Thom Weyand died on August 12, 2014, in the comfort of his home in Albany, California. He was 63 years old. The cause of death was acute leukemia, which manifested as a “secondary cancer” 14 years after he contracted Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He received high dose chemotherapy and an autologous bone marrow transplant at the City of Hope National Cancer Center in 2001.
Thom was born on March 16, 1951 in Buffalo, New York. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University in 1973. He served as editor of the Clarence Bee in Clarence, NY after graduating from Syracuse. Never one to miss out on all the fun, he moved to San Francisco in 1976. While living in The City, he worked at the San Francisco Ballet with Richard LeBlond.
In 1979 he moved to India to study yoga in Ponditcherry, before settling on Maui where he was a 13-year resident. He was executive director of the Maui Philharmonic Society, and was instrumental in raising its stature as an arts-presenting agency. He also served as Director of Development and Executive Director of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, a highly acclaimed multi-purpose facility that includes proscenium and experimental “black box” theaters, a state of the art gallery space, and an outdoor concert amphitheater that seats several thousand. He was a strong advocate for native Hawaiian culture and helped launch the art center’s vibrant Hawaiian cultural mission, include the consecration of the “pa hula” outdoor performance area, a sacred space.
Thom returned to San Francisco in 1990 after meeting his future husband, Terry Huwe. After working briefly at the California College of the Arts, he became Director of Development at the National AIDS Memorial Quilt. He played a leading role in raising 10 million dollars, which enabled the entire quilt to be placed on the National Mall in 1996. President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Quilt during that display. He also raised funds for the High School Quilt Program, which brought Quilt panels into high school as a vehicle for teaching HIV awareness.
In 1997, he was appointed Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove. He worked closely with the community of Grove volunteers, helped increase its endowment, and welcomed the San Francisco Flaggers into the space as regular celebrants. Throughout his life he was a strong voice for all people living with HIV and was frequently interviewed by the local media while serving as Executive Director. Since 2003, he has served as a trustee of the Grove.
Democratic Leader and longtime Grove supporter recalled Rep. Nancy Pelosi shared her memories of Thom after learning of his passing: “Thom Weyand helped make the Grove what it is today: a place for respite, reflection, and remembering. He was one of those behind-the-scenes activists that the GLBT community depends so heavily upon—always there to get the job done, and always building bridges to new communities. I will miss him very much, more than I can say, but his memory lives on through the Grove itself.”
John Cunningham, the Grove’s current Executive Director, recalled Thom with fondness. “Thom left his mark on every aspect of the Grove, which is a living memory for those we have lost to HIV as well as their loved ones. He will be sorely missed by his friends, Grove volunteers, and his fellow trustees.” He added, “He will live on not only in our hearts but in the Grove itself, which is a haven for all who enter it.”
Longtime friend and AIDS Activist Judith Light also expressed how Thom touched her life: ” Thom was a gentle and powerful force in my and my family’s life. The devotion and commitment he brought to everything he did inspired and empowered us all. He introduced us to the AIDS Memorial Grove, which has as special a place in our hearts as Thom does. His spirit will be with us forever ”
Thom will be remembered for his love and compassion, his ability to create peace among competing interests, his humor, his courage and his steadfastness. All who met him came to appreciate his many gifts. He will be remembered and loved by hundreds of friends. He is survived by his husband, Terry Huwe, of Albany, CA; Sharon Weyand of Buffalo, NY; Mike, Cheryl and Taylor Weyand of Boston, NY; Marjorie McCarthy, Mike Anderson, Brian Donohue, Gary Sauer and Sandy Sauer of Angola, NY; Jennifer Warnes, Jillian Warnes and Tracy Hirsch of Colden, New York; Mike Kalisz and Jackie Zimmerman of Buffalo, NY; and Christy and Jason Stanislaw of Pittsburgh, PA. A service will be held in Western New York in mid-September. A memorial service and celebration of Thom’s life will be held at The National AIDS Memorial Grove in the coming weeks.