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In Memoriam

TAGupdate 2012


September 16, 1954–August 2, 2012

Excerpted from the eulogy given by Richard Cardillo

Anyone who knew Pete, knew how outspoken he was about many justice issues. When it came to poverty, he was vociferous about supporting the direct poor by modifying our consumer lifestyle accordingly. Regarding gay rights, Peter promoted organizations, candidates, and movements that reflected his unique perspective. Most recently, his activism took direct aim at health care reform.  Peter knew that as a result of his HIV status and his misfortunes with mental health, he had no choice but to be a thorn in the side of powerful health care companies that he monitored closely.

As his mental illness took over in the last three or four years, he was subjected to pretty harsh environments in a number of different psychiatric institutions. Yet, in the midst of the harshness, Peter would reflect to me: “Do you realize… I’m one of the few people here who hasn’t spent time in prison or got caught up in the criminal justice system. I’m one of the only people in my support groups who never had to confront homelessness along with my mental illness. I am fortunate that I haven’t had to battle the demons of substance abuse along with my depression.”

These reflections weren’t at all out of sync with the Peter Diffly who was born and raised in Selma, Alabama, at a time when civil rights, human dignity, and equality for all were major concerns. So, how do we appropriately memorialize Peter? Perhaps, then, it’s worth it to keep it simple, as Peter tended to prefer, and just do the next thing. And, as Peter’s particular, unique, brilliant gift allowed him to do, just go and plant something.

The family is requesting that donations be sent to one of Peter’s favorite charities, Treatment Action Group.