‘A ready wit and a dark sense of humor’

by James Dubro

I first met Bill Percy in the early 1990s at an afternoon high tea at the venerable Boston Atheneum library and museum on Beacon Street where he had been a longtime trustee. I was introduced by Joe McGrath, a longtime mutual friend, who told me that Bill was a very eccentric history professor and classics scholar at the University of Massachusetts as well as a very successful real estate entrepreneur and Boston landlord. At the time he was publicly offering a reward of $10,000 to anyone who could credibly “out” an American Catholic cardinal or a sitting US Supreme Court justice. I was intrigued by Percy as an older gay gent with his wild-eyed brand of gay activism at a time when outing anyone as gay was highly politically incorrect. But when I got to really know him over the years he was always a warm, gracious, generous gentleman with a ready wit and a dark sense of humor. He loved talking about everything from fresh perspectives and he had a voracious appetite for good racy gossip about friends and enemies. Since I live in Toronto and he in Boston he’d call me regularly the past few years about every week or so for a long talk. It was always a great delight to chat with him on the phone about politics, recent gay activist developments, Percy foundation business, and the lives & movements of our many mutual friends (increasingly of late to mourn recently deceased mutual friends who have been dying off at an alarming rate).

I shall very much also miss his great company and luncheons in Boston at his large, bookish, eclectically-furnished South End townhouse. But alas there will be no more fun chatty conversations. Rest in peace Bill – your life was indeed a blessing for many of us. You’ll be sorely missed.

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