Remembering Rick Stafford
Originally Published: 09/06/2017
From the early days of the HIV epidemic, Rick Stafford has been an integral part of the fight. He was a dedicated Minnesota AIDS Project volunteer, an early staff member, and a leader on MAP’s Board of Directors. For more than three decades, Rick helped shape our response to the epidemic, helped care for those affected, and ensured MAP was there for those who needed support and education.
Rick was a pioneer, a positive leader, and long-term survivor. He was diagnosed in 1984 at the early days of the epidemic. When he broke new ground as the first gay man in U.S. history elected to head a state political party in 1992, he did it as a person living publicly with HIV.
He led the Democratic Party LGBT Caucus, and was involved in party leadership and politics for five decades. In these roles, he brought an awareness to LGBT equity and kept HIV on the radar of party faithful and elected officials. He cared about many progressive causes from reproductive rights to the environment to the health of rural and small-town Minnesotans.
On Saturday, Sept. 2, Rick passed away at age 65.
Many current and former members of MAP’s Board of Directors remember Rick fondly. Current board member Richard Schwartz reflected on his time on the board with Rick.
“Rick was a very kind, very insightful and very committed man,” Schwartz said. “He helped me gain a much deeper understanding of the issues facing people who’ve been dealing with HIV over the long term.”
Schwartz added, “I’ve missed his voice on the board. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”
Former board member Mike Cassidy fondly remembered Rick’s leadership in the board.
“In his time on the board for the Minnesota AIDS Project, Rick was a respected leader,” he said. “He helped folks understand many sides to any given issue. He helped to give us context and challenge our views. Ultimately, he helped us develop thoughtful change.”
Cassidy added, “He served out his time on the board with a passion for our cause and leaving many of us inspired. Thank you, Rick!”