitting rock bottom before arriving in Seattle with almost nothing, is remembered for his dedication to the neighborhood near his Capitol Hill Housing home around Melrose Ave where he made it a point to be a friend to nearly every type of person — and good dogs, too. Continue reading

Rosebud restaurateur remembered for work with Gay City, shaping of Cal Anderson Park

Robert Sondheim helped shape some of the best parts of the Capitol Hill you know and mostly love today. The restaurateur and businessman died earlier this month. Sondheim was 67 years old.

“He served on the board for Gay City, was part of the redevelopment of Cal Anderson Park, and was a longtime volunteer at MOHAI, among many other things,” the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce said about his passing. “Much love to his family, including his life partner Herman, and to his many friends and associates.” Continue reading

Barbara Bailey, founder of Broadway’s much-loved Bailey/Coy Books, remembered

(Image via Facebook)

Barbara Bailey, a Broadway business and property owner who created one of the city’s most loved book shops, has died. She was 74.

Friends have posted tributes to Bailey on social media. There has not yet been an announcement regarding services.

Mayor Jenny Durkan noted Bailey’s place in the formation of the Capitol Hill we know today. “Her mark on Seattle cannot be overstated; Capitol Hill would not be Capitol Hill, were it not for Barbara,” Durkan writes. “She went to school there, lived there, built a business there and cheered the neighborhood on like few others.”

“No LGBTQ+ person would have been elected to any office in this region were it not for Barbara Bailey,” the mayor said. “She always stood by her principles, and she inspired others through her work.”

Bailey is remembered on Broadway for her Bailey/Coy Books, an important part of the street’s culture and LGBTQ communities through three decades at the end of the 20th century.

Her contributions to the neighborhood were remembered when Michael Wells, who took over Bailey/Coy ownership from Bailey, announced the shop’s closure in late 2009: Continue reading

Mount Zion’s Rev. McKinney remembered for civil rights legacy

McKinney in 2015

Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney spent his life serving the community including some six decades of service at 19th and Madison. The pastor emeritus of Mount Zion Baptist Church died Saturday at the age of 91.

McKinney left the pulpit in 1998 after 40 years leading Mount Zion and remained a steady presence for the congregation and the city’s Black community. But at January’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Mount Zion, McKinney was unable to attend and appeared to the assembly via a recorded address on the church’s video screen. Continue reading

Capitol Hill memorial planned for video game giant Joe Waters 

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Waters had a penchant, apparently, for flipping photographers the bird (Image via Clever Dunne’s)

A Capitol Hill fixture and longtime phenom of Seattle’s gaming industry passed away suddenly last week. Joe Waters, a developer who most recently worked as a lead with Xbox’s advanced technology group, died December 23rd. He was 43 years old. CHS was unable to confirm the details of the Melrose Ave resident’s death.

Waters worked on several top selling titles, including Tomb-Raider, Halo, and Half-Life. Friends and coworkers mourned Waters on social media as news of his passing spread last week. Clever Dunne’s will be holding a private memorial for Waters on January 6th.


Renee Gittins, a writer for the video game site Broken Joysticks, had this to say about her friend and mentor:

Joe himself had clawed his way to where he was in the game industry. He decided he wanted to make video games and forced his way into the industry by making his own video game from scratch, some 17 years ago, an extremely rare accomplishment for those times. He made every lick of it himself, from the art to graphics rendering. He would often recalled with a chuckle how, in his first interview, they asked him what parts of the game he had worked on and he responded “I don’t understand the question” because he made them all himself.

In those years since, he has become a core member of the game industry. His intelligent, programming talent and understanding of graphics rendering gave him immense value, but he was always treated everyone else as peers, no matter their background or profession. In these recent years, he has lead Seattle monthly industry nights that helped connect countless developers, from AAA to indie, from programmers to artists. He had a wonderful talent for helping people connect and has brought countless people together. Like his own friendship, the connections he helped established were deeper and more open than they ever would have been without him.

Writer Dotty DeCoster remembered

Dotty and her family (Images courtesy David Collett)

A nearly 50-year resident of Capitol Hill and First Hill died last week — CHS was lucky to call her a friend. Dotty DeCoster, who spent her last six years on First Hill after four decades on Capitol Hill, was a writer, researcher, and historian who often worked for little more than her love for some of her favorite subjects — the people, places — and sometimes birds — of Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Central Seattle.

She was an activist:

A political radical, DeCoster was involved with “old guard” leftist groups like the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), and experienced the sexism within them.  “It is almost impossible to imagine what it was like in the mid-to late 60s if you were a woman.  If you went to a radical meeting you weren’t allowed to talk.”   Like other women at the time, DeCoster began to see the need for a separate space for women to exchange ideas.  Through the Free University, DeCoster encountered discussion around “the woman question”, became part of the anarchist Women’s Majority Union, and worked on the feminist journal Lilith. Quickly, radical women’s groups surfaced which were addressing the problems that mattered to them, driving the changes which would grant women further autonomy.

DeCoster’s family tells CHS she died during the week of complications from colorectal cancer. She would have turned 71 on February 1st. She is survived by daughter Tara, son Tristan and granddaughter Esme.

Despite her move to a First Hill apartment on Spring, DeCoster still identified as “Capitol Hill” and her knowledge of our history stretched back over the decades.

“In the late ’60s, the housing here was in pretty bad shape even on Capitol Hill, not just in the Central Area,” DeCoster said in a 2000 interview. “After the Boeing Crash, housing prices were so cheap that a lot of young couples bought houses here, and still live here because they can’t afford to move, but there were a lot of children here in the ’60s and ’70s. That’s not true now. You see a lot of weekend children.”

Over the years, we were lucky to share some of DeCoster’s work. You learned where the steam at Pike and Harvard comes from. You learned about Broadway’s stairway to nowhere. You learned about the vanished nighthawks of First Hill:

They also have an odd habit while perching.  Rather than sitting on tree limbs or wires or rooftops facing you (with the perch on the horizontal) they sit sideways, aligned along the perch.  Called “goatsuckers” some places, they used to be a delightful addition to the August falling star show viewed from the Capitol Hill ridge crest.

Thanks for your work and your sharing, Dotty. We learned a lot.