Ed Estes, a long-time Pride Foundation donor that recently passed away, worked his entire life to advance equality for the LGBTQ community. According to his good friend Jim Malatak, he was a shy, quiet guy most of the time—that is, until you got him talking politics.
Working on the early campaigns of Cal Anderson and Ed Murray fueled Ed’s passion for politics. A fervent supporter of progressive environmental and social policy, he was one of the founding members of the Lesbian and Gay Democrats of Seattle, a group that—for twenty years—worked to increase the political influence of the LGBTQ community in Washington. He also helped organize the first Seattle Pride Parade in the 70s, and fought for 30 years to pass a statewide non-discrimination ordinance in Washington.
Ed could be described in many ways—loyal, passionate, political, generous. Despite the fact that all these accolades and descriptors paint a bright picture of a man who died after living a full life, one thing remains tragically, yet undeniably true.
Ed Estes struggled to find happiness.
Growing up in Aberdeen with a very strict father who was in the Navy, Ed spent the majority of his life in the closet.
As he grew older, Ed saw LGBTQ youth who were facing parental rejection and conversion therapy, and identified with them, knowing that—if he had come out during his youth—he would have faced the same fate. Keeping this secret unfortunately didn’t save him; instead, it forever altered him.
Despite his active social life and deep appreciation for music, travel, and nature, Ed was lonely. Jim explains, “He never fully recovered from the oppression of his youth. He didn’t have a foundation for hope, and it dragged him down.”
Underneath intense political passion and an enduring faith that the world would eventually improve for LGBTQ people, Ed was always his own toughest critic—you could see it in his demeanor and the way he carried himself.
Ed’s one escape was the arts. While an avid lover of the symphony, opera, and ballet, those who were close with Ed knew that his greatest outlet was disco.
Jim remembers, “His demeanor would change completely as he danced his jovial, bouncing, unusual dance—a dance that never changed. When he was dancing, his eyes would lighten—it was a turning point.” The disco clubs were the first place where Ed could bring his full self.
Through his political activism, Ed was committed to creating a world where everyone could live openly and, now—with his bequest to Pride Foundation—his work will endure far beyond his death.
His personal experiences as a gay man from a rural town motivated him to address the difficult path to acceptance that the LGBTQ community often faces. Ed adamantly believed that, in order to succeed, youth need a chance to see hope for their future. He saw Pride Foundation as a way to invest in that idea.
By directing his generous gift toward vulnerable youth, Jim explains, “Ed is counting on Pride Foundation to continue his legacy—to give people the hope he didn’t have.”
Jim’s words were confirmed as I watched the video that Ed recorded mere weeks before his death. Sitting in a hospice house, with his beloved cat meowing in the background, Ed directed his remarks to the youth that he looked forward to supporting through his bequest.
“I know that older people are always saying, ‘You don’t know how good you’ve got it.’ Except that—in the case of gay people—it’s true. Growing up before Stonewall was a nightmare. I know you’re going to have much, much happier lives than I had, and that’s the way it should be. That’s called progress.”
Ed will be deeply missed. Despite the sadness that took root within him, the legacy he leaves behind is one filled with love and hope. And, in the end, that’s progress in and of itself.
Katelen Kellogg is Pride Foundation’s Community Engagement Manager. Email Katelen.