H O N O R A RY M A R S H A L In Memoriam
John Michael Gray (1950-2016)
Credit: Joel Benjamin Photography.
For over 30 years, The Hat Sisters – the husband duo of John Michael Gray and Timothy O’Connor – were known from Boston to Provincetown for their jeweled jubilance and sartorial splendor. Starting in the earliest heart-shattering days of AIDS, the dearly beloved Hat Sisters fought back against despair and grief with their sewing machine. They painstakingly stitched and sewed, glue-gunned and velcroed, and molded and melded endearing, flamboyantly unforgettable hats inspired to razzle, to dazzle, and to remind the LGBTQ community to feel sheer, pure joy again. The Hat Sisters were original and outlandish, vivacious, elegant, and extravagant. They were the LGBTQ community’s very own zany, anti-femme fatales. They were always there for us, attending seasonal benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS, fundraisers, and political rallies. They honored every facet of LGBTQ life. They brought people together, and made others feel valuable, proud, and worthy.
On September 24th, the community received the heart-breaking news that John Michael Gray had died peacefully in the arms of his partner, after a short illness. For Tim, it was as if all the rainbows had faded away. John Michael was a fine arts professional, with advanced degrees from Cornell, Tufts, Stanford, and Boston University. For 40 years, he was a leader in art education for Newton Public Schools and the New Hampshire Department of Education. He was an art lecturer, consultant, and board member to numerous non-profits. And in every waking minute of his spare time, John Michael, with his husband Tim – in the guise of their fabulous hatted alter egos – were giving back to the LGBTQ community. This Pride, we honor John Michael Gray, one-half of the dynamic Hat Sisters and a friend of the community, for changing our world one hat at a time.
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40 | Boston Pride 2017