December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is a time to remember those who we have lost and to recommit ourselves in the battle for finding a cure.
Gene Ediger was the closest friend I lost to AIDS. He was a mentor of mine who I first worked with at Baloney Joe’s, a now defunct shelter on the east end of Portland’s Burnside Bridge. We later worked together at Outside In and with Burnside Advocates Group. Portland lost an irreplaceable asset when Gene died. His obituary is below and you can download the eulogy given at his memorial.
It is vital that we keep a human face on this tragedy. Gene should never have had to die. His disease was preventable. Treatments could have been made available sooner. But politics, greed and homophobia got in the way of creating a public health system that could deal with the AIDS crisis.
The worst part: the tragedy is only growing.
F. Gene Ediger passed away August 17, 1997 from AIDS. Gene was born on June 7, 1955 in McPherson, Kansas and moved to Portland, Oregon in 1976. He was a graduate of the University of Oregon. After college he worked as a social worker until the time of his retirement in 1993.
From 1979 until 1989 he worked for Burnside Community Council, which operated Baloney Joe's and the West Women and Children's shelter. He served on the BCC Board from 1989-1990. In 1990 he was a co-founder of Burnside Advocates Group (BAG). In 1990 he joined the Outside In board and in 1993 was elected chair of the agency.
He continued to serve as the chair of Outside In and on the BAG board (now called Oregon Housing Now Coalition) until his death.
He is survived by his partner of 12 years, Paul Nickell. Surviving family members include his mother, Helen Ediger of Inman KS, brothers Ralph and Ray (of Oklahoma City, OK and Newton, KS respectively), and sisters Ilene Banman and Rhonda Sandstrom (of Denver, CO and Portland, OR respectively).
In 1995 he was awarded the Mayor's Spirit of Portland Award for his long-time community service.
A memorial service was held on Thursday, August 28th at First United Methodist Church, where Gene was a member.
Contributions in Gene's memory should be made to Outside In (1236 SW Salmon Street, Portland, Oregon, 97205) or Goose Hollow Family Shelter at First United Methodist Church (1838 SW Jefferson, Portland, Oregon, 97201).