Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dan Cusick, Veteran HIV and
Sobriety Advocate, Has Died

(Dan "The Man" Cusick.
Photo credit: StaffSF on Flickr.)

A few weeks before the launch of the Jamaica boycott, I spent time in the Castro talking to bay managers and restaurants soliciting their participation in the boycott.

One day, I ran into longtime friend Terry Beswick who was on the sidewalk near the Castro Country Club. He was getting ready to run the place because his comrade and housemate, Dan Cusick, wasn't feeling well. Dan's liver problems were acting up, so he stayed home to rest.

Terry said things were looking good for Dan to get a liver transplant in the very near future, and I felt Terry's optimism as he spoke. Sadly, that didn't come to pass, and Dan died this week.

A memorial for Dan has been created at 18th and Castro Streets and his friends have put out a release.

Even though I wasn't close to Dan during the awful bad old days of ACT UP fighting like hell for affordable and safer AIDS drugs, nor did our paths cross as he managed the clean and sober club, I must say a small part of me has died with Dan.

The Silence = Death generation that we belong to accomplished so much, that benefited so many, and extended untold numbers of people, and we've never really allowed ourselves the full time and space to grieve properly over the thousands of deaths of friends and loved one we witnessed.

We gays are not very good at saluting our heroic veterans, such as Hank Wilson and Dan Cusick, while they are alive and breathing, for all the amazing altruistic work they performed, at great sacrifice to their own lives and careers.

There really ought to be a few survivors' events around the country to pay homage to the Silence = Death generation still here.

I'll be sure to plant some seeds for those events, at least in San Francisco, at Dan's life celebration at the end of May. And I'll also give more words of praise, like I did today when I saw Terry at Cafe Flore, and express my appreciation for all the hard work/activism/fighting they've done over the years.

Here's the press release:

APRIL 23, 2009


Terry Beswick 415-756-4920

Victor Valdiviezo 415-730-0637

Dan Cusick, a longtime AIDS activist, LGBT community leader, and friend to San Francisco’s recovery community died on April 23, 2009 from complications related to Hepatitis C while awaiting a liver transplant. He was surrounded by all seven of his brothers and sisters. He was fifty years old.

A memorial service will be held on May 30, 2009 at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, 100 Diamond Street.

Dan Cusick moved to San Francisco in 1990 at the height of the AIDS epidemic and was himself a longtime AIDS survivor. Early access to combination antiretroviral therapies in the mid-90s allowed him to be among the longest surviving persons infected with PML, a once fatal AIDS-related complication.

Immediately upon arrival in San Francisco, Mr. Cusick devoted his life to the fight against HIV/AIDS and to supporting the recovery community. He instantly became a driving force in ACT UP Golden Gate, later renamed SURVIVE AIDS, an AIDS activist group noted for their willingness to engage in non-violent civil disobedience.

Shortly after joining ACT UP Golden Gate, he began volunteering at Project Inform, the nation’s premier and oldest community-based HIV treatment advocacy organization. In an era before antiretroviral therapies were available, Project Inform volunteers were an enormous resource for people living with HIV/AIDS desperately fighting for their lives.

He counseled individuals around the country on PI’s legendary hotline and he assisted the agency in its historic advocacy for effective treatments against HIV/AIDS. He volunteered there for many years.

Ironically, the ability to transplant organs into individuals with HIV like himself was only made possible several years ago due to the work of these two AIDS organization that he was most closely associated with.

Beginning in 2002, Dan Cusick managed the Castro Country Club, a clean and sober social space in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood with deep roots in the community. Housed in a humble Edwardian on 18th Street for over a quarter century, it provides a modest refuge of support to hundreds of individuals seeking a life free of alcohol and drugs each week through its all-volunteer staff.

He was the inspirational and unwavering leader of the Club working tirelessly to insure that its doors remained opened to those in need. Open every day, the Castro Country Club is a program of Baker Places, Inc.

Michael Lauro, a longtime community activist who worked with Cusick for many years, said: “When you look at the totality of his Dan’s work, he saved more lives than anyone I know. He had a heart large enough to save the world.”

Last year when the club celebrated its 25th anniversary, Cusick himself commented: “This is a place where people come when they are in trouble. I see people come here and put their lives back together and it really gives me hope.”

Mr. Cusick was also a driving force in California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s historic write-in campaign for mayor of San Francisco in 1999. More recently, he provided invaluable service as a member of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s task force on methamphetamine.

In 2008, he was sainted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as “Dan the Man.”

Memorial donations can be made to the Castro Country Club, 4060 18th Street, San Francisco, 94114.

Dan's memorial at 18th and Castro Streets.
Photo credit: StaffSF on Flickr


Adam Yarter said...

Dan was my uncle.

What a wonderful man the world's lost.

We'll all miss him much.


Anonymous said...

Dan was the kindest man I ever met. Many times his compassionate support made it possible for me to stay clean and sober. The Club was my home away from hjome, and truly a refuge where I could always find a kind of peace that made it possible for me to go on.
Mark D.

Jackie Cusick Huffer said...

Dan was also my uncle and a hero in many aspects...his love and devotion to his friends and family will remain unparalleled. We were all enriched by having known him and his kindness and compassion will be what we pass on to our growing families.

Always in our hearts...we love you Uncle Danny


Unknown said...

I too had the honor of calling him my Uncle. He truly was a remarkable man, and I miss him terribly.
I love you uncle danny!!!!
Until we meet again, I know you're watching over us.