Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

GAPA co-founder
Donald Masuda dies


Donald Masuda, left, in an undated photo with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
(Photo: Courtesy Donald Masuda's Facebook page)
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Donald Masuda, one of the founders of the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance and an early AIDS organization serving gay Asian Americans, died August 24 in San Francisco. He was 52.

Mr. Masuda suffered a stroke in late July and had been hospitalized at UCSF, said Lance Toma, executive director of the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center.

As an early advocate for increased visibility among gay Asian Americans, Mr. Masuda helped start GAPA, which remains an active organization for gay and bi men of Asian descent. One of the group's early projects was the GAPA Community HIV Project, of which Mr. Masuda was also a founding board member.

Toma recalled that GCHP, as it was known, was one of the predecessor organizations of API Wellness Center. Mr. Masuda began serving on the GCHP board in November 1993. That group later became known as the Living Well Project and merged with the Asian AIDS Project to become API Wellness Center in 1997, Toma explained.

"Donald continued to serve on the board and took on the responsibility of chairing the development committee of the board," Toma said in an email. "In 1999, Donald began chairing the board affairs committee, and he continued to chair this committee until April 2003, when Donald concluded his board involvement. His 10-year board membership makes him one of the longest standing board members in our organization's history."

Toma said that after Mr. Masuda stepped off the board, he continued to actively support the organization with silent auction items and was a constant presence at API Wellness Center community events.

Reese Aaron Isbell, a former co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, told the Bay Area Reporter that Mr. Masuda served on the Alice board in the late 1980s.

"He said he often got inspiration from his days in Alice to help formally structure and organize GAPA as it began," Isbell wrote in a remembrance of Mr. Masuda for the Alice club's e-newsletter. "His tireless work in GAPA was noticed early by his fellow founding colleagues and he was unanimously chosen to receive the very first GAPA Man of the Year Award (now commonly referred to as the 'Godzy') in 1988."

Isbell said that while Mr. Masuda might not have been a household name in the LGBT community, his contributions were nonetheless significant.

"Donald did not have the high profile of some of the bigger names in our community, but he was no less involved and important," Isbell wrote. "Through creating new organizations, gathering groups of people together, growing new ideas, building resources, and supporting each other throughout the way, he made San Francisco, and the world, a more welcoming place. He has created a lasting legacy of love and support and we are all the better for his time here with us."

In an email, Isbell said that Mr. Masuda "was a special guy who not everyone knew but who impacted so many."

Robert Bernardo, a former GAPA co-chair, praised Mr. Masuda for his community work.

"Donald's contributions to both gay and API communities are countless," Bernardo said in an email. "He will be remembered as a generous and compassionate human being."

According to Mr. Masuda's Facebook page, he went to Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Mr. Masuda graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in physiology in 1983. He worked at UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Mr. Masuda's family declined to provide comment. A private memorial service is planned.

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