Today is the anniversary of
my brother Joseph's death. He
was born in Boston on April
7, 1962 and died at Lenox Hill
Hospital in Manhattan on October
2, 1986. He was 24 when he died;
he died the week that the discovery
of AZT was announced in the
In those days, stories in
the New York Times and other
media described AIDS as a disease
that affected "promiscuous
gay men (age 30+--my brother
was too young to fit the category)
and "Haitians." That
was the year that conservatives
were saying that people with
AIDS should be tattooed on
the butt, and maybe sent away
to internment camps.
After he died, I wrote my brother's obituaries and didn't
mention AIDS, though we spoke about it openly in our family.
We held a memorial service in the chapel at Columbia.
Joseph was a poet and he won the Ford Prize for poetry when
he graduated from Columbia. He loved Columbia and New York
City, and when he got to Manhattan he thought he'd embarked
on the life he was meant to live.
I think of him often. I remember the music, books, streets
and beaches that he loved. I hope there are others, especially
in the community radiating out of those years at Columbia,
who also remember him.
May he rest in peace.
Linda Norton (on behalf of Mary and Richard Norton;
Caroline, Michael, and Richard Norton, Jr.; and all of Joseph's
nieces and nephews: Seth, Isabel, Luke, Margaret, and Piper)