On April 23rd, the eighth annual Earth Gay Seattle came together at the Arboretum with 50+ volunteers investing in our environment celebrating the spirit of Earth Day, the gay way. This year’s service project held special meaning for one of the organizers. Here is what he shared to open the event:
I am Stephen Nash. I want to thank Danny and Out for Sustainability for allowing me to participate in the creation of today’s event. I first spoke with Danny back in November and shared with him a story that I’d like to now share with you.
In May of 2008 I met a man who forever changed me and my view of the world. I met Michael Henson through the Rainbow City Band. He was unlike anyone I had ever met. He was incredibly kind, thoughtful, smart, talented and had many passions. He was also incredibly handsome. After dating just 4 months he had moved in with me. Within 2 years we were planning our wedding. We got married on July 31, 2010 at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island. Marriage was not legal at the time, but we didn’t care. We wanted to celebrate our love and relationship with our family and friends.
His passion and love for family/friends/and music were matched only by his passion for the environment. Michael was born on April 22nd….Earth Day.
He earned a master’s degree in sustainable leadership in Sweden. Which he followed up by spending 3 months in Chile installing a solar irrigation system for a pomegranate farm.
Before and after his time overseas he served in various staff positions at Holden Village. An intentional Lutheran community in the North Cascades that is completely off the grid. They have their own hydro-electric plant and one of Michael’s roles included maintaining that plant as Operations Associate.
When he moved in with me he swapped out my enormous garbage bin to one that holds just one trash bag. He showed me how to maximize what went into the recycling and yard waste bins.
Michael never owned a car; he preferred to walk, bike or take public transportation.
Michael and I were so excited about the prospect of getting legally married after R74 went to vote in November 2012. We were also working with a surrogate (who happened to be his biological cousin’s wife) to have a baby. However neither of these dreams were to come to fruition. On September 18, 2012 an unbelievable tragedy struck: Michael passed away. It was unexpected, sudden and to this day we don’t know what killed him. He was just 30 years old.
We threw a big party for Michael’s 30th birthday at the Garage and were surrounded with loving family and friends. Michael was able to enjoy two of his favorite activities during the party: Karaoke and bowling. In fact he bowled the best game of his life at the party. This was a big deal as he had grown up bowling in tournaments with his brother.
Since Michael’s passing there have been many tributes made to him:
- The Rainbow City Band created the Michael Henson award, celebrating his spirit of community
- His alma mater in Sweden created a scholarship in his name
- Two dear friends worked for two years to create an amazing rainbow quilt with Michael-themed squares created by family and friends
- His employer, the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse donated funds to Gay City to create the Michael Henson Conference Room
In addition, Michael’s legacy lives on with the birth of two precious boys, who would not have existed without him:
- Abraham Edwin Haeger was born to Michael’s biological cousin, Joe, and his wife Maureen on August 23, 2013
- And just this year Elliot Daniel Auger Armstrong was born on February 19th to two especially dear friends, Jami Armstrong and Katie Auger; all three of whom are here today.
We have had a birthday party for him every year since his passing. An opportunity for family and friends to celebrate his life and legacy. My request to Danny was to incorporate his birthday celebration with Earth Gay. I asked if we could work in the Arboretum as it is just two blocks from our home and was a place where we spent many hours exploring together.
We are joined today by members of Michael’s family, who are here from Olympia and Spokane, and many dear friends.
Thank you again Danny and Out for Sustainability for making this happen.
Thank you Michael for making this world a better place for so many.
Happy birthday Michael we love you and will never forget you.