JerBear’s History

I was born in a medium size town in Vermont 60ish years ago to a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher and his wife. My journey through childhood saw me living in many towns from Vermont to Maine to New Brunswick, Canada to Western Pennsylvania to Eastern Pennsylvania and ending up in the small Maine town on one of the state’s major rivers where I lived out the majority of my teen years with weekday stays during my Junior and Senior years of High School in Freeport, Maine. I attended college in South Lancaster, Massachusetts which was interrupted twice to do volunteer work overseas in Balikpapan on the island of Borneo in Indonesia and in a Laotion Refugee camp in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Science I worked in residential treatment centers with emotionally disturbed youth and then with developmentally delayed adults who were blind and deaf-blind. In my free time I followed up on a lifestyle that I had become fond of during my teen years – Naturism. I joined a nearby naturist camp in Connecticut and visited a nude beach in Rhode Island.

Then I made several significant changes in my life: I came out as gay (later adopting the term queer), I joined a Unitarian Universalist Church and began work at a newly formed AIDS Service Organization as a Client Advocate and Gay Outreach Coordinator. I worked there for 2 years and then moved on to work for a Family Planning agency as a AIDS Health Educator which evolved into Director of /AIDS Services and The Rainbow Project. This evolution in job responsibilities occurred as I developed the program to the point where we had 3 employees full time and 10 or so stipended workers, most of whom were living with HIV or had an AIDS diagnosis. The program became both an HIV/AIDS education and prevention program and an LGBT Services and education program (The Rainbow Project). We provided education in area high schools, conducted street outreach, supported the community LGBT youth group, had support groups for gay and bisexual men, lesbians and bisexual women and transgender individuals. During this time I entered into the longest and most intense romantic relationship of my life which lasted 7 years. There are oh so many stories to tell during this period.

After the 9 or so years described in the previous paragraph, I moved to the Southwest and worked for 2 AIDS Service Organizations and then spent over 10 years serving as the HIV/STD Education Coordinator for the state health department. I was lucky enough to travel throughout the Land of Enchantment as a part of my job. I have met some amazing people and seen many magnificent sites. Unfortunately, after 8 or 9 years working for the state my health took a serious turn for the worst. Finally in September of 2009 I had to face up to the fact that I could no longer work productively. I spent 6 months on short-term disability and when things didn’t improve I went on complete disability through both Social Security and the state employee pension plan. I am now on disability retirement and am coping with multiple health issues but thankfully, have found that I can manage this blog by using a tablet. This allows me to write whether laying down or sitting up. I now live in a 55+ retirement community, (with a small percentage of younger residents). I live in a 2 bedroom apartment with one room mainly a study and DVD library overflow from the Blu-ray/DVD collection in my living room.

Around The World

Places I’ve Lived:
(I left the early years dateless but suffice to say they cover from the late 1950s through the mid 1970s)

Rutland, Vermont
Bangor, Maine
St. John, New Brunswick, Canada
Moncton, , New Brunswick, Canada
Washington, Pennsylvania
Warminster, Pennsylvania
Norridgewock, Maine (all of my middle school and high school years except as follows…)
Freeport, Maine – Weekdays @ high school, September to June – 1973-74 & 1974-75
South Lancaster, Massachusetts – 1975 – 1977
(Berlin, New Hampshire – Summer 1976)
Balikpapan, Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia – 1977 – 1978
South Lancaster, Massachusetts – 1978 -1980
(Ashburnham, Massachusetts – Summers of 1978 & 1979)
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand – 1980
South Lancaster, Massachusetts – 1981 – 1984
Clinton, Massachusetts – 1984 – 1987
Worcester, Massachusetts – 1987 – 1996
Santa Fe, New Mexico – 1996 – 1997
La Cienega, New Mexico – 1997 – 2006
Ribera, New Mexico – 2006 – 2011
Santa Fe, New Mexico 2011 – Present

Places I’ve Visited

Canada:
Ontario
Quebec
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island

United States:
Maine
New Hampshire
Vermont
Massachusetts
Connecticut
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
Delaware
Maryland
Washington DC
Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Georgia
Florida
West Virginia
Ohio
Kentucky
Indiana
Illinois
Missouri
Oklahoma
Texas
Louisiana
New Mexico
Colorado
Utah
Arizona
California,

Brief Visits:
Minnesota
Alaska
Hawaii

Countries:
Canada
Mexico
Japan
Taiwan
Singapore
Indonesia (Java & Kalimantan Islands)
Thailand
Russia (Then USSR)
England, United Kingdom

Brief Visits:
Hong Kong
Korea
India

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3 Responses to JerBear’s History

  1. Felipe says:

    I knew Michael Quercio 1980-82 when I was at Clark University in Worcester. He had a number of on and off boyfriends; I was sort of the kid on the side. He was the manager of a gay club for a period, had a nice apartment with two roomates – everybody was named Micheal. He had a silver camaro. He was super handsome and made a big big impression on me. Thanks for the history and the photo. He did a lot of great things and deserves to be remembered and talked about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry for not getting back to you sooner. I first met Michael when he arranged for a couple of us to come and do an HIV/AIDS 101 at the insurance company he was working at. That was around 1990 I believe. He quickly became well known as an activist in Worcester. He accompanied me when I provided education in schools. He worked for awhile as a teacher at Worcester Academy. In 1993 he was named one of the Faces of Hope for soon to be President Clinton’s inauguration because of his work at Worcester Academy. He was always pushing up against boundaries the school set for his class and he ended up leaving the Academy. I located his obituary in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette awhile back. I collected a lot of articles that way although it costs me a few dollars it was worth it. Here’s the obituary in full:

      Worcester Telegram Gazette

      April 28, 1995

      QUERCIO’S VOICE WON’T BE FORGOTTEN

      Author: Dianne Williamson; Telegram & Gazette columnist

      WORCESTER – Many people didn’t recognize Michael Quercio when he came unannounced Monday to the kickoff party for the AIDS Project Worcester Walk for Life.

      Weak and gaunt, his once-athletic frame ravaged by illness, Quercio sat quietly near the stage at Club Maxine’s until his presence was announced. Then he stood and faced the audience, waved away the offered microphone, and proceeded to do what he had done best since being diagnosed with the AIDS virus in 1991.

      Quercio captivated the crowd. He spoke easily and powerfully about the urgency of the AIDS epidemic, revealed that his doctors had given him two months to live, but said he intended to speak again at the next fund-raiser kickoff in 1996.

      Three days later, at 5 a.m. yesterday at University of Massachusetts Hospital, Michael Quercio died at age 34. With his passing, he leaves a legacy of strength and hope that gave thousands the courage to face the onslaught of the enemy we call AIDS.

      “This is a war,” he once said, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston. “And if we can respond to wars in other countries where people are dying, why can’t we wholeheartedly respond to a war in the United States where AIDS has claimed so many lives?”

      Uncompromising and driven, Quercio used his sharp tongue as a weapon to fight ignorance and fear. Outspoken and impatient, at times angry with those he perceived as less devoted than himself, Quercio blazed through Central Massachusetts like a force of nature, spreading his message of safe sex and AIDS prevention to teens, schools and church groups, to anyone who would provide a forum.

      “In the midst of every great social crisis, a few voices ring out, shaping the message and cutting through the noise,” James A. Voltz, executive director of AIDS Project Worcester, said yesterday. “Michael’s strong, clear message of living in the face of AIDS touched a nation.”

      A 1988 graduate of Assumption College, Quercio was one of the first local voices to publicly identify himself as a gay man with AIDS. He did so with eloquence and power, using blunt language to warn teens of the dangers of unprotected sex.

      WHITE HOUSE TRIP

      In 1993, while teaching a mandatory AIDS-prevention class at Worcester Academy, Quercio was named one of 53 “Faces of Hope” by President Clinton. He went to the White House for lunch, joined Clinton for a highly publicized jog, and gave him a warm and spontaneous hug.

      “The important thing was that my president – your president – was not afraid to hug me back,” Quercio told the press at the time.

      But diplomacy was not Quercio’s strong suit. Months after his trip to the White House, Worcester Academy fired Quercio amid complaints that the activist used profanity in the classroom, refused to cooperate with other faculty, and publicly criticized the school.

      Quercio defended his behavior in the classroom.

      “My language is as clear as you can get,” he said at the time. “If kids are ready to have sex, they’re ready to hear about the consequences. How can you criticize the truth when the truth can save lives?”

      He grew up on Bluff Street, off King Street, and was raised by his mother, Mary, who divorced Michael’s father when Michael was 3. Mary Quercio yesterday remembered her son as a fearless and driven boy who worked three jobs in high school to help support her and his three brothers.

      “I think he wanted to right the wrongs of the whole world,” she said yesterday. “He was overwhelming … I used to wonder if he ever found any peace.”

      Quercio was an avid long-distance runner training for his sixth marathon when a doctor told him in 1991 he was HIV positive. After he came to terms with the diagnosis, he used the same determination he applied to his sport to battle his own fears and public ignorance of the disease.

      STRAIGHT TALKER

      Teens appreciated his straight talk. He never prepared a speech in advance and never read from notes. His talks were emotionally charged, forceful, impossible to ignore.

      He often brought a condom to his lectures and used a finger to show the audience how to wear it. “I know this is gross and almost kills you to listen,” he would say. “But it will kill you if you don’t listen.”

      Many listened. One Worcester Academy student, evaluating Quercio’s class there, wrote that she initially didn’t want to take it.

      “But the class dealt with reality and brought us in touch with our feelings and fears … Thank you, Michael. I’m sure I speak for all in saying, “I love you.’ ”

      Two months ago he embarked on a nationwide lecture tour. At times he would be met at the airport by a wheelchair and a volunteer health care worker. He never slowed down, never gave up. And if he sometimes pushed too hard, it was because he never had the luxury of time.

      His appearance at the AIDS Project Worcester event was important to him, according to friend Sandy Stearn. After his speech he was warmly greeted by friends, some he hadn’t seen in some time. He even managed to dance a bit before he went home to the apartment he shared with his devoted partner, Joseph Madison.

      The next day he was tired. Wednesday morning, Madison took Quercio to UMass. Yesterday, surrounded by his family, friends and his partner, Quercio died quietly in his sleep.

      “He was my whole world,” Madison said yesterday. “I loved him very, very much. I was very proud of him.”

      No one knew that his speech Monday would be his last. But no one doubts that the message of hope left by Michael Quercio will live long after his words, however eloquent, are inevitably forgotten.

      Mary Quercio and the board of AIDS Project Worcester have established a Michael Quercio fund in his memory. Contributions may be sent to AIDS Project Worcester, 85 Green St., Worcester 01604.

      Like

  2. Pingback: A Day in The Life – Personal Post | JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM

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