Friends and parishioners at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Tremont marked Chaz Henderson’s birthday this morning with an uplifting and celebratory Memorial Service in the church garden. Chaz passed away in January. He meant so much to so many people. He had lovingly tended the church garden, cut or styled all our hair — for over 30 years in my case and many others — inspired us with his dedication to human rights and justice, comforted us through distress, and entertained us with his delightful and mischievous wit. His cremains are in the church garden now, marked with a burning bush planted in his honor and memory.
Life goes on, of course, and I was happy to meet Brooke Willis with whom I became friends here on Facebook after Chaz’ passing. And I was thrilled to see Linda Park, an old friend and coworker from City Hall. Linda worked on enforcement of the Uniform Relocation Act (URA) while I was a Neighborhood Planner. URA is a law that protects tenants and property owners when displaced by federally-assisted projects. I later worked in URA enforcement myself.
Brooke and I talked about our respective work over the years for LGBTQ+ rights, and Chaz’ work. I think I first met Chaz at the time we organized Pride ’89, Cleveland’s first annual gay celebration. At that first Pride, Chaz set up a barber chair there on the sidewalk on West 29th Street in front of the Lesbian-Community Service Center and cut hair all through the celebration.