Obituaries: Robert Wayne Starkey

  • Wednesday June 7, 2023
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Robert Wayne Starkey
Robert Wayne Starkey

January 20, 1949 — May 20, 2023

Robert Wayne Starkey, 74, of San Francisco, lost his battle with cancer on May 20, 2023.

Bob will be long remembered by many lifelong friends, family, and devoted online followers who enjoyed his adventures through his published writing and photography, which are available at and his Facebook page The Story of Bob.

With his first husband, Larry Stevens, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1973 where he lived until 1976 when he was invited to speak as guest poet at the International Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church in Washington, D.C. It was there that he was introduced to, and became the roommate of, Frank Kameny, one of the most significant figures in the American gay rights movement. By 1977, he had created the activist organization Save Our Children focused on stopping Anita Bryant, who was seeking to overturn the ordinance in Dade County, Florida, that protected the rights of gay people. Under the banner of Save Our Children, he organized a demonstration in Lafayette Park in D.C. to call President Jimmy Carter's attention to the civil rights abuses faced by the LGBTQ community at that time. As co-delegate on a steering committee, he was instrumental in organizing the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979.

While in D.C., Bob met his soulmate, Robert Frank Villacari, forming a relationship that will forever be known as Rob and Bob.

According to his obituary posted on Facebook, Rob and Bob moved to San Francisco in 1982 during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Together they created the Poppy Project to honor the memory of the many friends and others who had died of AIDS by planting California poppies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988, they toured Europe to promote the project internationally. When police brutally beat gay men in the Castro in 1989, as the Truth Fairy, they worked tirelessly to expose the abuse. From 1986 to 1989, Rob and Bob, with a group of friends, created and hosted the Friday Night Dinners. The dinners were open to people with AIDS, their friends and family, and others challenged by other illnesses.

Bob is survived by his sisters: Marlene Stevens, Patricia Testa, Barbara Talbert, and Sandra (Mike) Petteway; and his brother, Steven (Nancy) Starkey. He is preceded in death by his parents, Robert H. and Mary L. Starkey; his sister, Christy Jo Williamson; and his soulmate, Robert Frank Villacari.

An article about Bob was published in the San Francisco Chronicle shortly before his passing.

Please consider contributing to a charity of your choice in Bob's memory.

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