DUNN Jeffrey L., age 41, of Harrisburg, March 3, 1994, at home. He was a social worker for the state of New Jersey and an active member of the Religious Society of Friends and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; he is survived by 2 sisters Colleen M. Cheeseman of Wrightstown, N.J. and MIchele P. Dunn of Brattleboro, VT; one aunt, Betsy Dill of Boston, MA; an uncle William Reed of San Leandro, CA and a brother-in-law Girard Cheeseman, 2 nieces Sara and Emily Cheeseman all of Wrightstown, N.J. Memorial Service will be held at 2 P.M. on March 6, at Greene Street Friends Meeting in Phila. Int. will be in Liberty Cem. in Liberty N.Y.
A Remembrance of My Friend, Jeff Dunn
Jeff Dunn and I had been friends for a long time. I came out in January 1974 and one of the first places I began to frequent in order to meet other gay people was the Gay Coffeehouse on 2nd Street near Vine Street in Old City Philadelphia. This was a building owned by the Society of Friends, and generously offered to Philadelphia’s nascent gay and lesbian community. It was open Friday and Saturday evenings to offer an alternative to the bars and provide local artists with a venue and an opportunity to perform. Jeff and I were both frequent visitors and volunteers, although neither of us were performers.
Jeff was a very cute little dude with blond hair. His hair was often cut in a Dutch boy style – very fitting since I believe his ancestry was Dutch. We had many friends in common from the Gay Coffeehouse and we shared an interest in folk music and protest songs. Jeff was very active with the social organization, Young Friends of North America (YFNA). YFNA was a movement within North American Quakerism that was active from the 1950s into the 1980s. Jeff was a serious and dedicated young Quaker. My friend of longest standing, Jan, was also active in YFNA and knew Jeff quite well. (Jan would shoot me if I called her my OLDEST friend, but we had been friends since the early 1950s.)
Jan admired Jeff for his commitment to living ethically and in keeping with his Quaker beliefs and philosophy. Jan encouraged me to get to know Jeff better, and probably encouraged Jeff to get to know me better too. Eventually between running into each other at the coffeehouse and Jan pushing us together, Jeff and I began to date. And we dated, off and on, for almost 20 years. We never became serious and committed lovers, but we certainly were friends with benefits.
Jeff lived somewhere on Chestnut Street around 20th in the 1970s. I believe his Meeting House was Arch Street Meeting. I don’t remember this apartment, we usually went to mine. Jan reports that it was a really big, one room apartment and of course Jeff kept it very neat and tidy.
By the early 1980s, Jeff had moved to the second floor of a duplex on Erringer Place, across from the Germantown Cricket Club in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. We spent a lot of time there, so I remember this apartment well. Jeff had a decent kitchen and put much energy into being an excellent cook. He kept the apartment comfortable and inviting, and liked to have company for dinner. He preferred to leave a window partially open at night while sleeping, even in winter. Jeff particularly liked to have guests around Christmas time, and one of his specialties was a remarkably delicious shortbread with just the slightest hint of lemon. I so wish I had gotten that recipe from Jeff.
Jeff worked in New Jersey as a social worker, I believe for Camden County, but I am not certain of the location. He worked with families and abused children. He would get very angry and upset about how difficult these problems are to resolve. Decent and idealistic, Jeff was very frustrated by these cases. He worked really hard, and it sometimes really took a toll on him. I was very jealous of one of the perks Jeff had because of where he worked. Jeff was allowed to shop at the Campbell Soup off-price store in Camden, NJ, which sold slightly imperfect Godiva Chocolate pieces by the pound for $1.00/lb. Wow. If that were me, I would have stopped in every chance I got.
I have an opinion why Jeff only visited the Campbell store on rare occasions. I think Jeff was careful to keep has physique just perfect. He was short, cute as a button, and on the trim side. One year he caught hepatitis and lost quite a bit of weight. He kept getting thinner and thinner. His waist was shrinking, but his butt was not changing noticeably. Jeff ended up with the most perfect bubble-butt anyone could imagine. We spent a lot of time together that year!
Jeff preferred leather and western bars, like the Bike Stop, rather than discos. He was popular at the Bike Stop, but not a true bar fly. I was surprised once when he called one of the bar-tenders a few derogatory names. I had previously never heard Jeff speak ill of anyone, except the child abusers he had encountered in his work.
Jeff eventually bought a house in Germantown West Central, on Sherman Street. Jeff kept this lovely house just perfect, and hosted several Christmas Tree decorating dinners there from the late 1980s into the 1990s. I suspect this is around the time that Jeff joined the Independence Squares (IS). I had not known he was a member of the club until I saw his picture in one of the old club pictures taken at a convention. I had not joined IS until 2008.
Sometime around the start of the 1990s, Jeff became ill with HIV disease. He kept his condition a secret, but with several of his friends working in medically-related fields, we knew what was going on. We tried to talk to Jeff about his health, but he always would change the subject. We wanted to let him know we were there to help him out, but he was determined to tough it out on his own.
My last date with Jeff was to see the film, The Piano, at the Ritz movie theater in downtown Philadelphia. Jeff picked me up at my house in Fairmount, and we had had a hair-raising drive downtown. Cytomegalovirus had compromised Jeff’s vision, and his driving was very scary. I knew he was very sick, but he still would not talk about his health. I believe that The Piano opened at the Ritz in 1993. I sent Jeff a Christmas card the following month.
Jeff’s sister sent me a nice letter to tell me that he had died and thanking me for the card. Jeff’s birthday was June 28. I am not certain what year he was born. I thought he was about 2 years younger than I am. Jan thought he was one year older than she was, which would have made him the same age as me. So, my best estimate is Jeff was between 42 and 44 when he left this mortal coil.
I miss you dear friend.
— Chuck Mills
At Northstar Promenade, 1990
- The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Saturday, 05 Mar 1994, p.C7