Appendix B - My Ancestors
When I was younger. I really had little interest in my ancestors and now regret that I did not ask a lot of questions. The following is what I know about them.
Reginald Benson Hewetson was born in Harlan, Iowa in 1898 to an Episcopal Priest George
Benson Hewetson and his wife Hannah Walton Hewetson. When he was a child the family
moved back to England to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I am sure that his father’s position as an
Anglican Priest would have brought prestige to the family. He had a French governess.
One of his favorite past times was taking his bicycle on the ferryboat to Holland for a day of
bicycling. This seemed a pretty wonderful childhood to me.
Although his father was a scholarly man and a published poet, Dad chose not to further his education. When he graduated from the Royal Grammar School (public high school), he claims he was offered a scholarship to Oxford University.
About this time his father George Benson Hewetson (born in Carlisle, England) moved the family to Milestone, Saskatchewan, where he became the Vicar of the local Anglican parish. While they lived in Milestone, Walton his older brother died at the age of nineteen, which took a toll on his father. He has two published poems about this event. One was entitled “Lift me up, daddy.”---the last words spoken by Walton.
While in Milestone my grandfather converted to Roman Catholicism.
Somehow he obtained a job as a Professor of English at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN. The family story is that he wanted to be a Roman Catholic Priest, but in order to do that his wife would have had to enter a convent. Needless to say, Hannah (née Walton) was not about to do so. In fact neither his wife nor his children ever went to church again.
They moved to a very comfortable new two-story home they purchased in south Minneapolis.
Clara Larson was the third of six children born in 1896 to Ole Larson and Albertina
Magnusdotter Larson in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Both were born in Varmeland, Sweden
Ole worked for the Shell Lake Lumber Company and was the deputy sheriff of Washburn
County when mother was born. The family story was that she was born in jail because Ole as “jail keeper” had quarters in the jailhouse. Three children born after mother all died of childhood diseases. Anna was her sister just one year older. In her childhood, Anna had a ruptured appendix which set her back one year in school so the two sisters were in the same grade until the graduated from high school. It was apparent to me that mother lived in the shadow of Anna throughout her early life.
After high school the two sisters moved to Minneapolis. Both worked at the Munsingwear underwear factory. During World War I they lived in northeast Minneapolis at the Young Men’s Temperance Association. They rented to women because the men had all gone to war.
Questions I wish that I had asked my grandparents:
Why did you migrate seven times?
What on earth made you move to Milestone, Saskatchewan from Newcastle-upon-Tyne?
How did you meet your wife?
How did you get your job at de Paul University?
Why did you move to Minneapolis?
How were you related to the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Were you terribly disappointed with Reginald's marriage? What about Mildred?
Hannah Walton Hewetson:
Where were you born? How did you meet George?
How are you related to the composer, William Walton?
What was life like as a Vicar's wife?
What did your father do for a living?
Did you build boats in Sweden?
When and why did you immigrate to Wisconsin?
Did you meet Albertina in Shell Lake?
When and why did you move to Minneapolis?
Albertina Magnusdotter Larson:
What did your father do for a living?
When and why did you immigrate? and to where?
Did your sisters all come to the U S together?
Did you ever have any social life in Minneapolis?
Did you feel left out at family gatherings?
Did you see yourself as "the maid" after Ed and Ann moved into your home?
A Work in Progress
I am in the process of bringing my memoir up-to-date.
Here is a brief update until I finish writing an extension of this Memoir.
Aqil has found a community in Palm Springs that helped us decide that it was time for each of his so move on. He has a satisfactory relationship with a retired doctor. I am happy that he has found life so much better than what he had in Fresno when we first met. We still keep in touch with each other.
In 2013 I moved to the Broadmoor, a residence hotel on Cathedral Hill in San Francisco. Three meals a day, maid service, Friday Happy Hour, and Sunday Champagne Brunch makes life quite comfortable.
John Vu and I have celebrated six years of mutual love. In 2014 we visited his homeland, Vietnam, as well as Thailand and Taiwan. Because I fell in Thailand and broke a rib, our trip was cut short. We planned to return to Vietnam in November 2016, but never did because of my health.
Dick and John
San Francisco (right)
In May 2006, our fantastic Quatrefoil Library joined the Tretter Collection and the University of Minnesota Library in sponsoring the first International Conference of Gay Archives (such as the Tretter Collection), Libraries (such as Quatrefoil) and Museums. It was wonderful to meet 120 people from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America. This amazing conference led to planning of several in the future. There were many useful workshops. Veteran gay rights activist Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, Andreas Pretzel from the Berlin Holocaust Museum and Maori Elizabeth Kirikiri from New Zealand were the featured speakers.
2006 also marked twenty successful years for Quatrefoil Library. The Library decided to celebrate throughout the year. Included in this celebration was an Open House the Saturday evening of the above conference. The University provided shuttle buses so that folks from the Conference could participate in the celebration at Quatrefoil with champagne and chocolate! Needless to say, that whole weekend was a high for me.
On January 13 2009 David Irwin, my former partner and co-founder of Quatrefoil Library died unexpectedly. On May 16, I attended the celebration of his life at Quatrefoil Library. His beloved nephew, David Bergstrom, did much of the planning and execution. I was saddened to learn young David’s wife had died the previous week.
Adding to that tragedy Dan Hanson a staunch supporter, board member, former President and tireless volunteer at Quatrefoil Library died in September. I was terribly devastated by this loss. Dan was way too young to die. I can’t imagine how difficult this was for his partner of many years, Keith Grennier. Dan and Keith were with us the day we began the plans for the library. Ironically, the weekend Dan died two books were introduced. A History of the Quatrefoil Library by Adam Keim and a History of Minnesota Gay and Lesbian Legal Assistance co-authored by Dan and Rick Osborne.
In the fall of 2015 John and I celebrated our first visit to the Quatrefoil Library since its move into its wonderful space on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. The library is on the street level of Spirit on Lake a new building which houses GLBT elders. Thirty years ago we opened to the public with our meager collection of 1500 books. It now houses 15,000 books plus DVDs, books in braille and a young adults section. It also has one of the largest collections of periodicals, past and present. It is arguably the best lending library collection of GLBT materials in North America. It is open to the public daily except major holidays and has operated for thirty years completely by volunteers—no paid staff!
On October 16, 2016 we celebrated the Thirtieth Anniversary. While we were in Minneapolis, we visited the Tretter Collection, one of the largest GLBT archives in the United States. It is housed at the University of Minnesota.
Freedom from Religion Foundation
I have continued to attend all conventions and serve as a board member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I have watched this organization grow from a very few members with its office being the dining room table of the Gaylor family in Madison, Wisconsin. We now own a historic building near the state capitol. It was once an Episcopal Church rectory and is now called Freethought Hall. We recently built an addition to Freethought Hall to house a library, and auditorium and offices for staff including four attorneys In 2015 we celebrated the grand opening of our new Freethought Hall—one block from the State Capitol. A monument to “Atheists in Foxholes” in the garden was dedicated. You know the religionists canard: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Many atheists have fought for our country. We already have another such monument at Lake Hypatia in Alabama. In 2016 I decided I was getting too old to travel to conventions and remain on the board so I withdrew my name from the nominees for reelection.
CLIR – Center for Learning in Retirement
CLIR remained an important part of my life. In addition to taking classes and participating in social events, I facilitated workshops for using home computers (PCs and Macs).
I also taught a class in the Bible as Literature. Forty-seven wonderful CLIRites decided to attend. Who would have thought that the Master of Divinity Degree from 1957 would have come in so handy so late in the life of this avowed atheist? The class was a challenge and lots of fun.
In the last decade the University of California treated us as a liability rather than an asset. Eventually we withdrew from the University and began losing members. Because CLIR had substantial reserve funds, we decided to continue operating until the funds ran dry. However, as newer people joined and the budget was no longer balanced, the Council decided to raise the dues. My opinion was that was counterproductive because we had less to offer. It also seemed to becoming more of a social group with little to offer as continued learning.
The printer in the office that I had donated some years before was beyond its useful life. I had suggested that we buy a new printer, but nothing happened. Then at a general meeting anoehr member announced that we needed a new printer. Two members immediately offered to pay for one. The member who had asked for it then did some research and emailed several of us that he had found a suitable one. Both he and I thought that the decision had been made so I suggested he order it.
Some time later Robby the President asked me to meet with her and the Second Vice President (who is in charge of the office). I was totally shocked when we met and Robby asked her why she had called for the meeting. She said, “I want Richard to stop trying to be helpful. I had no idea why she said that, so I said that I would try. I thought to myself, “I guess I have to stop being myself.” I mentioned some things that I thought were a problem. It took thirty minutes to learn that she was upset because I had suggested the purchase of the printer, and that was her job! I think this was one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever had.
I did not renew my membership. Although CLIR had been an important part of my life for more than a decade, I find that I do not miss it. CLIR finally died in early 2017.
In 2008 I became part of Outlook Theater that aims to highlight and celebrate personal histories of LGBT elders. We produced a short workshop piece last year and plan to have a full production late in 2009. This wonderful group of young theater people has adopted Ida Red and me as their “elders.” After interviewing many GLBT elders, we developed a play depicting their lives. We “invented” characters who could portray things we had learned. I had the joy of developing Joe who became one of the leading characters in our play This Many People. , I made my acting debut on May 31 and it ended the next night, June 1. It was a wonderful experience. I played the character I had created in a “work in progress” production as part of the Queer Arts Festival. I have decided that being an actor is a very difficult job! The play debuted June 10-13 with four sold-out performances. Did I mention that the theater was fairly small?
My Debut as an Author??
In 2011, I was flattered when Matthew Stark asked me to write a book for his Friends of the Bill of Rights Foundation about the involvement of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union involvement with gay rights. I decided that the work of the MCLU should be recorded in the context of what was happening at that time. I was familiar with the subject and had lived in Minnesota during those years. I reluctantly took on the task that became a very bumpy road.
From my own experience I knew what was going on during those years and realized that nothing much had been written about them. I also felt that I could write fairly about the various factions in the movement. The result was to the best of my knowledge the first comprehensive coverage of this period of history. The book is not available in printed form but is posted on the home page of my web site as well as on the web site of
A Castro Ambassador
In 2010 the Community Benefit District of the Castro Neighborhood did a pilot program called the “Castro Ambassadors.” They recruited volunteers to be in the Castro on weekends from June through October to greet tourists and answer their questions. I decided that it would be fun so I volunteered and took the training. I worked two-hour shift on weekends and really had a blast. It was so successful that it will be repeated this year
The Castro has become a real tourist destination particularly since the movie “Milk.” I was so surprised at the number of foreign tourists, many traveling as families, who appear and ask very intelligent questions. We greeted thousands of tourists and had fun doing this. One thing that added to the delight of many tourists is that Jane Warner Plaza (named for a Lesbian security officer who died of breast cancer), a pleasant area with tables and chairs where the ”F-Market” streetcar turns around had become a sunbathing area for naked men (and sometimes women). They tend to be middle-aged guys. I enjoyed watching elderly female tourists having their picture taken with one or two naked men. I’m sure that impressed the folks back home!
What fascinated me was that the European tourists came to the neighborhood to see the historic places. By-and-large the Americans came looking for the bars.
The naked men created such a stir (nudity is not illegal in California) that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to bar public nudity in San Francisco (with some typical San Francisco exceptions). Ironically this means that this City is the only place in California that nudity is illegal!
After working again the following summer, I decided to “retire” from this activity.
Kings and Queens
In 2005 I was working as a volunteer stuffing and stamping envelopes when David Boyer,
a young man from Brooklyn came seeking people to be interviewed for a book he was
writing on experiences of GLBT people at their senior proms. His eyes almost popped
out of his head when I told him that I had gone to the prom with my boy friend. He said,
“I have to interview you!”
Of course I was referring to the “Prom” that we did as a fundraiser for the Out-and-About
Theatre in 1981. I had that picture of David and me between the ubiquitous potted palms.
The result was my appearing with that picture in his book published as Kings and Queens:
A review in the Village Voice mentioned our Minneapolis prom.
2010 was a wonderful year.
In March I celebrated my 80th birthday with a champagne reception at the new Mission Creek Park in San Francisco. In spite of quite a bit of rain this spring we had a beautiful day of sunshine and 135 folks were there including Anita, her two daughters (Kim and Heidi) and Kim’s daughter Aja, who lives in San Jose.
I met John in February of 2010 through Silver Daddies on the internet. Our relationship has grown, and I cannot imagine life without him. He is an engineer in Santa Clara for a leading manufacturer of medical equipment. He came to the United States from Vietnam as one of the “boat people.” He is a devout Roman Catholic and I am an atheist This has been no problem in our loving relationship.
In October John and I went to Las Vegas. I had never been there before. It was a chance for me to reunite with my nephew, Dave. I had not seen him for over 25 years. His father, my brother George, had been estranged from our entire family. He was now 55. It was such a thrill. We spent two evenings together and have firmly reestablished a long-lost bond. He is a successful biochemist. This year he has promised to visit the rest of our family in Minnesota. Since then he has been to San Francisco twice and John and I have visited him in Las Vegas. We have established a great bond.
John and I have traveled a lot. Coincidentally he has two brothers who have
families and live in the Twin Cities area. In September 2017 we had a wonderful
trip on the Rocky Mountaineer and motor coach trip through Banff and Lake
Louise and train trip over the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver.
Japantown, San Franisco, 2013