Bill Beachler was involved in nearly every LGBT and HIV event in Michigan’s capital for decades. On Tuesday, Beachler, a Michigan State University (MSU) alum and publisher of the Lansing Association for Human Rights newsletter, passed away at age 70.
Retired Lansing Attorney Gary Hicks knew Beachler since their time at MSU in the summer of 1976.
“It was probably due to our being alumni of MSU, his love of sports and his participation in the community that cause the friendship to ‘bloom,’ Hicks said.
Hicks said there was more to Beachler than his politics. He said the former Iowa farm boy loved euchre -- spending two or three nights a week playing the card game and participating monthly in tournaments.
Beachler was involved in the beginnings of the Lansing Association for Human Rights (LAHR). Hicks said he was in attendance at every meeting of the group from the late 1970s onwards.
“He relished his role as publisher of the newsletter because it allowed him to keep in contact with the different organizations and promote what they were doing,” said Hicks.
Activists and community leaders noted that Beachler was proud of starting an LGBT scholarship in 2000. State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) was the second student to receive that scholarship.
“He wanted to get to know each winner of the scholarship,” Hoadley told City Pulse on Wednesday. “As a freshman, he took me to lunch at Clara’s -- someplace I had never been to before -- and he shared all this history and culture of the LGBT community. That mentorship was pivotal in the next choices I made to get involved.”
Hoadley said the scholarship brought him a love of advocacy and politics into his life, leading him to become one of the few openly gay lawmakers two years ago.
“There is no question that the state of Michigan and the LGBT community lost an institution in Bill Beachler,” said Hoadley.
Local politicians and leaders also weighed in on Beachler’s passing.
“We served on the MSU LGBT Alumni Association together for many years, and I worked closely with him on AIDS and LGBT related events when I was with the City,” wrote Jean Golden, a retired deputy city manager for East Lansing. “He was the glue that held us all together - in every organization he worked with. He put in the daily effort to accomplish the tasks that needed to be done, even when many of us faltered. He was maddeningly exacting at times, but always with the noblest of intentions.”
Lansing City Councilwoman Carol Wood said in a statement his impact was felt throughout the community
“His dreams of inclusive community and his willingness to work for that has help to change the fabric of our region,” Wood said. “Words cannot express how much he will be missed.”
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum echoed Woods’ thoughts, calling Beachler a “trailblazer.”
“Today we lost a true trailblazer for equality,” said Byrum in a written statement. “Because of Bill’s work and the work of so many other trailblazers, we have made major strides for equality, but we still have a long way to go.”
Beachler will be remembered in services at 2 p.m. on Saturday January 16 at Estes-Leadley Funeral Home, 325 W. Allegan St. Lansing. Visitation begins at noon.