1952 – 1986
By Keith Coffman-Grey
I met MARK WILSON in 1983 in West Hollywood, where I was living. I had just been transferred from I. Magnin in Santa Barbara to Beverly Hills as the Fine Shoe Salon manager and met Mark through a mutual acquaintance. He was living in Mid Wilshire and working in the shoe department of the main Bullock’s Wilshire store.
We both enjoyed fashion, and in a short time we were living together. Mark had a wonderful sense of humor and was very outgoing. After our Kings Road lease was up, we found an amazing place in the Hollywood Hills, renting the bottom of an Art Deco house with views of the ocean from Hollywood to Santa Monica.
It was a bit of paradise above the commotion of the Big City.
Mark was born in Portland, and graduated from college with a teaching degree. After a terribly homophobic experience working for a Northern California school district, he settled in LA. He had a wonderful voice and sang in a local Gay-friendly church.
We both loved animals and dreamed of getting a Scotty dog (although Scotty drinking glasses and plates were as close as we could get). During Christmas season 1984, Mark started to have night sweats and stomach pains. We went to our local Gay doctor and got the news that he had AIDS.
In 1985 AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) was just forming. We joined APLA’s couples group for those with one or both AIDS-affected partners. It was a des-perate time; AIDS was a death sentence, and we knew our time together was short. Mark met an herbalist who claimed he could be cured by taking herbal tablets – but all that did was make his diarrhea worse.
Mark went downhill very quickly. He kept losing weight, but he kept his spirits up, and agreed to make a video of us in Summer ’84. By November Mark was under 24-hour nursing care in our home, needing help to get from bedroom to living room, where he would spend the day.
At Christmas, his mom came down with his stepdad to visit; it would be the last time she’d see him.
Mark always strove to keep his spirits up toward the end. Even when he was sick, he enjoyed looking at the latest fashion magazines.
Mark passed away in January 1986.
Making Mark’s Quilt this past year filled me with joy and sadness. As I stitched each letter, memories of our time together came flooding back. It is so important to always REMEMBER THEIR NAMES.