Wellington gay community stalwart Johnny Croskery has been farewelled, at the discrete ceremony which he requested. The 71-year-old died last week after a long battle with cancer. He left behind his partner Peter, of 54 years. Bill Logan, who knew Croskery for 32 years, conducted the funeral at the Harbour City Crematorium Chapel. “He was especially loved as an icon of the Wellington gay community,” Logan told mourners. “A decent, warm, inspirational, funny, brave, sparkling, caring man, with a wonderful laugh.” Mal Vaughan spoke on behalf of the gay community and Don Barclay spoke on behalf of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, which Croskery was a lifetime member of. Bill Logan has shared the history of Croskery’s life he read at the service: After primary schooling here at Lyall Bay School, John went on to Tech—it’s now Wellington High School. Melva remembers happy days, with a very talented group of schoolfriends—Jon Trimmer, Grant Tilley, Anne King (who became Anne Pacey). As far as Melva remembers there was surprisingly little bullying at school. To know John was to respect him. Of course it was different among strangers. John was just very obviously gay, and those were very homophobic days. In working life over many years Johnny was a window-dresser doing brilliant displays, particularly of course, of beautiful clothes; for a long time it was at the DIC, and later and at the House of Raymond, and at Marquis Gowns. While he was still in the early days of his first job, at the DIC, John and Peter met. Peter worked at the Midland Hotel, and used to walk past the DIC when he went to do the banking. They saw each other through the window. John was 17. Peter was five years older. And they’ve been together ever since. John didn’t want to rent, so they got together the deposit and bought a house, and moved in when John was 21 years old. That house, at 52 Coromandel Street in Newtown, became quite amazing. I remember the sense of wonder Jerome and I felt, the first time we were invited in to that house in Coromandel Street. It was like being transported into a completely different world: the epitome of camp decoration, with lots of knickknacks, wonderful rich velvet opera curtains, a pianola, a dressing room for all the costumes, and a scattering of fluffy little white dogs. The Maltese terriers were a bit like the children. At one stage there were eight. Most memorable to me was a little dog called Mousey, who didn’t have the use of his back legs, and ran around on his front legs with his back legs up in the air. Johnny had a sense of humour about this palace of high camp that he presided over. He had a little giggle as he showed Jerome and me. “It’s all a bit ridiculous, really,” he said. And it was a bit ridiculous in a certain way, and it wasn’t. The point is that this territory was ours. It was different. It was safe. This was to be John and Peter’s base until they moved into the home earlier this year. So the house in Coromandel Street was safe, but it wasn’t always safe outside for Johnny. He was so obviously gay. Even the next door neighbours were nasty until they got used to Johnny and Peter. And there was, over the years, a fair bit of abuse, from cops, and taxi drivers, and people passing by in the street. Even very recently. And John held himself, and represented us, with pride and courage, and, whenever it was possible, with humour. He didn’t choose to be an ambassador for the gay community, but he did the job with flair. And over time, inevitably, Johnny became an icon. He was the Christmas fairy handing out the presents, the centre-piece of the main act at the Devotion party, the Queen of Wellington leading the parade. But there was another side too. There was sparkle and glitz and laughter. But there was also an immense behind-the-scenes contribution. He was there for people dying with Aids. There were some painful years when so many of our friends died, and Johnny was there, looking after them. Shopping. Cleaning. Cooking. Giving. Giving to many, many people. Quietly. Unseen. Seeking nothing. So today we remember the unstinting care and love John gave to people with Aids, without material reward. It was quite, quite extraordinary. Talking to Peter, these last few days, he remarked how John’s life was marked by the obviousness of his homosexuality, and by his outgoing personality. Peter contrasted himself as a “boring old fart.” Peter asked me to say that in life together they had some difficult times, but there were many wonderful times they had over the years, and the good times were far, far more than the difficult times. Peter also asked me to say how thankful he was for all the help that John has been over the years they’ve been together.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Wednesday, 25th April 2012 - 10:51am
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