by Nan Tribuzio
About: Joe Hollinger & Rod Bernal
From a mother’s point of view, Joe was a child only a parent could love. Joe did not know the meaning of the word “no.” If he wanted to do something, he did it, regardless of the consequences. As a child and teenager this usually resulted in him being in trouble. As an adult this became an asset because he never gave up.
Joe came out to his family at the age of sixteen. We lived in a small town in the East Bay during a time when being gay was not accepted so he didn’t come out to his friends. Joe did not live his life as an openly gay male until he moved to San Francisco when he was twenty years old. Joe met the love of his life, Rod Bernel, in 1984. They were both young men and thought they had a long and happy life ahead of them. Rod had a successful landscape maintenance business and Joe worked along side of him until Rod was diagnosed with full blown AIDS in 1986. Joe was Rod’s full time care giver until Rod died in 1987 at the age of twenty eight. The next couple of years were very difficult for Joe and he almost gave up on life. With the help of family and friends he was finally able to pick himself up and go on to live a productive life.
Joe was severely dyslexic. He did not learn to read until he was ten. Math was almost impossible for him and writing was difficult. He dropped out of high school his junior year, but later went back to school at a community college and got his GED. Calculators and computers helped Joe overcome his learning difficulties and he went on to become a writer. Joe was nominated for the 1991 Cable Car award for a monthly column he wrote about the social life of gays in the leather community.
Joe was very active in the leather community, going to clubs and participating in the gay pride parade. He even gave up his sedentary life style and became very fit. He then started entering leather competitions. In 1990 he won the title of San Francisco Leather and went on to compete in Chicago where he placed third.
Joe continued to run the landscape business and worked at the Detour until he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994 at the age of thirty. Joe died January 30, 1995 at the age of thirty two. His name, along with Rod’s, was engraved in the Circle of Friends on the first anniversary of Joe’s death. He is sorely missed but never forgotten.