''He once told me, 'This wasn't the plan,' " Dick Lourie of Cambridge said. ''You see, he was about 10 or 15 years older than John. He said, 'I thought I would get old and John would care for me.' "
''John was really the love of his life," said Lourie, ''and much like many widows and widowers, Ron remained single -- though not solitary -- for the rest of his life."
Schreiber's work was very much like the man. ''He was very approachable and nonjudgmental," she said.
Ron Schreiber published several poetry collections in addition to teaching at UMass for more than three decades. He died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 22, 2004, at his Cambridge home.
An only child, Mr. Schreiber was born in Chicago and grew up in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Wesleyan University and served in the Army from 1955 to 1957. After his military service he moved to New York City, where he earned a doctorate in English at Columbia University.
Ron Schreiber (with arm-band for lover), 1987, by Robert Giard
Ron Schreiber was as direct and accessible as the poetry he wrote. His poems had great lucidity, integrity, and simplicity. He was a professor at the University of Massachusetts. His most poignant work was his final collection, ''John: Poems," a memoir about the slow death of his longtime companion John MacDonald, who died in 1986 from complications of AIDS. He once told, "This wasn't the plan," he was about 10 or 15 years older than John. "I thought I would get old and John would care for me."
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)He joined the faculty at UMass-Boston in 1967, shortly after the school was established in Park Square. ''He came out as a gay man before he came up for tenure," said Dittmar. ''He said, 'If they want me, they should want me as I am.' "
Mr. Schreiber, who retired a few years ago, did get tenure. He taught a survey course on the homosexual in Western literature, beginning in 1973. It was among the first courses of its kind.
''He was a very political, outspoken gay man, but he was never a separatist," said Lourie, who co-edited the literary journal Hanging Loose with Mr. Schreiber. ''He had as many straight friends as gay friends."
Mr. Schreiber belonged to a local men's consciousness-raising group for more than 20 years. ''He was the only admittedly gay man in the group," Lourie said.
Mr. Schreiber was a member of the Gay Liberation Front, which founded Fag Rag magazine. In 1963, he cofounded the literary publishing house and magazine that became Hanging Loose. The group has published more than 80 issues and many collections of poetry.
When the magazine's four-member editorial board met over a kitchen table to read and criticize submissions, Mr. Schreiber would argue passionately for poems he thought should be included. He was also the bookkeeper for the journal. The basement of his Cambridge home is filled with stacks of journals and books that didn't sell.
''He was a rebel with integrity, who was always challenging assumptions," said Dittmar. ''He was the man who was always pointing out that the emperor wore no clothes."
She described him as ''a man who was generous with his money and generous with his heart."
When he was younger, she said, ''he had curly hair and a big smile, like the Greek god Pan. And, like Pan, he was always playful. That playfulness never left him."
A tall man who often had a mustache and whose hair sometimes flowed to his shoulders, Mr. Schreiber had a summer house on Cape Cod, where he was once cited for indecent exposure on a nude beach in Truro.
When he had his day in court, he argued that the National Park ranger who cited him was too far away to determine if he was really nude. Mr. Schreiber's attorney brandished what Lourie called a ''nude-colored" bathing suit and successfully argued that the ranger could not be sure Mr. Schreiber was not wearing it.
Mr. Schreiber was never at a loss for words and was no stranger to confronting death.
''We cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over our heads but we can refuse to let them build nests in our hair," he wrote in his poem, ''The Birds of Sorrow."
John: Poems by Ron Schreiber
Paperback: 93 pages
Publisher: Hanging Loose Pr (September 1, 1988)
Amazon: John: Poems
Poem's on the death of the author's lover. In this work, Ron Schreiber, John 's lover of nine years, writes a chronicle of a terminal illness from diagnosis to death. John MacDonald, Jr. , was born in Dorchester, June 10, 1951; he died in Holbrook, his parents' home, November 5, 1986. John graduated from Holbrook High School, attended Northeastern and graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in marine biology. He had done various things in his teens and 20s, since he was kicked out of his parents' home by his father when he was 15 (for being gay). He'd done a nightclub act in New York, cut demo records, modeled, worked as a geisha in Kyoto for three months. He worked for some years for New England Telephone Company and for many years for Winston Flowers on Newbury Street in Boston. He arranged the flowers for the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Pops. But his passion were plants - he planted whole gardens, grew orchids and camelias - and animals - he had three chows and two shih-tzus, five cats, a blue-and-gold macaw and many lesser birds and fishes. He'd been cross-pollinating flowers since he was five.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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