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

Gay senior advocate
Arthur Hurwith dies


Arthur Hurwith
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Arthur Martin Hurwith, who was involved with gay senior organizations for many years, died Monday, October 14 at his home in San Francisco's Mission district. He was 84.

A cause of death was not released. Ken Nimmo, who had been Mr. Hurwith's caregiver and knew him for 50 years, said that Mr. Hurwith might have suffered a heart attack.

Mr. Hurwith also suffered a bad fall about a year and a half ago that required surgery, friends said.

His longtime friends Nimmo and Carol Shafer confirmed the fall. Shafer said that Mr. Hurwith's ability to walk was affected, but that he had been able to use a walker and a cane that enabled him to get around.

Several friends said they mourned the loss of Mr. Hurwith.

"More than anything he was a sincere, honest person," Nimmo said.

Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., founder of the LGBT senior agency Openhouse, said that from the beginning, Mr. Hurwith was an integral part of the nonprofit. He had served on the board since 1988.

"Arthur served as the organization's first treasurer and continued on the board till his passing," Adelman, also an Openhouse board member, said in an email. "He attended the September board meeting and was looking forward to attending some events later this month."

In addition to his work with Openhouse, Mr. Hurwith was active in the San Francisco Prime Timers, a group for older gay and bisexual men and their admirers. First organized in 1972 as G40+, it reorganized as a chapter of Prime Timers Worldwide in 2002, said David Valentine, who serves as vice president of the local group.

"Arthur was involved in G40+," Valentine told the Bay Area Reporter, and helped it transition to the Prime Timers. Mr. Hurwith served as treasurer for the organization for a number of years, Valentine added.

"Arthur did a remarkable amount of work for decades for Prime Timers/G40+ and many other gay organizations in San Francisco, including the Imperial Court system, Openhouse, and Community United Against Violence. He was a kind and loyal friend," Prime Timers secretary Bob Chase said in an email.

Art Steffen, president of San Francisco Prime Timers, said Mr. Hurwith was also involved in other organizations over the years. He served on what was then known as the Gay Pride Committee from 1991-1992, and was on the Community Aging Advisory Council from 1987-1997.

"We're all missing Arthur," Steffen said.

As part of his Prime Timers duties, Mr. Hurwith occasionally arranged for speakers to come to meetings. One of those who addressed club members was B.A.R. assistant editor Matthew S. Bajko.

"When Arthur led the Prime Timers, he began inviting me to speak to the club during election years about local and state races," Bajko recalled. "He was incredibly kind and gracious and I will miss seeing his smile when I attend the club's meetings."

Mr. Hurwith served on the advisory board of Gay and Lesbian Outreach to Elders, Steffen said.

He was also a "fully out, and proud, gay man – starting at a time when acknowledging such was not the acceptable practice it is today, to say the least," Shafer recalled in an obituary she wrote.

Mr. Hurwith's friends described an active man who loved singing, especially in piano bars.

"He was a big, big fan of singing at piano bars, such as ... the Copper Lantern, the Swallow, the Galleon, the Lush Lounge, the Octavia Lounge, and most of all and up till a few weeks before his passing, the Alley in Oakland," Shafer wrote. "He was a major player in the production of a documentary film about piano bars in general and the Alley in particular."

Mr. Hurwith was also a devoted patron of non-musical and musical theater in general, and in particular the shows put on by San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon, the musical theatre troupe that "celebrates and preserves the art and spirit of the American musical theatre," Shafer added.

Mr. Hurwith and Nimmo were long-term supporters and season ticket holders for 42nd Street Moon's productions, she said.

Mr. Hurwith was born on October 4, 1929 in New York City, where he grew up. According to a biography he wrote and gave to Steffen, Mr. Hurwith graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1947. He graduated from City College of New York in 1952, where he majored in documentary film distribution and minored in art, Steffen said.

Mr. Hurwith traveled the world extensively, working as a merchant seaman, a tour guide, and a teacher (i.e., three trips to China during the early days of open travel), Shafer said.

He moved to the Bay Area in 1962 and initially taught at Mills High School in Millbrae. In 1965 he took a job with the California Automobile Association.

In San Francisco Mr. Hurwith met, fell in love, and became partners with Henry Dickow Jr. The men were early supporters of both the Imperial Court and the Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco, as the Baron Arthur Hurwith and the Baroness Eugenia Von Dieckoff, Shafer said.

Mr. Dickow died in 1988.

Mr. Hurwith later became partners with Warren Van Eyck, who was also a founding board member of Openhouse. He passed away in 2009.

Shafer, a transgender woman, said that Mr. Hurwith helped her to come out after her transition.

"He convinced me to come out and I did," she said. "He had a global perspective on sexual identity."

She also enjoyed going to piano bars with Mr. Hurwith.

"On the fun side, learning to sing a song," she said of her memories with Mr. Hurwith. "He was a really fun guy."

In addition to Nimmo, whom he described as his best friend, Mr. Hurwith is survived by his sister Estelle Miller; his other best friend, Betty Hindenes; and friends and loved ones throughout the country.

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