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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1985)
R O S E B G R G
by Billy Russo
On Sunday evening. December 16. the
phone rang. My lover, Doug, answered it:
Oh, no!" he gasped. "That's terrible!" I could
tell from his sorrowful tone that someone we
knew had died. I waited for him to get off the
phone and say who it was. "Jim Mahoney
died." Doug said.
J im Mahoney was a founding president of
the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) of
Douglas County. Jim was very active during
the first year of G ALA He was there for that
very first meeting November 29, 1980, at
Mixed Company. Jim was a big man, square
at the shoulders. His voice was deep and he
wore a warm smile.
The man was a traditional patriarch in
m any ways. He was a well-respected
Roseburg executive, a father and a grand
father. He was well informed, and like most of
us, he was only out to trusted friends.
J im was more sophisticated than most of
the local men. He followed the growth of the
hom ophile movement for many years and
participated in some lesbian/gay activities in
Eugene, Portland, Ashland and Northern
California. He was one of the first men to
realize the dangers of sexism within the
m ovem ent and was one of the first local men
to do som ething about it.
W hen Lillene Fifield, then co-president
with Jim . established a gay m en’s conscious
ness raising com mittee, he was one
of the first men to participate. Besides help
ing write the format, he facilitated the first
group to com pletion in our com munity. His
perception of the dangers of sexism and his
co m m itm e n t to com batting it were powerful
examples for other men of this com m unity to
Jim was there when the Gay and Lesbian
Switchboard was formed. He played an active
role in the first marathon training session we
did in Myrtle Creek in 1981. He helped lay the
foundation for Oregon's only 24 hour
hom ophile helpline, a helpline that is still
serving the com m unity today.
The m em ory that I hold dearest of that year
we worked together is the m em ory of the day
he publicly came out. It was the first meeting
between us and the local paper. Now, every
one in the paper knew Jim as a spokesperson
for a local state agency. He was well-known.
He was not known as a gay man.
You could have heard a pin drop in that big
— big for Roseburg — bustling office when
fou r adm itted homosexuals walked through
to the conference room at the other end.
Jaws dropped when people started realizing
that that was Jim Mahoney with us. It was very
exciting for me.
It was a big day in his life. He was fully aware
o f the risk he was taking. I remember how he
fidgeted \yhen we grouped outside the build
ing before we walked in. It takes a lot of
courage to do what he did and I was proud to
The meeting with the newspaper that day
was quite fruitless. They wanted to do a story
on the lesbian/gay com m unity. That was
okay with us, but we wanted final editing
rights to the story. The editor said they'd
never go for that.
Well, it took awhile. But three years later
they gave in and we cooperated for five
stories, one of which won a national award for
the journalist. I believe to this day that the
effect J im ’s com ing out had on those people
R E P O R T
went a long way to raise their consciousness
J im moved to Eugene near the end of
1981 to return to school. He wanted to do
some graduate stuff and pursue a new
career. He was about 50 years old then. He
rem ained in contact with us through these
few years and was last here in Roseburg d u r
ing the installtion at MCC of Roseburg's first
gay minister. His com m unity awareness and
his understanding of the group process has
left a distinct mark on our com m unity. He will
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^ 7 our family members, partner, lover,
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