gus_drawn Photo

Residential Care

Free to Be Exactly Who You Are

Died on Jan. 21, 1995 at Bailey-Boushay House

Seattle artist Gus "was a painter his whole life," says his sister, Theodora Geokezas. He was also a lifelong and likable nonconformist.

Theodora Geokezas, Gus's sister
Theodora Geokezas, Gus's sister

As student body president of Lincoln High in 1960, he smiles for the camera at his senior prom-wearing a white tuxedo jacket, dress shorts, and long socks.

When he moved into Bailey-Boushay House for end-of-life care in late 1994, Gus promptly rearranged the furniture. And many a day he walked down the halls singing his favorite operas.

"He was a free spirit," says his wife, Myra White. "That's who Gus was, when he wasn't in the depths of depression."

Bouts of depression took a heavy toll. The stigma of being gay and a recovering alcoholic added to his isolation and turmoil. The loss of  friends to HIV/AIDS seemed unstoppable.

  Image: Gus at his senior prom in 1960.
  Gus chose a memorable tuxedo for the Lincoln High School senior prom in 1960. He was student body president that year.

Theodora understood that her creative younger brother "had a troubled spirit." So she remembers gratefully that even as Gus's health started to decline with AIDS, his life remained full.

In 1992 Gus celebrated his 50th birthday with a big party. That same year he married Myra, his best friend for a decade. And their grandson Eli was born to Myra's daughter.

He was still painting in many mediums in his Ballard art studio-pen and ink, watercolors, pastels, collage.

He continued to make art until he died at Bailey-Boushay on January 21, 1995.

"Gus had the best time at the end of his life. He thrived here," says Myra, who had worked at Bailey-Boushay since it opened. "It was wonderful for me to see.

  Image: Gus and Myra at the Ballard Locks
  Myra owned a sailing school before she worked at Bailey-Boushay House. Here she and Gus enjoy a trip to the Ballard Locks.

"This place let him be exactly who he was and wanted to be. He was free. Everybody loved him. He could do his artwork. He could just be Gus. And not have any of that outside stigma to deal with."

Gus made new friends here. Old friends from his Twelve-Step connections came to visit. Every week, to Gus's delight, his toddler grandson came for dinner.

And when Myra invited Gus to a dressy Christmas office party, 

  Image: Memorial service program cover
  For his memorial service, the program cover was a flower drawn by Gus.

he went-wearing plaid pajamas and a robe. "He looked very much like someone who was going to soon die," Myra says. "But he had a great time."

On his last day, Gus nixed a return to the hospital. He was ready to accept his death.

"He'd been watching Fawlty Towers-he just loved that silly show," Myra says.

"Later the lights were down real low, and Gregorian chants were playing on the stereo. It was so peaceful. And then-and I'll never forget this-two other residents from down the hall came to his doorway. And they sang to Gus."

Gus died peacefully and with dignity, in the company of people he loved.

Five years after Gus died, Theodora and her family moved back to Seattle from Minnesota. She signed up to be a Bailey-Boushay volunteer driver.

"I didn't think of it as paying Bailey-Boushay back," she says. "My life has been so enriched by the people I've met here. Bailey-Boushay is a piece of my life."

1970s: Gus (standing) and Theodora (seated right) at a family party
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