Member Interview: Mary Severine (co-chair 1986-1987)

November 6, 2016

Mary Severine 1Member Interview: Mary Severine (Co-chair 1986-1987)

by John Lockhart - part of our 35th Anniversary Member series


Let’s play catch-up, you and your spouse, Barbara Morton, lived in San Diego for many years, then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and returned a few years ago. Tell me about it.

 Santa Fe is a wonderful place for arts and culture, my sister and her family live nearby, and I had visited before and made friends. We made the move in 2011. Barbara and I found Santa Fe vibrant, learned about and visited the 19 pueblos in the area, and enjoyed the size and mix the lesbian community.

 Lots of outdoor activities, including walking and hiking, an exhilarating experience at 7,000 ft.!  By 2015 we decided it was time to head to our house and friends in San Diego.

 You led the club five years after its founding. Did you find the club or did the club find you? What was your co-chair experience?

Mary Severine 2 

I found Front Runners in 1984, a wonderful group of like-minded people that became my social home. On Day One, I ran from Sixth and Laurel to the Plaza fountain and back, realizing, gee, I can do it! The club was perfect for a budding, non-competitive runner, me! Settling in, everyone was friendly and supportive, I grew in confidence as an out gay woman. I proudly achieved the ability to run 5K and 10K races. The co-chair experience increased my self-confidence, as did public speaking in a setting where men and women worked together in leadership roles.

 What is your take on the club then and now?

 At first, we were finding ways to win acceptance and equality, with more women members. Now we are an organization in step with the social needs of a complex society, at ease in coming out, opportunities to meet others outside the bars, ease of coming out, being who you are, enjoying social and legal advances, and the emergence of gay families raising children.

 As a Registered Nurse, did AIDS impact your professional career in the 80s?

 Appalled at the hysteria about AIDS, I learned everything I could about the disease as I took care of patients that including Front Runners. Dealing with the hysteria against ‘outcasts,’ was very emotional, and as the deaths mounted, I cried a lot, as we lost so many friends. I’m tearing up right now.

 While living in San Diego, you were a mover, shaker and co-founder of the Sierra Club San Diego Chapter, Gay and Lesbian Section. What was that experience like?

 In the summer of 1994, the Gay and Lesbian Sierrans, myself and Dennis Triglia, the 1995 Front Runners co-chair lead the development of a proposal to the Sierra Club, and submitted it that year, In a unanimous vote our proposal was accepted by the Sierra Club executive committee the next year.

 And we were off, holding monthly potlucks in members' homes, a round of hikes and camp-outs, including hiking the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail in San Diego County, from the Mexican border to the Riverside County line, some 133 miles. A highlight was the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Sierra Club-owned Foster Lodge on Mt. Laguna, now closed. We cooked the dinner, housed members in the limited space inside, and set up camps outside for about 30, who pitched tents and brought sleeping bags. During the holiday weekend, we hiked on the Pacific Crest trail, and other nearby trails.

 Gay and Lesbian Sierrans had a run of 8 to 10 years, and ended due to dwindling leadership. In March of this year,  I was glad to be part of a potluck reunion, along with about 75 others.

 Wedded to Barbara in San Diego in 2008, how’s married life?

 Wonderful! All relationships have their ups and downs, and we’ve experienced them, including life-changing ones. We enjoy our home, we walk together three times a week, a three mile courses at a brisk conversational pace, and add a couple of Saturday with walkers on Saturday at Sixth & Laurel.