Pride Houston Honors Three ‘Treasures of the Community’
Special committee selects Tony Carroll, Marion Coleman, and Arden Eversmeyer as honorary grand marshals.
By Brandon Wolf
For the first time, Pride Houston has chosen three honorary grand marshals for the 2017 parade. While the traditional grand marshals are nominated and elected by the LGBT community, the honorary marshals were selected by a special Pride Houston committee.
This year’s honorary grand marshals will be Arden Eversmeyer, Marion Coleman, and the late Tony Carroll. “They are treasures of the community—local heroes who have been hidden behind the scenes,” says Frankie Quijano, Pride Houston’s board president.
Coleman is best known as the owner of House of Coleman print shop, which she operated from 1970 to 2006. She also owned and operated Kindred Spirits, the legendary lesbian bar, from 1980 to 1989.
She is the winner of more than 30 achievement awards, presented to her by such organizations as the Montrose Center, Pride Houston, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Imperial Court of Houston, OutSmart magazine, Gulf Coast Archive & Museum, The Diana Foundation, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, and the Executive and Professional Association of Houston (EPAH). She was also named an Honorary Bunny for Bunnies on the Bayou.
Coleman has served as an officer or board member for nearly 40 organizations. She was active in the early years of the Montrose Clinic (now Legacy Community Health) and the Montrose Counseling Center (now the Montrose Center).
During the early days of the AIDS crisis, Coleman organized blood drives at Kindred Spirits and served on the EPAH Care Team. She printed high-quality memorial programs at no cost for victims of the epidemic, and helped organize countless fundraising events.
Coleman worked as a precinct organizer for political candidates such as Kathy Whitmire, Anthony Hall, Sheila Jackson Lee, Nikki Van Hightower, Eleanor Tinsley, and Debra Danburg. And she is especially proud of her least-known accomplishment—saving a giant oak tree on West Alabama, in front of House of Coleman. “I chained myself to the tree when they came to cut it down,” she says.
The late Tony Carroll was a licensed clinical social worker whose Houston psychotherapy practice had served mainly LGBT individuals and couples since the 1980s. His groundbreaking workshops for LGBT singles and couples were very successful, and he was the first openly gay president of the Texas Society for Clinical Social Work.
In 1995, Carroll met his future husband, Bruce Smith, and they became an inseparable couple—even sharing the same building for their professional practices. Smith is a dentist, so friends affectionately referred to them as “Dental and Mental.” They were legally married in Canada in 2003. Smith will represent his partner in the parade.
Their former Montrose townhouse was always open for fundraisers, and in 2013 they moved into a larger, custom-built home a few blocks away. “We designed it for large events,” says Smith. Their political fundraisers for LGBT and LGBT-friendly candidates included such political figures as Kim Ogg, Steve Kirkland, and Chris Bell.
Situated on one of the Montrose streets where Pride floats used to line up before the parades, their home was open to anyone who needed to cool off, take a bathroom break, or charge their phone during the parade.
Carroll was greatly concerned about the plight of LGBT homeless youth. Today, a Montrose drop-in center—Tony’s Place—is named for him.
Although well-known for his role as a therapist, few people knew that Carroll was a music major who loved opera and theater. The couple had a large church organ installed in their home, and Carroll was often asked to play it during their social events.
Carroll died unexpectedly in December 2015, while on a trip to New York City with Smith. Smith reveals that the last event Carroll attended was the annual Rockettes Christmas show. “It was a wonderful way for him to go,” Smith says. “In his mind, he still had the images of sparkling dancers and a cannon that shot glitter all over the audience.”
Eversmeyer founded Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) in 1987, after her partner of 33 years died. LOAF started with six women, but today has a membership of 175 people ranging in age from 50 to 92. Over the last 30 years, the group has laid to rest more than 75 members.
In 1997, Eversmeyer started the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project. She knew LOAF women in the end stages of their lives and wanted to capture the histories of those who were out long before the 1969 Stonewall riots that sparked the modern gay-rights movement. The Oral Herstory Project is now a national effort that has captured more than 550 histories. Two books have been published, and a third one is in the works. “Every one of us has a story,” Eversmeyer says. “You don’t have to climb Mount Everest for your life to be important and interesting.”
Eversmeyer also built a library of lesbian periodicals, books, music, videos, and memorabilia. Last year, she transferred that collection—80 boxes of materials—to the Texas A&M University library. She and other LOAF members remain the most popular speakers at the Montrose Center’s Hatch program for LGBT youth, recounting their life experiences.