Friends of Robert A. Loveless
It has been 16 years since Robert A. Loveless left this earth. He was a pillar of the gay and lesbian community in the Washington DC area, managing and owning nightclubs from the Brass Rail to Full House. Robert never met anyone that at the end of the day would not call him “friend.” Robert had a robust zeal for life and enough energy and vigor to move mountains.
Upon his passing, The Friends of Robert A. Loveless (FORAL) was formed as an organization dedicated to keep alive the memory of the friends, family, partners, and loved ones that have transitioned on before us.
FORAL’s founding members are Michael Session, Walter Whitley, Cliff Briscoe, Marcus Wilkerson, Sheila Rush, Ashby Smart, Ciaz Thompson, Michael Tinsley and Albert Davis. Sheila recalled that one day she was sitting at the Bachelor’s Mill waiting for everyone to get off work so that we could throw darts and Robert said to her, “You know this is your family and these guys will always be there for you. You can learn something from each of them. You will never find another group of guys on this earth like them.” Sheila went on to say that she never understood what Robert meant until her grandmother passed away and her whole world just came crashing down around her. “Robert never lied, they were all there to comfort me and let me know that everything was going to be okay, and you know what – everything was okay.”
Michael Session loves to tell the story of how he came into the possession of one of the actual brass knobs from the Brass Rail Bar. He says that he would always sit at the bar and talk to Robert and that one of the knobs would inevitably fall off the rail that surrounded the bar during the course of the evening. “Robert would get so mad when he heard the thud of the knob hitting the floor that he would just start cussing. It was a sight to see.” One day when Robert heard the daily thud, he said, “Take that damn thing out of here and I never want to see it again.” Session says, “Tender moments like this, where you can remember the love, the laughter, and the fellowship is what FORAL is all about.”
The members of FORAL soon realized that everyone has a “Robert” in their lives; someone that has touched them so deeply and so profoundly that we think of them fondly, smile and quietly say “Thank you, thank you for walking through life with me, if only for a little while.” FORAL decided to celebrate Robert’s life by having a cookout at the home of Ashby Smart in 2002. Ashby remembers, “I met Robert through a mutual friend on a visit to the Knob Hill Bar and Restaurant back in the 1990’s. I was sitting at the bar and he came up and asked what I was drinking, and laughed when I said a Budweiser please. Not knowing me, he blurted out ‘sissy drink,’ and from that day it was a lasting friendship. Robert was the type of person to me that would not accept the word “No,” he always wanted everyone around him at any given moment to be happy with a smile and a drink. Robert had a genuinely good heart and has touched each member of FORAL in some special way.”
When FORAL began having our annual cookouts, we thought that it would be a fitting tribute to release balloons into the air during the cookout as a way to remember Robert. After all, he was the catalyst for bringing us together as a family of native Washingtonians, transplants brought to the District of Columbia for work, livelihood and a host of other reasons.
Our family was strengthened with the addition of Michael Pettiway, who had selflessly volunteered with FORAL for a number of years. Our mission was again challenged with the passing of Marcus Wilkerson, one of our founding members. In 2015, we proudly added two additional members, Jay-Jay Tate, our resident DJ and Shurman Warren, our beloved son and nephew. Shurman, who never met Robert but was introduced to the love and sense of inclusion that Robert represented commented, “I finally saw what family meant, and once becoming a member my community has grown so much and I value the true meaning of love and family. I love FORAL more than words can express and I look forward to the years to come for us.”
We then were blessed with the addition of Wanda Cook, better known as “P-nut” in 2016. Over the years, we have provided food, fellowship, fun and laughter with this gathering of giving thanks and keeping alive the lives of family, friends and loved ones. The memory of these people are kept alive within our hearts, minds and through our actions. During the course of our lifetime, thousands of people pass through our lives and some, if you’re lucky, will make an indelible and lasting mark upon your heart.