Paul Fasana, a man who helped the LGBT community thrive by keeping its history alive, has died. He was 87.
The Stonewall National Museum & Archives, where he volunteered his time and knowledge for more than 20 years, announced the news, saying he died about a week after going to the hospital for an unspecified illness.
“Personally, I will miss him a great deal. He was a beloved friend and mentor,” said Hunter O’Hanian, executive director at Stonewall. “He was a kind, smart, charming, thoughtful, and engaging man. He loved knowledge and learning, while preserving human history and culture.”
Fasana’s life was dedicated to the service of others and his biography at Stonewall details a well-lived life. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, then graduated from UC Berkeley; first in 1959 with a B.A. and then 1960 with a Masters of Library Science. Armed with those degrees, he began a long career in library administration; first at the New York Public Library as a cataloguer and later at the Columbia University Libraries as director of library automation. Eventually he returned to the New York Public Library as senior vice president and director of the Research Libraries until he retired in 1995.
But retirement was just the end of one chapter and the start of another for Fasana. He joined the Stonewall Archives in Fort Lauderdale, becoming their chief archivist. He began organizing their collection of historic documents and media, and the task wasn’t as simple as it sounds.
At the time, the library’s holdings were spread out across three warehouses and the Metropolitan Community Church. Now, under Fasana’s leadership, the collection is in a climate-controlled building and well-cataloged for researchers.
Fasana’s partner in life was Robert Graham. They were together 48 years until Robert died 11 years ago. They were a team that touched South Florida not only by giving their time, but also through financial philanthropy.
Among their beneficiaries is the Sunshine Cathedral, where they have a chapel named after them. In January of 2020, the Our Fund Foundation gave Fasana the Dick Schwarz Award for Lifetime Achievement, an honor Fasana said he wished Graham was here to share with him.
“Paul’s financial generosity matches his volunteerism, which is not an easy thing to accomplish considering he’s one of the most ardent volunteers we have here in South Florida,” Our Fund said then. “Paul’s generosity has affected almost every agency in South Florida. He established the first endowed fund at Our Fund, and since that time has created additional funds which will affect the lives of LGBT south Floridians in perpetuity.”
O’Hanian says Fasana’s legacy also lives on inside the archives.
“More than any other single individual, he is responsible for the richness of the vast archives at Stonewall. Thousands of pages in the archive bear his carefully hand-written notes in pencil. He cared for and nurtured the collection with remarkable accuracy right up to [the week before he died] when he was here and working. Future generations of scholars and researchers will owe him a debt of gratitude for his work and attention to detail.”