This post is for a dear friend, John Adrian Sims Rutherford, whom I called JR, and passed away in February 1999 at age 53 from complications due to AIDS. He was a soul partner to my domestic/life partner, Troy Mueller, and me, and we spent many fun-filled years of his life together. This is my tribute to that relationship.
I met JR in the early 1980s at a social gathering with other gay friends of Rob Walters and Harry Williamson, a couple who lived across the street from my house at the time. They invited me to join their social events at Bruce Gibson’s place, as shown in the video below.
While you read this post, please keep in mind that I have attempted to give broad strokes of stories about our relationships with friends and each other. I have included personal voicemail messages that playback in this browser, some nudity to a degree, and kept the structure loose, like our relationships. So, please enjoy and give me any comments you have at the bottom of this page or in a separate email. I welcome any corrections or omissions and would appreciate additional photos of JR you might want to share. However, keep in mind, there is a limited-space requirement.
It was in Bruce’s rental unit (rented from the Mize family which will be significant later), that I met JR, a recent ex-partner of Bruce, Les and Becky Stone, Dr. Richard (Rick) Simmons, his partner TJ, and some others over the course of a year or so. What grew out of that introduction held together a strong bond and relationship between JR and myself through common interests and improprieties of recreational drug use, English language, vocabulary, Scrabble®, music, piano playing, gardening, abusive relationship behaviors, and just being queer.
Being a child growing up in the 1950s as an orphan in an orphanage, and in the sixth year of that decade I was born, JR was a troubled youth dealing with his homosexual preferences. He repressed these feeling through his youth and tried to have girlfriends because that was expected of him. He felt being accepted was a “southern gentleman’s” responsibility in life and must abide by the “Virginia Rules.” I called them “Vagina Rules.”
Fortunately today we know that “pray away gay” is a myth that has unfortunately devastated lives in the past, and hopefully is now becoming extinct. JR subjected himself to this type of therapy until one day I told him he was wasting his time and money. Ever since that day, he was a happier man and we bonded even closer.
Over the years, we shared many common friends like Bob and Pat Stoltz (the latter of whom I knew from my 1970s New Smyrna days and, coincidentally, where and when JR had also met her), Linda Piantieri, Claudio Sennhauser, Robyn Labreck, Susan Branche, Joe Brooks, Susan Strother, Gil Perez, and Rick Crocker. Those names are in no particular order, just stream of thought on my part, except the latter 3 have since died (the last two were very close friends, and all three died unexpectedly).
JR also worked on his 1600 East Central Boulevard downtown home on a frequent basis by improving the interior and exterior with repairs and decorative touches. We played many hours of Scrabble and piano in his home while he fixed dinner for our evening meal. I reciprocated while I had a piano and still lived in Orlando. I moved for a year to Chicago in the early 1990s to return before our US Expedition.
While JR lived on Central Avenue, he was very considerate to share his home with others who needed a place to stay. While I was moving from my Princeton Street home and into my Palm Avenue home, I stayed with JR and we played Scrabble, forever. Andy Hough also stayed there while training for a job at a local print shop.
During my friendship with JR, he worked for McMahon advertising agency, not far down the street from his home.
He left there to work at Sea World before joining the Orlando Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau from 1989 until 1993, where he retired.
JR was a regular spokesperson for the bureau as Orlando’s PR representative and appeared on radio and television shows. In 1994, he won the Public Relations Professional of the Year award from the Orlando Area Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Agency.
Over the years, JR and I had a boyfriend for short periods of time that were interesting injections into our abusive relationship. His was named Jorge Martinez-Peréz from Puerto Rico and mine was named Kenny Clancy, whose first name was ironically the same as my mother’s first husband’s name. With Jorge, I tried to be his friend and help him understand JR’s weird personalities and our relationship. It was hard for Jorge to compete for JR’s time when JR wanted to play Scrabble with me so much.
Kenny and JR had an interesting relationship in that they competed for my attention, and Kenny usually won. They tolerated each other but finally Kenny moved on to a woman, got married, had kids, and moved to Branson, Missouri, where we visited during our US Expedition. JR was pleased with that except that was the same time I moved to Chicago.
While in Chicago, I still returned frequently to Orlando to visit friends and relatives. Most of the time, I stayed at JR’s place so we could play Scrabble. In 1992, he sold his home on Central Boulevard and moved into the Mize rental property in Gotha, in what I called a doublewide, double-high prefab house.
JR planned to die there in Gotha and until then enjoy the scenic view over the lake; however, he had to deal with his old friend Skip Mize’s mother, Betty, who was a born again Christian and believed homosexuality was a sinful lifestyle, even though her son was gay. Skip shared the rental unit where Bruce lived in Orlando, as shown in the video at the top of this post.
We traveled together to meet common friends and even introduced other friends, like Rick Crocker to JR’s older acquaintances in Columbus, Georgia, as pictured below. Rick lived in Atlanta at the time.
Note: The voicemail messages above are examples of the abusive relationship behaviors we had towards each another. It is totally for humorous purposes and was never taken offensively. Other friends chose not to accompany us sometimes because it was so repulsive to them. JR and I left one friend’s house without taking her on our dinner outing as planned because she couldn’t tolerate the way we behaved with each another.
We also visited Skip and Phil Williams, his partner, frequently in Dade City where they have a very successful gourmet restaurant and accessories store. In the video below, there are clips from one of our trips to Dade City and of their property.
Rick would also visit from Georgia and spend time in Gotha while we played Scrabble on JR’s back porch overlooking the lake, as pictured below. Then in 1993, JR decided it was time for him to take medical leave to deal with his terminal disease and travel for the last times before his death. First, we traveled across the US, then I took him to France where he boarded a train to travel to a remote part of France in a small village where a friend let him stay alone for free. Other friends visited him there, and he was king of the world.
Then in 1994, Troy and I began our relationship. JR already knew Troy as a friend of my nephew. Once we began our relationship, we kept it secret until JR and I returned from the NYC Stonewall 25 Year Celebration, hoping he was in good spirits after we returned home. He thought it was great and was very excited for both of us. Troy immediately became part of our families and learned to play Scrabble, learned from our English knowledge, and went to school to obtain his degrees.
One of JR’s favorite pastimes was AOT (All Over Tan) when we played Scrabble, pictured left. He was not camera shy about his nudity but I preferred shooting with a bit of censored capture. As you can see in this photo, we would sit in the backyard by my pool for hours playing Scrabble, and AOT.
The photo above is JR mimicking the Rolling Stones cover art of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s photo, pictured below. He just wanted to show a bit more stuff with one hand. I took this photo of JR in Hollywood during our US Expedition trip.
Note: I learned an interesting detail about the picture above from the website where I obtained this copy. Shortly after this photo was captured, the drummer quit the band. Click on the picture above to learn more about the final version used on the magazine. After Troy finished his studies and obtained audio recording equipment, JR and Troy recorded audiocassettes that JR would send to his friend Virginia and the Hough family. This was one of the last accomplishments for JR as the end of his life approached.
Note: The above two audio recordings have been modified by removing the musical numbers about which JR comments. This was done to avoid any copyright issues.
Many friends and family members would visit JR over his final years. Some were favorable, others were painful. But JR would always make people feel welcomed in his home. I realize this is a tribute post to JR but I would like to share one thing he said to me in his final days. I say this because I think he would want everyone to know it. While I was carrying him to the shower to cleanup his bed-restricted body, he said, “Frank, you’re the best friend anyone could have.” I thanked him and said it was my pleasure to be his best friend.
He was a wonderful person and his remaining friends, who continue to contact each other, still remind each other how much we miss him. We even joke that we’re channeling his spirit when we exhibit behaviors like he used to do. I still hear him say “DRAW YOUR LETTER” whenever I think of Scrabble.
My Eulogy Video
Note: The music in the above video is not licensed and is not for resale or reuse. This is only being published in honor of our friend, John Rutherford. I hope the distributors will be lenient with their license. As an ad for them, you can purchase a copy of this version of the CD from amazon.com by clicking on the orchestra name below. The movements I used in the video were from Piano Concerto No.5 “Emperor,” written by Ludwig van Beethoven. We attended a couple live performance of this Concerto and played it frequently while playing Scrabble.
One of the significant things I omitted above was a JR favorite event called Dead Man’s Dinner, or DMD for short. This was an event that JR contrived based on prison inmates for their “last meal.” He picked that name so that we could have a sinful meal of foods that are not healthy but that we love to eat, as if it were our last meal on earth. Unfortunately, for some friends, it was too monotonous because it was always the same food: fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans (this could be variable styles, e.g. casserole, al dente), rolls, and banana pudding for dessert. All had to be home made and not store bought, pre-prepared, except for the rolls. Below is a picture of Les Stone cooking the fried chicken at his house for our DMD, in JR’s honor – 2 days before the 10th year anniversary of his departure, with Troy Mueller, Linda Piantieri, and myself.