Marty Fenstersheib

marty-fenstersheib

You might have heard about Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara County’s testing and vaccine officer who came out of retirement in 2020 to help in the fight against COVID-19. However, you may not know he worked for the county since 1984 and was instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Marty Fenstersheib received his B.S. at Tulane University, M.D. at Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, and M.P.H at U.C. Berkeley. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine. He always craved big challenges. He left his first job in private practice because he found it too easy. He entered U.C. Berkeley’s Public Health program and, as a fluent Spanish speaker, was soon working in a Spanish-language clinic in San Francisco’s
Mission District.

In 1984, he joined Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department as director of the immunization program. This was in the early days of the epidemic. “I actually was the first person in the health department that gave results to people that they were HIV positive. The test came out in 1985 and nobody knew what to do, so no one wanted to give the results. So, I did,” Fenstersheib said. “It soon became known that if you got the test and I came in the room—it wasn’t good news. After
that, there was nothing else to tell them.”

Fenstersheib achieved national prominence when he pioneered a then-revolutionary AIDS treatment that meshed medical care with education to keep infected patients from spreading the virus. He helped open a County clinic to provide education, referrals, and support. The approach was profiled in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The HIV Early Intervention Clinical Program he started in 1987 became the model for the State of California. More than two dozen similar clinics were subsequently established and funded across the state. When Congress significantly expanded
the federal funding for AIDS care in 1990 with the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act, Fenstersheib’s program became the national model for AIDS treatment clinics.

Throughout the epidemic, Fenstersheib continued to serve as a hands-on clinician, caring for HIV patients for more than 27 years, even after becoming the County’s Public Health Officer and later, after adding the role of the Public Health Department Director.

The epidemic had a profound impact on Fenstersheib personally. His partner was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1984 and died in 1992. In addition, Fenstersheib has sung with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus since 1983, and he reflects on the loss of more than 300 members of the chorus who have died of AIDS since the epidemic began.

Fenstersheib retired from the county in Sept. 2013. In 2020, due to his knowledge of public health and infectious diseases, he was hired back to be the COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer at the county’s Emergency Operation Center.

Peter Johnson

peter johnson profile

Days after the 1993 Walk for AIDS in downtown San Jose, the Mercury News ran an article that illustrated just how devastating the epidemic was in those years.

“As the fourth annual Walk for AIDS drew near, every visitor to the bedside of Peter Johnson had to make a pledge. “He was dying and he was asking people to sponsor him,” said his mother, Helen Johnson. “On Monday, Peter Johnson—down to 100 pounds from his normal 150, 6-foot-1—confided to his friend Bob Clayton: “It’ll be a chair-athon for me (Sunday).” I said, ‘Fine. We’ll all push.’”

Regrettably, Peter Johnson didn’t make it to the annual fund-raising walk for the disease. He died of AIDS on October 13, 1993, just under two months after his 30th birthday.

Throughout his illness, Johnson drew strength from the support of his family. His mother, Helen, volunteered at Aris alongside him and walked in the AIDS Walk with him every year. She continued to walk for many years after Johnson’s death.

Johnson had graduated from Overfelt High School in 1981. He was diagnosed with HIV at the end of the 80s and shortly afterwards began volunteering with Aris. By early 1991, he was a member of the Aris board with the group’s executive
director Bob Sorenson telling the Mercury News that Peter was “one of our best interpersonal ambassadors.”

In 1992, he was appointed to the County AIDS Commission. He attended every commission meeting, even those where there was not a quorum present. Sadly, his time on the commission was too short.

Bob Clayton

bob clayton profile

James Robert Clayton, known to everyone as Bob, was born in 1934. He was working for the Social Services Agency in 1981 when a man seeking help walked into his office suffering from a new and unknown malady. The man was one of the first county residents with AIDS. For the rest of his life, Clayton would be at the forefront of the Santa Clara County effort to deal with the disease and care for its patients.

In 1985, Clayton opened his home as the first AIDS residence in the county. In March of that year he helped form a weekly support group for AIDS patients that initially called itself “Freedom from Fear.” By January 1986, that group had incorporated as a nonprofit and become the Aris Project.

In 1994, Clayton received national recognition when he was presented with the Family AIDS Network’s National AIDS Caregiver Award. His nomination announcement noted that “Bob cries easily, never afraid to share his grief with other caregivers. Yet, he talks about the pain he carries each day as a ‘small price to pay’ for the rewards he has found reaching out to other people in need. Bob talks about each of the people he has been a caregiver for as a proud parent talks about their child- with love and unconditional acceptance.”

One of the highlights of his life came in 1996 when he carried the Olympic torch in San Jose as it made its way to Atlanta.

At the time of his death in 2003, Clayton was serving as interim director of ARIS.

Helen Miramontes

helen miramontes profile

Helen Miramontes’ nursing career began in 1972 in Kaiser Santa Clara’s critical care unit. It later continued at Valley Medical Center where she worked for 20 years, ultimately as a nurse supervisor.

Her involvement with AIDS policy and services came about because of her family. In the 1980’s, one of her sons was openly gay and suffering from alcoholism. “In the beginning, she sort of got into it because she needed to know what this is about because (my parents) thought I was going to get sick,” said her son David Miramontes during an interview with Ken Yeager in October 2018.

David’s twin brother, Jonathan, was also gay but still in the closet at that time. He would ultimately die of AIDS in 2006.

The epidemic was not the first time that Helen had gotten involved in a cause. “My mother was involved in the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War movement, and the migrant farm worker movement in the 60s. I remember being next to her with my siblings, all six of us, listening to Cesar Chavez,” said David Miramontes. “She always said that social work helped her really get started doing AIDS work.”

She developed one of the first train-the-trainer programs that addressed the need for cultural competency in HIV/AIDS care. The course provided nurses straight-forward information, focusing on the role of stigma, ignorance, misconceptions, and intolerance in undermining treatment and research toward a cure. She explained the course’s direct approach by saying, “You don’t change attitudes with slides and didactic lectures.”

As she became nursing’s “go-to” person about HIV/AIDS, she also served on a host of committees and boards, including Santa Clara County’s AIDS Task Force. As chair of the Task Force I got to know her and saw firsthand the dedication and passion she brought to her work.

In 1993, Miramontes became an Associate Clinical Professor in UCSF School of Nursing’s Department of Community Health Systems. She taught and mentored faculty and students and was involved in the UCSF AIDS Research Institute. She continued her public service on numerous local, national, and international boards. In 1995, she was appointed to President Clinton’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, serving on both the research subcommittee and executive subcommittee on international issues.

Miramontes retired from UCSF in 2000 as Full Clinical Professor and relocated to be closer to her children in the Las Vegas area. Her activism continued there. During this time, she also cared for her son Jonathan. She died in May 2016, six days shy of her 85th birthday. Her name, and Jonathan’s, have been inscribed on the Circle of Names at the AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Bob Reed

bob reed profile

Bob Reed moved to the South Bay from Idaho in 1982, the year before Santa Clara County’s first HIV infections and AIDS deaths were recorded. He first read about the infection that became known as AIDS in 1981. Even though he was a nurse, Reed continued to have unprotected sex and embrace an “eat, drink, and be merry lifestyle,” as he describes it, for the first half of the 1980s.

By 1986, he knew he had HIV. That was confirmed with a terse phone call from his doctor after he got tested. He recalls the doctor saying only “you’re HIV positive” and then following that with “You’re a nurse so you know what that means. Call me if you need anything,” and then hanging up. The entire call lasted less than two minutes.

Reed recalls even then, five years into the epidemic and the year after Rock Hudson’s death, there was still a tremendous amount of ignorance about HIV and AIDS in the county.

His doctor told him he would be dead within six months. His apartment manager worried that he might infect other tenants just by living in the same building. In a hospital lobby, he helped himself to a bowl of popcorn put out for patients but was then reprimanded for contaminating it and making it unsafe for others.

Like many HIV/AIDS patients, Reed internalized a tremendous amount of self-loathing and felt at the time that he deserved a certain amount of this mistreatment.

A turning point came when he began receiving services from the County’s Early Intervention Program. Under the leadership of Marty Fenstersheib, it was one of the few dedicated HIV/AIDS clinics in the nation at that time. It did not do a significant amount of advertising. He learned about it the way most patients did, through word of mouth. He described its services as “life-saving.”

Ultimately, Reed would spend three years working as a nurse at the clinic. His personal experience as someone living with HIV made him especially effective. This was particularly true in the years before the AIDS cocktail became widely available, when an HIV diagnosis was considered akin to a death sentence. Reed provided an example for so many others in those years just by living his life and doing his job.

In 2004, Reed became a member of the County’s HIV/AIDS Planning Council for Prevention and Care, now known as the Santa Clara County HIV Commission. He has been elected co-chair of the commission on two separate occasions.

Reed says overall Santa Clara County is an “exemplary” place to live for the LGBTQ community, and the County’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis was one of the best in the nation. “I’ve lived here since ’82, and I’ve stayed here because there are no villains.

Ira Greene

ira greene profile

In 1981, Dr. Ira Greene was already a well-respected and beloved doctor. As the Chief of Dermatology at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC), he began seeing an increasing number of patients with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS). At the time, he didn’t know that he was treating an illness that would soon grow into an epidemic.

Greene attended medical school at the University of North Carolina, and after initial training as an internist in Arizona, he made his way to Stanford for a residency in dermatology. He eventually became a clinical professor there, in addition to his role at VMC.

The KS cases Greene saw in the early 1980s caught his attention because they began appearing in relatively young men. Until that time, KS was an extremely rare condition that mostly afflicted elderly patients. Because Greene had experience in internal medicine, he also took note of the strange mix of skin lesions, swollen glands, lethargy, pneumonia, and other symptoms affecting these patients.

That laundry list of symptoms soon became associated with the syndrome doctors would come to call AIDS. Greene’s knowledge and background as a gay health care professional made him a logical choice for leading the effort to combat the emerging disease. Alongside Dr. David Stevens, Greene established a specialty treatment center at VMC that eventually became known as the Partners in AIDS Care and Education (PACE) Clinic. However, it was his empathy and connection to his patients that truly made him the right person for the job.

By 1988, Greene became associate director of Santa Clara County’s AIDS program. Even though that leadership role took much of his time, Greene never stopped seeing people with AIDS one-on-one as a primary care physician. His compassion during these often bleak years was steadfast. He did all that he could for his patients, often securing experimental treatments in a last-ditch effort to save the dying.

Friends who knew Greene saw the emotional toll that this work exacted. He developed many close personal ties to patients who ultimately succumbed to the epidemic. Still, he continued to make visits to AIDS patients through the 1990s.

“When you work with dying people, you learn a lot about yourself. You are forced to confront your own feelings about death. You feel very mortal,” Greene said in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News in the late 1980s.

Tragically, Greene died in 1998 when his Palo Alto home caught fire. It was a shocking loss for the community.

Karl Vidt

karl vidt profile

Karl Vidt moved to Santa Clara County in 1969. When the AIDS epidemic began in the early 1980s, he did not pay much attention to it, believing it was “something affecting people in San Francisco.”

Vidt became much more aware of the disease and the toll it was taking in 1985 when he joined the board of the Metropolitan Community Church, one of the first denominations in the South Bay to provide a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for the LGBTQ community. Coincidentally, the church became the original home of the Aris Project the same year that Vidt joined its board.

Despite his work with the church, Vidt did not get tested until 1989 when he learned that he was HIV positive. He remembers being “just numb” after getting the news. He says that the tester who told him he was positive, Sandy Gudino, was kind and spent more than an hour with him answering questions and giving him information.

Vidt told few people about his diagnosis. “I just picked up and went on.” However, by 1991 he had gotten sick and was taking regular medications. In the fall of 1992, he came down with Pneumocystis carinii, the strain of pneumonia that had been closely associated with the AIDS epidemic since the early 80s.

In 1993, he developed an infection in his eyes that eventually led to his blindness in December 1996. Throughout the early 90s, Vidt survived with virtually no T-cells whatsoever. Luckily, by the mid-90s his T-cell count began to grow with the introduction of new medications. This led to an overall improvement in his health. He got his first guide dog in 1999, which significantly improved his self-sufficiency and mobility. He was able to play an active role in the community again and continued working at Metropolitan Community Church as the half-time church
administrator.

Vidt also threw himself into the thick of the fight against HIV/AIDS in the South Bay. He joined the Santa Clara County HIV Planning Council for Prevention and Care in 2002. He spent multiple years as chair of its Care and Treatment Committee. He also served a stint as the chair of its Planning and Resources Committee. In addition to his HIV Planning Council service, Vidt also served on the City of San Jose’s Disability Advisory Commission and spent four years as chair of the Santa Clara County World AIDS Day Committee.

Vidt says all of the volunteer service is just his way of contributing to the health care system that he believes has taken such good care of him since his diagnosis. “There was a time when I thought my parents would have to take care of me. Who would have guessed that now I am taking care of my mom,” he said.

In 2008, Vidt received the Leslie David Burgess Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his service to HIV/AIDS prevention and care, along with being a shining example for others with HIV/AIDS.

Getting to Zero

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It was at the 2011 United Nations World AIDS Day that the international Getting to Zero (GTZ) program was launched with the goal of achieving zero deaths, zero new infections, and zero stigma. In 2015, Supervisor Ken Yeager worked with the county’s Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody and community stakeholders to explore how to start such a program in Santa Clara County.

Once it was known how to create a GTZ program that suited our needs, Yeager asked the Board of Supervisors in 2016 for funding and received approval for a $6 million budget spread over four years to 2020. Yeager stated at the time that it was one of his proudest moments as an elected official.

The program has four focus areas: and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) implementation, guideline-based sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV screening, initiation and retention of HIV care, and reducing stigma.

One of the main elements of reducing infection is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention tool based on taking a daily medication designed to prevent HIV RNA from replicating itself in the body. Daily use of the drug can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sexual contact by virtually 100%.

PrEP is a remarkable tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS but has hurdles to implementation. Truvada, the only FDA-approved PrEP drug, costs as much as $2,000 a month. Much of the county dollars to cover the cost of the treatment for people who cannot afford it comes through Medi-Cal dollars and a federal program called 340B.

In 2017, the CDC announced that individuals with undetectable viral loads have essentially no risk of sexually transmitting HIV. This is a significant breakthrough that helps to reduce transmission.

Of the three goals of Getting to Zero, reducing stigma is the hardest to quantify and requires the most sustained effort and funding. Through collaboration with the county’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, the GTZ initiative supported nine mini-grantees to conduct unique projects that reduced HIV-related stigma.

The county has sponsored two extensive marketing campaigns geared to inform young Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men about the option of PrEP. Another PrEP awareness campaign was specific to African-American residents.

By 2018, the county was halfway through the four-year program and already had seen increases of more than 50% in PrEP prescriptions compared to the baseline before the County began Getting to Zero. The initiative set a new precedent for increased County STD clinic hours and staff, greater number of healthcare workers trained on PrEP/PEP, and other public health advancements that will continue after GTZ sunsets.

According to a 2020 Master’s Project from San Jose State University, the GTZ program in Santa Clara County has allowed for significant strides in transmission reduction and available care for current and new diagnoses, especially when compared state-wide. Read more here.

Santa Clara County has come far since the early dark days of AIDS. But much work still needs to be done. The goals of Getting to Zero are within our grasp, and we must remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure that we reach them. For everyone who has been involved in this pandemic, our hearts are full of both sadness and hope.

Provided by Getting to Zero staff with Supervisor Ken Yeager

ProLatino

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The first meeting of ProLatino was held in February 1992 at the Billy DeFrank Center. Thirteen people attended. The group formed out of the need for a safe environment for gay Latinos to meet and discuss their community, health, and HIV/AIDS. J Alejandro (Alex) Campos Vidrio was the first president of the group, and Omar Nunez was vice-president.

Alex organized meetings every other Tuesday, asking participants to bring a new person with them at each meeting. The group grew from 13 to 27, then 38, and kept going from there. Eventually, they couldn’t fit in the original meeting rooms. They moved to the main ballroom in the Billy DeFrank Center’s Stockton Avenue location. Sixty people came to each meeting and participated in a variety of events.

Although forming ProLatino was a huge step in the direction of healing the LGBTQ+ Latino community, Alex’s goal of creating a safe environment was still not met. Working with Esperanza Garcia Walters, they wrote a grant proposal to host a retreat for the LGBTQ+ Latino community, which they received. The first retreat was held at a Catholic center in Mission San Juan Bautista with 30 gay men participating. Discussions included breaking down institutionalized and cultural homophobia, and the layers of growing up gay in a community that rejected them. They heard stories like being dragged by a horse through their hometowns in Mexico for being gay, or wanting to commit suicide because of their sexuality. These were shared in a safe space with a focus on healing. The retreat was so successful that over time they offered as many retreats as they could afford, which is what Alex had set out to accomplish.

The initial years were very busy. In 1993 they were invited to be part of the San Jose gay parade, the first Latino group to march in it. Members who did drag were embraced as a way to show that no one from any part of the LGBTQ community was excluded. ProLatino worked with other LGBTQ organizations to be more welcoming of the Latino community. At ARIS, for example, they worked to create the group “Entre Hombres” for gay Latino men who were HIV positive. They produced information about AIDS in Spanish, the only such literature available.

Alex remembers the Latino community had the idea that if you were gay, it makes you part woman, which makes you less than a man. “This idea makes you feel and think that you don’t deserve much, but ProLatino broke through those barriers,” he said. Alex made sure to reach out to other groups, including Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and others. “Our group felt safe because it wasn’t led by a white man–it was led by peers in the community,” he said.

In 1996, the group became a 501(c)(3) with a board of directors and co-chairs to run the organization. Omar Nunez was one of only two people who remained active with the group from the time it formed in 1992 until it went out of existence around 2011/2012. He remembers the retreats fondly. “They were open to everyone who wanted to attend, and people came from all over the Bay Area. Many of the men who attended were immigrants who only spoke Spanish. The retreats created a safe space for them that they had never experienced. It was very empowering.”

The workshops put on by ProLatino were very popular. They provided a place separate from the bars where people could get to know each other. “There was a tremendous void for the Latino community,” said Omar. “Here we were, almost a majority of the population, and there was nothing for us. ProLatino filled that void. It provided social and cultural programs, along with AIDS prevention services. Along with retreats, we did exhibits, education, art, theater, and parties. I’d say we had a couple hundred people a year attend our programs, resulting in well over a thousand gay Latinos connecting to our group.”

“It was an interesting and wonderful time,” said Omar. “People were ready and willing to do something for their community. It was a very unique period. I haven’t seen that type of community spirit since. It may never happen again.”

In 2005, Omar ran the program “Vida y Salud” (Life and Health) for gay Latino men with HIV.

In 2010, he was hired at the Santa Clara County’s PACE Clinic, a county-run clinic for HIV/AIDS patients. As a Community Health Outreach Specialist, he does outreach for the clinic, education for new patients, and interpretation services for doctors.


In 2000, with the support of Miquel Perez, David Castro was elected president of ProLatino. He remembers it as a tough time to get program funding because of the stiff competition for dollars. Since ProLatino had become a non-profit, they were able to receive grants from the state to provide HIV/AIDS services to the Spanish-speaking community. “Neil Christie was very supportive of us and he wrote a request for funding for a new support group,” David said. The center, which would become the Neil Christie Living Center after Neil passed away from AIDS, is where ProLatino  began to have educational programs for the Spanish-speaking community. Eventually, due to lack of funding, The Health Trust began to manage the center.

 The blending of ProLatino as a social group and the non-profit “Grupo ProLatino de San Jose” proved to be problematic, especially since David was advocating for both. Eventually, the non-profit lost its financing and no longer had money to pay staff. David then left the board and moved to Arizona in 2005 where he attended college and got a BA in Spanish and English translation and interpretation and continued to work on his master’s degree.

David has fond memories of the services that ProLatino provided to the Spanish-speaking community. “I used to get calls from married men with children who learned they were HIV positive, and it was difficult for them to handle their personal life. They only spoke Spanish so they didn’t know which way to go or what to do, and many wanted to commit suicide. I would meet with them after work and we would talk for hours about everything that was going on. I would eventually get them services, and I felt very good about that.”

The Fight Against Prop. 64

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Efforts to Quarantine AIDS Patients

The early to mid-1980s was a time of widespread misinformation and hysteria about AIDS. There were public fears that AIDS could be transmitted through the air like the common cold or by mosquitoes.

Into this atmosphere stepped Lyndon LaRouche, a one-time Marxist who, by 1986, had become a far-right reactionary, calling Henry Kissinger a communist and accusing Queen Elizabeth of conspiring to get the U.S. population hooked on drugs. His followers exploited the misinformation and public fears about the AIDS epidemic to secure the 500,000 voter signatures necessary to get an initiative on the ballot.

LaRouche’s initiative appeared on the November 1986 ballot as Proposition 64. It would have allowed public health officials to make HIV testing mandatory for people thought to be infected and required public disclosure of anyone who tested positive. Further, it would have prohibited anyone with HIV from attending or teaching school, as well as restricting their ability to travel.

When Prop. 64 qualified for the ballot in June 1986, many Californians held a negative or even hostile attitude towards both the AIDS epidemic and the LGBTQ community. A Los Angeles Times poll published that summer found half of the public favored quarantining AIDS victims, and a quarter believed that “AIDS is a punishment God has given homosexuals for the way they lived.”

The South Bay fight against Prop. 64

On July 1, 1986, BAYMEC’s board voted to put the organization’s full resources into defeating Proposition 64. The South Bay’s LGBTQ community, demoralized by the passage of Measures A and B and the subsequent arrival of AIDS, gained a renewed sense of activism. The next few months would see a dramatic transformation in the community’s profile and relevance.

The statewide No on 64 campaign initially planned to open offices only in San Francisco and Los Angeles. BAYMEC board members thought this was short-sighted. They feared that the San Francisco and Los Angeles-based campaign leadership would ignore the South Bay and put little or no effort or outreach into the region. There was a lot of work to do in educating voters all over the state about the realities of the epidemic and just how dangerous and disruptive Prop. 64 would be if it were approved.

BAYMEC was eager to run the local campaign for two reasons. First, even though they were a fledgling organization, they felt they had the capabilities to run a professional campaign. Second and equally important, they believed that the South Bay needed a strong LGBTQ organization to lead all the subsequent fights they knew would surely come over the years. It would be a missed opportunity to leave no lasting legacy of progressive gay politics and coalition-building. Though originally there was no universal agreement on BAYMEC’s role by some gay activists, over time most came on board.

Wiggsy Sivertsen agreed to serve as the local No on 64 campaign chair, Paul Wysocki as finance chair, and Ken Yeager became the campaign manager for Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Wiggsy, Paul, and Rich Gordon also served on the statewide committee.

There was never any question that local campaign headquarters would be at the Billy DeFrank Center, then located on Park Ave. It was not only the hub of South Bay LGBTQ political activity in 1986, but also a landlord who was willing to rent office space for the incredibly low rate of $200 a month.

Financially, the South Bay community stepped up in a big way. State organizers only expected BAYMEC to raise $20,000. In under 14 weeks, they raised $73,000. Santa Clara County donors actually contributed more than those in the much larger San Diego County. The first fundraising letter was mailed out on July 30. The September 7 kickoff fundraiser had over 200 attendees and raised over $7,000.

The fundraising campaign was the definition of grassroots. More than 1,200 contributors wrote checks of $10, $50, or other small amounts. The average contribution was $60. There were no corporations or wealthy individuals writing big checks. Fundraisers were held at bars and nightclubs stretching from San Jose to the Peninsula to Santa Cruz and 23 house parties in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Election night victory

On election night, November 4, 1986, a large crowd of supporters watched the returns at the Billy DeFrank Center. A sense of happiness and relief mounted as it became clear that Prop 64 was going down to defeat. The people of California had listened to the No on 64 campaign’s prevailing message of reason and understanding.

The next day, BAYMEC immediately began planning a celebration. Someone had a connection to Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose so they decided to hold the event there. Rebecca Obryan organized volunteers who cooked spaghetti for approximately 200 people. Admission cost $5.

Because so many deserved to be recognized for their contributions, during the dinner Ken Yeager asked people to stand up and be acknowledged for their work on voter registration, speakers’ bureau, fundraising, house parties, and voter outreach, or as Billy DeFrank Center board members. When he asked who donated their hard-earned dollars, everyone in the cafeteria stood up. There was a roar of applause, creating a sense of community that was palpable.