Before “she persisted,” it was “he persisted.”
That’s how Robin Bodiford described Bill Rettinger, 63, an LGBT and disabled rights activist who died last week.
“Whatever Bill Rettinger undertook to do: he persisted. He was quick to laugh, earnest, cute and handsome,” Bodiford said. “I remember Bill as a tireless democrat, an unrelenting advocate for the disabled, and a tireless comrade in arms in the Americans for Equality’s successful campaign to preserve gay and lesbian rights under the Broward County Human Rights Ordinance. He was always loved and is already missed.”
She went to write that Rettinger, who was married to Gene Crane and lived in Palm Bay, was an unsung hero. “He was also remarkable in the South Florida gay political community in that he never betrayed my trust and did not engage in some of the misogyny that was so prevalent among gay pols back in the day.”
Rettinger served as the president of the Democratic Disability Caucus of Florida, was an active member in the Dolphin Democrats, president of the Brevard County Chapter of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus, and its regional director.
Michael Albetta, the regional director of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus, knows exactly what made Rettinger a great activist: fearlessness and a big mouth.
“He was not shy about keeping his mouth closed,” he said. “He could be eloquent in his words and bombastic at times. He was a good person to have on your side in a fight.”
Rettinger was also willing to go against the grain sometimes.
“I think Bill was different in his ideas,” Albetta said. He wasn’t afraid to call people out, including, according to Albetta, when former School Board Member Martin “Marty” Rubinstein broke promises he made to the LGBT community. “Basically, Marty said one thing to placate the Dolphin Democrats and he did the opposite. Bill called him out on it. We went hook, line, and sinker and we finally got Marty Rubenstein out of office.”
“The passing of Bill closes yet another chapter on another activist in our local LGBT history. He will be remembered for his commitment to the community and for the many hours of dedication he made to achieve equal rights for everyone,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.
In a statement, Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus President Terry Fleming said, “Bill Rettinger was a tireless advocate for disability and LGBT rights . . . Most importantly, he was a friend – to me and countless others – and he will be sorely missed.”
Rettinger’s activism also crossed party lines.
“I was saddened to hear that a former activist colleague recently passed away. Bill Rettinger…was more to me than just a community activist. Bill believed in outreach and inclusion when, for the good of the community, a need arose. I will always remember jointly walking and working together during the formative years of the "Rainbow Bridge" coalition headquartered in the Whimsey office and archives in West Palm Beach. Bill joins some really wonderful allies who are no longer with us, those who may have been forgotten and/or unknown to later arrivals, yet did so much in crating positive change here in the Sunshine State,” stated Andy Eddy, a member of the Broward Log Cabin Republicans Club, in an email.
To help with funeral expenses, a GoFundMe page has been established – gofundme.com/bill-rettinger-memorial-fund.