By Freddy de Freitas

The United States has lost a star. Yesterday Ken Jones lost his fight against cancer. He was a product of the old days of San Francisco and gay rights. He has been at the epicenter of the LGBT movement for over 50 years.

Jones arrived in the Bay Area in 1972 when he was stationed at Treasure Island during his service in the Navy. He quickly became a leader in both the fight against AIDS (known then just as a “mystery illness” that seemed to be affecting gay men disproportionately) and the enormous battle for civil rights for gay people in San Francisco and nationwide.

He was on the front lines during significant events in San Francisco and world history, including the creation of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade and the rainbow flag, the election of Harvey Milk, and his assassination in 1978 (followed by the White Night Riots in reaction to the killer’s lenient sentence – remember the infamous “Twinkie defense?”), and the scramble to understand and react to the terrifying specter of HIV and AIDS as it swept through San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood and the entire nation.

He survived many strifes. He deeply loved his family, community, country, and dedicated his entire life to the movement for peace and justice in the United States and worldwide.

Ken used to bring the San Francisco of the 1970s and 1980s alive for tourists in all its joyful intensity. Past tour participants have noted an “incredible privilege it was to be guided around the Castro area by Ken.

He has undoubtedly led a great life and is happy to share personal stories that stem from decades of activism experience. This passionate person had contributed so much to the community.

Ken’s knowledge of the Bay Area was unparalleled.

I feel fortunate to met him and had the experience of spending some time with him – my life is undoubtedly richer because of it.

Ken was a UCC Ordained Deacon, also officiated unique wedding ceremonies for couples worldwide.

Rest in Power, Ken. I love you.