Key West AIDS Memorial
Dan Stahley (R) From the files of Arthur Dietrich
Dan Stahley together with Bobby Redfern were the owners/managers of Curry House on Fleming. They, as others in this memorial, were pioneers in the gay movement, many of whom had, and succumbed to AIDS. I met and shared a room with Dan in Las Vegas, just prior to our rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon on a Hanns Ebensten tour and we immediately bonded. Many visits to Curry House and later to Dan’s place on Big Pine Key followed.
This was a kind, warm, and sensitive man, a super host, with ice-blue eyes, who immediately took me under his wing, new as I was to the gay community. His love for the outdoors and every living thing was immeasurable, as was his eye for our natural surroundings. In the quiet and warmth of the canyon floor, with the river rushing by, we would lie awake staring at the firmament and listening to classical music for hours on end. He knew he had AIDS, a malady that in the 1980’s was rampant but only whispered about in Key West, and that I was totally oblivious to. Dan, however, took charge and was careful to have safe sex only. I credit him and many others with my never having gotten infected, while 32 of my Key West friends perished. They are not forgotten. They filled my life with joy, warmth, and camaraderie.
Dan hailed from Montana, a state that I love. So I once asked him how he could ever have left there. Said he: “Have you ever been a gay man in Montana, Fred? Many a day I sat alone on a mountain top and cried my heart out.” Dixie and Bud, his parents, however, were ever so kind. They came to Las Vegas to meet us and it was evident that Dan cherished them. No argument, he came from good stock.
In the end, I can only feel ever so blessed to have had Dan become part of my life. I think of him often and try to emulate his love of every creature great or small. One incident that sticks in my mind was that of a snake crawling across the deck surrounding the pool at Curry House. Ten gay men jumped up simultaneously screaming and hollering: “Catch it! Kill it!!!” But Dan calm and composed, lounging on his chair in the sun, admonished: “Now why would you kill it? It’s not hurting you and it has every right to be here just like you….” End of commotion! I have had trouble swatting even the smallest bug since, often carrying it to a safer place. Yes, far away from me… My tribute to Dan…………
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