Dreams Can Come True

When I was 17 years old, living in Central Illinois, I felt completely separated from my peers in High School. While others my age were dating and dancing, I was reading copies of the Sunday New York Times while dreaming of traveling to exotic destinations around the world. I looked forward to the special men’s fashion section of the new York Times Sunday Magazine each spring and fall. I dreamt of one day visiting the Steuben Glass Store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. All these things I kept to myself. They would have only invited ridicule. There were very definite rules of what it meant to be a “real man” in farm country. I never thought I belonged in Central Illinois among the soybeans and corn. I was just biding my time until I could escape to a place that felt more like home to a man like myself. Then I met Sharron Wright’s mother Rose. My first husband Larry and I had traveled to Miami Beach in 1966, just in time to experience Hurricane Alama, the earliest hurricane to ever hit Southern Florida. While everyone else was scrambling to prepare for the early storm, I reveled in the excitement of a brand new experience!

Rose lived in a small apartment near the beach in Surfside, Florida. I remember how she treated me like an adult, sitting together on her terrace sipping Crème de menthe from elegant glasses. That’s all it took to impress a 17 year old from Danville, Illinois. When I met Rose’s daughter Sharron some months later back in Danville, I was treated in the same manner in which her mother treated me, as an equal, as an adult. Larry and Sharron were somewhat of an item back in High School in 1957. They were roller skating partners, later going on to separately win national dance championships.

When Sharron came home for the holidays in 1968, our hometown newspaper, The Commercial-News, did an extensive article on her success as a top New York fashion model. Of course I was delighted to drive the local celebrity around town during her stay. It was a perfect cosmic revenge. Local nerdy gay boy seen in the company of a beautiful successful New York fashion model.

In July 1969, the National Roller Skating Championships were held in Levittown Arena on Long Island, New York. Larry and I drove his 1968 dark green Pontiac GTO to New York for the competition. The universe had constructed a perfect set of circumstances for the nerdy gay boy from farm country to burst out of a dark stale closet in style. While Larry attended the competitions, I took the trein into Manhattan each day. On our first meeting Sharron casually mentioned she had accidentally found herself in the middle of a demonstration for homosexual rights, the result of a recent riot at a gay bar called Stonewall. It was her way of opening the closet door to let me choose if I wanted to exit now.

July, 1969, was very eventful. Judy Garland (The Gay Icon) had just died. I stood on the sidewalk in front of stores with thousands of others as man first set foot upon the moon. It was a summer of transition I would never forget. My beautiful friend Sharron showed me it was possible for someone from a small town to achieve anything they put their mind to. As I look back on my life, I owe a lot to Sharron Wright. She opened up the entire world to me by example, friendship, kindness and her belief in me.

My close friendship with Sharron continued until her untimely death in 2014. She provided spiritual and moral support on my trip back to Danville when my sister Chris was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. During my own health struggles in 2014, after the death of our dog Zoe, we provided support for each other until Sharron died suddenly in the late autumn of 2014.

I offer this tribute to someone who truly helped me set in motion, the life I had dreamt of as a young man at Danville High School in the 1960s. I’m not saying I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done it anyway. But Sharron certainly made it easier. I love you Sharron Wright!