.Sonoma County Pride’s Grace Villafuerte

This winter, I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the North Bay’s most cited and celebrated lifetime volunteers,

Grace Villafuerte. Among her responsibilities, she is currently the VP of Sonoma County Pride day, week, month and year. She is also in charge of volunteers.

Cincinnatus Hibbard: What motivates your service and advocacy for your communities?

Grace Villafuerte: Whether it be LGBT+, woman, Filipina or widow, with every single one of these identities, I owe my ability to love these parts of myself, because of the pioneers that came before me. Every right I have, they fought for. I am in constant gratitude for them. They opened the door. My job is to open the door a little more. And not let it close behind me.

CH: As a Gen Xer, you are a living witness and participant to major breakthroughs in each of those community’s struggles for recognition. Grace, I have noticed that with each LGBT+, widow, Filipina and woman, there was a process of your coming out, finding a community and creating love and pride through service. You said the hardest of all was coming out as a widow.

GV: Yeah, golly, people are awkward around that (laughs).

CH: You were and are married to Lynn Marie Campanario, who passed in 2014.

GV: Yes. We had built our lives around being of service.

CH: You intimated to me that your friends and family wanted to help you in your grieving, but not understanding could be unintentionally hurtful.

GV: Yes, I had to seek a new community. I found it at a gathering of Camp Widow. The experience of being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of widows was so powerfully connective. I left with a lot of new friends that lost their husbands and wives at the same time. We shared milestones.

CH: I understand you now lead an online group for lesbian widows suited to the special issues of that community. Do you have any advice for the recently bereaved?

GV: Death ends a life and not a relationship. I now think of my relationship with Lynn as a really long-distance relationship (laughs).

CH: How is Lynn now?

GV: As in life, very busy. She volunteers helping the newcomers out.

Learn more: This interview is taken from a longer audio interview available at ‘Sonoma County: A Community Portrait’ on Apple, Google and Spotify podcasts. linktr.ee/cincinnatushibbard.


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