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”Cheryl and I met in the early 1990s during the days of Queer Nation and ACT UP. Through the years, she continued to fight for queer, gender, race and sexual equality, and tackled those issues on many fronts. Her passing is a great loss to the community as a whole. But most of all, she will be missed as my best friend.”
— Dave Ottogalli
”Cheryl was one of the few people who attended every single D.C. Coalition of Black Gays & Lesbians event over the last 15 years. Cheryl recorded a number of those events, as she did for other organizations, but she was one of the few people who supported every, every aspect of the gay and lesbian community in D.C. To say she’ll be sorely missed is an understatement.”
—Longtime activist Carlene Cheatam
”Cheryl, our historian, our activist, a sister, a brother to some and a very good friend. We love you with all our hearts.”
—Kendra Kuliga, a.k.a. Ken Vegas, on behalf of the D.C. Kings, D.C. Gurly Show and Chaos
”I am shocked and deeply saddened by Cheryl’s sudden, unexpected departure. We were on fond, good terms. I will miss seeing her camera recording every gay-community event. She will be a great and absolutely irreplaceable loss to the D.C. gay community and its archival history.”
— Long-time activist, Frank Kameny
”Her dedication to our community — her consistency and generosity — has been amazing. Losing her is hard to fathom right now. She’s been ubiquitous for so long, it’s almost as if we took her for granted. But she was well-loved.”
— Rick Rosendall, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
I didn’t know Cheryl well, but goodness knows I saw her everywhere. Was there a community event where she wasn’t present with her video camera? Her efforts to document our community’s history were extraordinary, and she was truly a hero and an inspiration.
— Bob Dardano, Washington, DC, Longtime Activist
Cheryl always had an incredible drive and spirit deep within herself to make a difference in our LGBT community. Upcoming events and pride will have a huge void without her smile, laughter and video camera. Forever she will be remembered as a pioneer, warrior, friend and hero! It is a sad day for all of us.
— Robert York, Washington, DC
I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. Cheryl will be dearly missed. Cheryl will continue to participate in every act, thought and decisions we make. Her love will leave an indelible imprint in our memories and in our community
— Linda Santi, Maryland
Sadness fills our hearts …
— js adams + joseph dress, Washington, DC
I will always remember the fun times we had together. Watching drag shows at Freddie’s together and clubbing at bars until the early hours of the morning. Thanks for the memories. She made such a huge impact on my life. I can’t wait to see you on the other side. You will be in my heart forever.
— Oliver Clothesoff (Claire Gault), Springfield, VA
Cheryl…. Atlantic Stampede 2002 was when we first crossed paths, after which there was never an end to the encounters, some planned & some not. Freddies, Chaos, Apex, ASGRA events, Phase, Academy Sundays, Ziegfields, Crucible, MAL, Great Big, Remingtons, The Eagle, Hippo, PRIDE….Never ending! You sometimes seemed to be in two places at the same time if there were events that overlapped, peering through the lens of your video camera perched on the tripod or balanced on your hand…..always ready. Thanks for being such a HUGE part of SO MANY people’s lives! I will miss you! Love Always!!
— Penny Hoelting (aka Billie Boy’d), Washington, DC
Cheryl, your bright eyes, big smile, wonderful hug and warm heart will be missed. Thank you for your kindness and friendship.
— Cody Las Vegas, Chicago, Gender Performance Artist
It was such a pleasure to know her, and such a shock of her passing. I had the pleasure of seeing her at work at Capital Pride events I’d help run. To say that Cheryl had passion for the LGBT community and recording its history isn’t enough to describe her & what she gave us. I had just talked with her at Baltimore Pride this summer, and had showed my sadness at the loss of some of her life’s work. She had in turn said to me, that she had given her life to it until the fire. Also saying that she had so long pleaded with the powers that be to help fund a location to archive the many years of memories she had save of the communities history. She said to me, “It’s now time to live my life and maybe have a girlfriend”. I told her how great she looked because of her recent weight loss, and how I’d be her bodyguard to fight off the girls. After inviting her to my next event for Reel Awakenings, we hugged and I said I’d see her soon. I had no idea it was the last time. This was one great woman who was a sister of our community.. but more than that she was our own humanitarian. It is now up to us to follow her example and give unconditionally of ourselves to help Educate, Entertain & Enlighten. We need to create a fund to build her dream… the “Spector LGBT Archives” or “Cheryl Ann Spector Endowment” “C.A.S.E” to store all her work & future works of history of our community.
— Jarvis L. Brooks, Hagerstown, MD
You will always be on our thoughts & minds! May your vision and commitment to positive political change continue in your memory! God Bless!
— King Brooklyn Baller & King Wolfy, Riverdale, MD
Bye Bye Sweet Cherita – I know that you know we are doing everything you would have wanted us to do to get your message out to the world. We are also making sure that everyone knows all the many, many good works you did in this life. Truth be told, your close friends had no idea of everything you did as you never were a braggart. My everlasting love,
— Hane, Washington, DC
I was the luckiest… knowing you since the day you were born. I knew the little girl with the long black curly hair and the sultry smile. I got to sleep with you first and often. We had a warm, abiding love forever and as the days drew shorter, celebrated our shameless dysfunctional codependency. I placed my head on your pillow the night you died and whispered all your favorite childhood songs as your breathing became so labored. The scent of your Cool Water Blue (mens) is permanently imbedded in my mind. I gave you a warm “mommy kiss”– as we called it–on your forehead and wept. Today my fingers started to dial your number because I cannot believe you are gone. Your impact on so many lives, the hope you gave to so many people, the unconditional love you offered to everyone who was lucky enough to meet you and your generosity of spirit/ spirit of generosity will never pass this way again. They broke the mold when they made you, my little Cherie baby. I will miss you always. You are my hero. You left the world a better place than you found it. Everlasting love from your big sister,
— Barbara Spector Yeninas, The luckiest woman in the world–Cheryl’s only sister
I am reading about Cheryl’s illness and death for the first time tonight, and I’m so shocked and sad. Since I first met her in the late 80s, she’s been a pillar of community action and unity, one of the few folks who would go out of her way to make even the most outsider gay person feel part of the group and invested in common action. We probably come from opposite sides of the political spectrum in most issues, but I was proud to call Cheryl my friend and my sister in arms on the things that mattered the most. My God, Cheryl. I’m gonna miss you.
— Kevin Ivers, Sao Paulo, Brazil (former 21-year DC resident)
I knew Cheryl from my days at MCC Washington. I will remember her big heart and how, when my partner Melody was dying with cancer and we had trouble with a hospital, Cheryl offered to help, and I knew that we would be protected with Cheryl taking charge. I will remember her kindness and her wild side. She will be missed.
— Deb Coggin, Lancaster, PA
She was a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasum. I remember her as part of ACT UP DC during the early years when we protested at NIH and all around DC for a CURE for AIDS. When my partner George Guarino died in 1992 after 9 weeks of hospitalization with AIDS she was at my door the same evening to comfort me. I will miss her at every gay event for the rest of my life in DC.
— Frederick Nunley
Cheryl was a tirelessly wonderful person, who fought with us, marched with us, demonstrated with us,cared about us and always had genuine concern, love and compassion for all of us. My partner and I met her when activism was new for us in the early 90’s. She continued to be our friend and to love and support us for 17 years and we are honored and proud to have been able to call her “friend”. We are saddened by her passing but rejoice in the depth of beauty and compassion that we shared.
— Dennis McGee and Dale Cunningham, Alexandria, VA
I would like to send my deepest condolences to Cheryl’s family and friends. Cheryl will always be an icon to the gay and lesbian community. Thanks to her and some people like her, people like me can live a little easier and safer. I don’t think anyone will ever fill her shoes, but I hope and pray that someone out there will pick up where she had ended. God bless you all.
— leasie, Pikeville, KY
I just want to say that I am feeling soooooo sad about our lost. Cheryl, I know you are in heaven taking pictures of everything there.
— Viola Vaughn, UFCDC
I attend MCC DC. I didn’t know Cheryl well, but I was a great fan. Lately, I’ve been in Rehoboth where I’ve been contemplating the sun each morning as it rises over the Atlantic. She was rather like that–never the same, but always there for us,radiating warmth. God bless her!
— Jeff Ishman
I am straight, and I met Cheryl through a lesbian friend of mine. Cheryl helped me become more accepting of people. And ever since I met her, I have been a huge gay rights supporter. When I was unemployed, Cheryl helped me find a job. She used her connections and found me a job out of the kidness of her heart. Cheryl, you are loved by all of your friends. You will be missed, and I will take what I learned from you and continue to support the gay & lesbian, bi and trangendered community. Thank you for your friendship. You will be missed. God bless you, love you, Cheryl.
— Steve Farr, Manassas, VA
My Darling Cheryl, my sweet baby cousin.
We spent many miles apart all these years but never mentalities apart. My DNA (your DNA) has always dictated the intense level of compassion, understanding and patience I held (and hold) for everyone equally. “God doesn’t make junk” has always been and will continue to be my mantra. You were always “Cheryl” to me which gave me reason enough to love you. All the rest was dressing on the cake.
I am astounded by your accomplishments, I am awed by your admirers, I am blown away by the outpouring of love. But not surprised.
I will never forget the little energetic, laughing girl with bouncing curls, long black eyelashes that didn’t quit and a face that put Elizabeth Taylor to shame. You started out a beauty and left this world a knockout!
Rest in peace little Cheryl.
Cousin Bevy will miss you terribly. I love you always.
— Beverly Russo, Red Bank, NJ, Cheryl’s First Cousin
My memories are of a lady who I did not know personally, but recognized always as a true leader in our community… someone of stature, who radiated with pride and joy in who she was, and in the message she would bring to all with her GLBT archiving passion. I pray to our Lord, you and your angels, a humble thank you, for your life and work. It truly made a difference. RIP.
— Lynn Jerome, Maryland
Having met Cheryl about 20 years ago, it’s difficult to imagine a major LGBTQ event without her presence. She modeled turning anger and loss into action, yet she never lost her sensitivity and caring. Be at peace my ACT-UP mamaleh. May there be peace and life for all of us.
— David Phillips, Arlington, VA
Whenever I’d run into Cheryl, either at the Washington Blade newspaper office where I worked for 14-plus years, or at a Gay rights march, or at innumerable other Gay events, she seemed the most enthusiastic person in the crowd. Cheryl had an infectious smile. She would greet you with such warmth, as if you’d been best buds for years.
I got to know her generosity of spirit, too, the Sunday when we emerged from an MCC-DC church service; my car’s tire was flat. Cheryl rushed over to help. I was embarrassed to tell her I’d never changed a tire, though I’d been shown how. Without teasing me, she insisted that I step back and let her do it quickly.
I also remember that when I first met Cheryl she had volunteered to me how much the loss of her brother Stan, the M.D. , had affected her. She loved him so, she told me.
I haven’t lived in D.C. for a couple years, but when perusing the Wash. Post today my partner heard me exclaim, “Oh, no!!” when I ran across Cheryl’s obituary. It seems fitting, somehow, that Chery;’s obit appeared in the same edition of the Post which details Frank Kameny’s collection of Gay rights-fight memorabilia now being prominently featured in the Smithsonian museum of Am. history.
My heartfelt condolences to Cheryl’s family, and our “We Are Family” fellow GLBTs. We were blessed by Cheryl’s time here among us.
— Beth Isaacs, Milton, DE
She was very, very special, she not only talked the talk, but walked the walk out front. Not many people around like that today. Luv ya kid
— Joe Yeninas, Maryland, Brother in Law
Cheryl was a one of a kind person. Her pride was never hidden. She was fiercly loyal and a gentle soul. She will be sorely missed.
— Melissa Combs, Falls Church, VA
We will all miss you. You were a fantastic tour guide of the DC Community for a newcomer. There are no words strong enough to encompass the inspiration you were to so many and myself. Thank you for being so great.
— Sam, Alexandria, VA
I just saw Cheryl a couple months ago at a fundraiser at De Lounge for capital pride. and I must say she made sure that no matter where when or what was going on she was there and never complaining about anything or even about being tired.
You always put other’s first and the community first.
And now you can rest and watch what you started continue on and grow from you. We can never fill your shoes as one but together we can do it, however that Cheryl touch will never be replaced.
Love you always,
— LJ, Silver Spring, MD
We’ll miss Cheryl’s humor (dirty jokes), her passion and loyalty. Our hearts go out to Cheryl’s family, her friends and our community.
— Forrest and Rose, Washington, DC, Friends
Because of you Cheryl you gave me such a wonderful gift, with camera in hand at freedies you taped the love of my life Sharon Beaver who has since past. Without you, I would not have had the joy of watching and laughing past memories… I will forever be grateful and remember you always. You will be missed by many…
— Amy Mina, Laurel, MD
So much about you was iconic that it’s almost hard to believe you weren’t immortal. There was a ubiquitousness about you that makes the world seem incomplete without you. You were everywhere, knew everyone, and shared everything you had with all of us. As growing up girls we laughed and danced and ate doughnuts and hush puppies and Magic Pan pea soup and Lemon Coolers. Thirty years later I still think of you whenever I hear on the radio Evelyn Champagne King or the SOS Band or any other funky music from the 70s and early 80s. I wonder if you see all of us now as a collage of still pictures that you’ve already taken. I hope you see in these images the love you’ve given us, me, reflected back up to you until the end of time.
— Sue Goldstein, Danville, CA
Cheryl was one of the first activists I met when I got involved in the lgbt community in DC. How could you go to anything where she didn’t show up? She was ubiquitous and always has a hug and a smile. She was an inspiration and a mentor. There was nothing I respected more than her tenacious drive and desire to document out history when there were very few people (especially media) willing to to it. I will miss her spirit but know her memory will live on in DC….
— Cathy Renna, Brookyln, NY
CAS… During the years, especially your last 10 weeks with us, you gifted my heart to open to love again. DaveO and I will love you even when we sort through ALL the stuff you saved that isn’t PC enough for the archives. We will always love you and your family. Thank you… my heart to your heart.
— Kris McLaughlin
I graduated high school with Cheryl, having just seen her at our 30th reunion, I am shocked and saddened. When she entered Martels, I was not sure it was her. She quickly told of the gastric bypass and butt lift. In Cheryl’s own words, “It was the best money I have ever spent. Want to see how great my ass looks?” Fellow classmate (Michelle Francis) and I just roared. We will never foreget her and she will be greatly missed.
— Gail G. Runion, Class of 1976
I knew Cheryl only briefly at Metropolitan Community Church but what a hoot she was! At an art show only a week or two before the fire, she and I were alone in an upper story room of the museum, and she took me to the large plate glass window to point out practically every DC landmark unknown to me! Then she whispered, “Do you know what my gay name is? Dick Hertz Bottoms!” Goodbye, Cheryl, until the hereafter. Until then, may we assume your brave role in fighting for the rights of EVERY person–and COUPLE–to love and to share with each other! Erik Powell, the Washington Blade, DC.
— Erik Powell, Washington, DC, The Washington Blade, Author of Chicago Love Tapestry
She was family to me. I am devasted.
— Michael Singerman, Rockville, MD
Cheryl, heroic, generous, loving and funny — you are our sunshine! You must now know how beloved a person you are.
— Andrea Dunsker Thorpe
My dear Cheri, thank you for adding wood to the fire. I see your light from here and it is a beautiful light!!! Your legacy will grow strong and your love will guide us!!!
— Betsy Cerulo
I was trying to decide what I wanted to put here. I don’t remember when I met Cheryl. I just know I met her… and everyone knows she’s not ever easy to forget or get over.
She filled the room with laughter, kindness, fun, but most of all a sense of importance that what we were doing at that moment had some meaning, some important part of our history in this community.
We need to never forget Cheryl, what she stands for, what she encourages all of us to strive for, but most importantly for all the love she gave each of us in our own special way!
— Mike Petroni, Academy of Washington, Inc
I had heard Cheryl on the radio for years, so imagine my surprise that I only met her a year and half ago. Our brief friendship meant so much to me. I cherish the memories even when she was sick of just sitting and talking comforting each other. I am happy to know in my heart that her spirit lives on in everyone that she met.
— Julio J. Fonseca, Washington, DC
I’ll always remember the first time we met at Lesborados. You carded me, not believing I was of age. And… of the dare with the clothes pin. You said, ”You must have nipples of steel.”
— Cholera (pen name), Silver Spring, MD
I will forever miss Cheryl’s encouragement and hearing her joyful laughs when watching Boise Studley (me) perform.
I wouldn’t be a drag king today if it weren’t for her willingness to show me my performances on tape right after the show. She said things like “Look at that energy!” and “How do you make those facial expressions?”
As a formerly shy person who had little confidence about my first few performances, she really helped me grow as a drag king and as a person. Once I got over my fear of the stage and the audience, I became much more confident in other aspects of my life.
Thank you Cheryl. I remain forever greatful for the joy you have brought into my life.
I wish I had seen more of your performances as Dick Hurtz Bottoms with the Academy…and am devastated by the fact that my partner and I had to cross your name off the invitation list for our baby shower.
I know you would have loved to have met our baby girl.
Bottoms up! Bottoms up! Bottoms up!
— Ezra Towne (aka Boise Studley), Washington, DC
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Our daily emails are personally curated by our editors and feature a wide range of news, features, reviews and interviews. Don't miss out on any of our award-winning content -- from news to arts, cars to tech, food to fitness, we've got it all!