Saturday, July 8, 2006

Eric RofesGay Activist, Author

Eric Rofes, 51, a gay activist and author who wrote that the AIDS crisis was past and gay men needed to free themselves from the sense of emergency and victimhood, died of a heart attack June 26 in Provincetown, Mass., where he was working on his 13th book.

Dr. Rofes wrote or edited 12 books, including "Dry Bones Breathe: Gay Men Creating Post-AIDS Identities and Cultures" (1998), which the Nation called "perhaps the most important book about gay male culture and community of the past decade." Dr. Rofes also organized three national health summits to address issues confronting gay men.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he graduated from Harvard University and began his activism in Boston at one of the nation's earliest gay-and-lesbian newsweeklies. In the 1980s, Dr. Rofes became director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center. From 1989 to 1993, he was executive director of the Shanti Project, a nonprofit AIDS service organization in San Francisco. He resigned in 1993 after an audit questioned how the group's federal funds were spent.

From the University of California at Berkeley, he received a master's degree in 1995 and a doctorate in 1998 in social and cultural studies. He was a professor at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., and a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Anna Lee AldredPioneering Jockey

Anna Lee Aldred, 85, the first woman in the United States to receive a jockey's license and a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, died June 12 in Montrose, Colo. No cause of death was reported.

She received her professional jockey's license in 1939, when she was 18, from California's Agua Caliente Racetrack. The license, a small wooden badge, is on display at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. Ms. Aldred was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

She retired from racing about 1945 and opened a riding school in California. She then spent five years performing as a rodeo trick rider, sometimes standing atop the saddle or hanging by her foot from the side of a running horse.

Ms. Aldred continued to ride until she was 80, appearing in rodeo ceremonies and working as a "pony boy," trotting horses onto the track of the Montrose fairgrounds for jockeys before races.

Willie DensonSinger, Songwriter

Willie Denson, 69, a singer and songwriter perhaps best known for the hit "Mama Said," died of lung cancer July 1 at his Columbus, Ga., home.

He published more than 250 songs, some recorded by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Gene Pitney and the Ronettes. He also appeared on television shows such as "American Bandstand" and "Soul Train."

"Mama Said," written with Luther Dixon and sung by the Shirelles, who recorded four of his other pieces, reached No. 4 on the national charts in 1961. Mr. Denson wrote the lyrics in memory of his deceased mother, Lillie. In a 1996 interview, he recalled her as someone "always happy, always smiling."

Mr. Denson also worked more than 30 years for the U.S. Postal Service in New York, returning to Georgia in 1995. In 2001, he won a $3 million Lotto Georgia jackpot, taking a $1.29 million cash option.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company