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Peter Thomas

I'm supposed to be telling you about our trip but I had to stop for a moment. Peter Thomas passed away a few weeks ago and he's being remembered today in Ashland. He died of cancer. A very obscure liver cancer, I think. He was on his last legs before they figured out what was killing him.  He must have been about my age. He was the development director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's not cliche to say that theatre people take care of themselves in their own way. The remembering is more important  than the laying to rest for those of us who are or were in the business.

We were friends though not close ones, and it had been years since we spoke at length. He and Paul-James and I roomed together back in 1984. I was the straight one, though you couldn't tell by looking at me. I've been trying to find a picture of us but I don't have any. I'm so sorry. Eventually we all moved out and moved on.

Peter was much closer to my sister Mallory, who way back in 1988 flew out to OSF to interview for the development director position at the theatre, largely as a way to get them to pay for her to visit us in Portland. As luck would have it, they offered her the position in a shared role with Peter. It worked beautifully. They had a long, very successful tenure raising money for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My sister was great with details and numbers. Peter made every donor feel like family.

Over time, Mallory moved up on the mountain where Peter and his partner Randy lived. She moved into marketing and their professional partnership ended. Peter continued to play a huge role in my sister's life. I remember the story of him picking up Maddie from school and dropping her at a store to be picked up by Randy, I think to be ferried up the mountain maybe 8 years ago when my sister had back surgery. Peter joked about this little girl being passed from one gay man to another to get her home. Peter threatened to show up at school with a bottle of beer and his fly open just to see the look on their faces.

I wish I was there to say good-bye with everyone else. I haven't had to do that since the bad old days of AIDS, when saying good-bye seemed a regular event. Unfortunately, people in the arts have lots of practice at this. On the upside, they will remember Peter and all he was to them, and they will do it in style. It will be a good send off. If I could offer a memory, it would be of dinner at Paul-James, and the posole recipe, written in his own hand, that is still stuck in an ancient cookbook on our bookshelf. A recipe we cook once a month, at least.

Good-bye Peter.


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