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Community activist John Laird of San Diego dies at age 63

SAN DIEGO -- Many people in San Diego's LGBT community are saddened to learn of the passing of longtime community activist John Laird on Wednesday evening.

Laird died at 10:30 pm Aug. 24 of pancreatitis and long-term chronic illnesses, his husband Aaron Borovoy said. Laird was 63.

Laird was admitted into Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest over a week ago, and his husband posted regular updates on Facebook.

On Tuesday, Borovoy (pictured bottom left with Laird) reported that Laird's vitals were stable but his body temperature had spiked to 104.7 degrees. He was on a continual drip of morphine for pain and was taking Ativan every four hours. Wednesday morning, Borovoy said there were no significant changes in Laird's condition, who died later that evening.

Many in the community say that Laird will be deeply missed, not only by his close friends and family, but the many people he interacted with through his charitable and community involvements.

Laird was passionate about serving his community and gave much of his time to The San Diego LGBT Community Center. According to his biography on The Center's website, Laird first became involved as a volunteer with "The Gay Center" in the early 1980s. In 2002, he joined the board of directors for The Center and served until his death.

The Center released the following statement, which was signed by board co-chairs Dr. Shaun Travers and Dale Kelly Bankhead, and CEO Dr. Delores Jacobs:

On behalf of The Center staff, board, volunteers and the community we serve, today we offer our love, thoughts, prayers and support to Aaron Borovoy after last evening’s passing of his husband and partner of 28 years, Center board member John Laird.

John was a Center volunteer and supporter for decades and board member for 8 years and our entire community has been made richer and stronger because of the incredible array of volunteer leadership and activism both Aaron and John have given so many organizations.

Today we remember John’s indefatigable passion for his community and for his beloved Center, his generosity of spirit, his infectious laughter, his warm, bear-hug greetings for all, and his passion for including and welcoming all people in “his” community.

Shortly after joining The Center, Laird became involved with the Imperial Court de San Diego in 1982. He served as the court's Grey Wolf Emperor XXI and hosted a number of fundraisers and benefits throughout his tenure on the court. Laird enjoyed giving his time back to the community and volunteered for a number of local organizations including Mama's Pantry, The Toni Atkins Lesbian Health Project, and the AIDS Memorial Task Force, Borovoy said.

Laird, along with Borovoy, was very active in his temple, serving on Temple Emanu-El's Social Action and Publicity committees, and he also helped out with numerous fundraising projects.

Richard Poole, who served as Empress Regina Styles for the Imperial Court de San Diego, expressed his great sadness about Laird's passing.

"He was a strong and very gutsy man," Poole said. "John was loved by many and will be greatly missed."

According to Borovoy, Laird was born in Centre County, Pa., the youngest of eight children. He served in the Marine Corps and was married to Darla Jean Crater from 1969 to 1979.

After moving to San Diego in 1982, Laird met Borovoy the following year. The couple, who were together 28 years, were legally married during the brief period in 2008 in which same-sex couples were able to wed in California.

Laird and Borovoy were a well-known, well-liked couple in the San Diego LGBT community. Upon news of Laird's passing, an outpouring of condolences and memories were posted on the Facebook pages of both Laird and Borovoy.

Jennifer DeFeo, whose post said that she will miss Laird's sense of humor and laughter, said "John, rest in peace my friend. You were a blessing to all that had the chance to know you."

Nigel Mayer, owner of Flick's, said: "John you were a wonderful person from the very first day I met you and Aaron at the Brass Rail. RIP and my prayers are with you and your wonderful husband Aaron."

Robb Rodd posted: "I am sadden[ed] of the lost of my friend John Laird, he was such a wonderful man, a great father to many, an outstanding activist in our community, and wonderful partner to Aaron. Please say a prayer for my friend and keep Aaron Borovoy in your thoughts and prayers as heals for his loss! You are loved and we are here for you!"

Erik Swanson posted: "I know you're watching over us all. I will miss you, John, my fairy godfather!"

San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria posted a tribute to Laird on his own Facebook page:

"I'm deeply sadden by the loss of my good friend John Laird. He was a tireless community activist and volunteer for decades. I will miss him terribly. My heart goes out to his husband Aaron Borovoy, who has been a pillar of strength through John's long illness and has shown all of us what true love looks like."

Gigi Masters, on Facebook, recalled the joy that Laird brought to her life: "My Dearest Uncle John, As I sit here thinking of you, my heart is filled with joy not sadness. Joy because that is how you would want me to remember you. Happy, joyous, full of life ... even at the end, that's what you were. And your smiling face, sweet kisses and warm hugs will forever be etched into my heart and mind. Sleep well John ... you deserve and have more than earned your rest! All My Love."

Borovoy expressed his thanks to the many friends and community members who sent tributes, notes, memories, and condolences to him.

"I can't get back to each of you, but please know that I read each and every one, and am touched by them all," Borovoy said.

Laird is survived by his husband Borovoy; daughters Stephanie Arlene Peters and Jocelyn Nicole Laird; brothers David Joseph Laird and Thomas Benson Laird; and sister Bonnie Rose Laird Appleton.

A celebration of life is scheduled to take place at The San Diego LGBT Center, 3909 Centre St., at 2 pm Sunday, Sept. 18.

Borovoy said that memorial donations in honor of Laird may be made to The San Diego LGBT Community Center; the Temple Emanu-El Social Action Fund; University Christian Church; and the Imperial Court de San Diego.