Free to Be Exactly Who You Are
As student body president of Lincoln High in 1960, he smiles for the camera at his senior prom-wearing a white tuxedo jacket, dress shorts, and long socks.
When he moved into Bailey-Boushay House for end-of-life care in late 1994, Gus promptly rearranged the furniture. And many a day he walked down the halls singing his favorite operas.
"He was a free spirit," says his wife, Myra White. "That's who Gus was, when he wasn't in the depths of depression."
Bouts of depression took a heavy toll. The stigma of being gay and a recovering alcoholic added to his isolation and turmoil. The loss of friends to HIV/AIDS seemed unstoppable.
Theodora understood that her creative younger brother "had a troubled spirit." So she remembers gratefully that even as Gus's health started to decline with AIDS, his life remained full.
In 1992 Gus celebrated his 50th birthday with a big party. That same year he married Myra, his best friend for a decade. And their grandson Eli was born to Myra's daughter.
He was still painting in many mediums in his Ballard art studio-pen and ink, watercolors, pastels, collage.
He continued to make art until he died at Bailey-Boushay on January 21, 1995.
"Gus had the best time at the end of his life. He thrived here," says Myra, who had worked at Bailey-Boushay since it opened. "It was wonderful for me to see.
"This place let him be exactly who he was and wanted to be. He was free. Everybody loved him. He could do his artwork. He could just be Gus. And not have any of that outside stigma to deal with."
Gus made new friends here. Old friends from his Twelve-Step connections came to visit. Every week, to Gus's delight, his toddler grandson came for dinner.
And when Myra invited Gus to a dressy Christmas office party,
he went-wearing plaid pajamas and a robe. "He looked very much like someone who was going to soon die," Myra says. "But he had a great time."
On his last day, Gus nixed a return to the hospital. He was ready to accept his death.
"He'd been watching Fawlty Towers-he just loved that silly show," Myra says.
"Later the lights were down real low, and Gregorian chants were playing on the stereo. It was so peaceful. And then-and I'll never forget this-two other residents from down the hall came to his doorway. And they sang to Gus."
Gus died peacefully and with dignity, in the company of people he loved.
Five years after Gus died, Theodora and her family moved back to Seattle from Minnesota. She signed up to be a Bailey-Boushay volunteer driver.
"I didn't think of it as paying Bailey-Boushay back," she says. "My life has been so enriched by the people I've met here. Bailey-Boushay is a piece of my life."