Jim Obergefell’s tribute to Edie Windsor

The pink hat with the black band. Faded from much time spent in the sun, but still pink. Was it a Panama hat or a fedora? Or something in-between? It really doesn’t matter because the hat was Edie Windsor, and it enjoyed a place of prominence on September 15, 2017 when family, friends, and admirers gathered at Temple Emanu-El to pay our respects and say good-bye to Edie.

Set on the raised marble platform at the front of the temple, resting on a table wrapped by the fuchsia scarf she wore to the Supreme Court, it was an homage to Edie that many of us missed upon first entering. It was only later, when the eulogies began that we noticed her hat and scarf. And the memories – and tears – began to flow.

While wearing the hat at her backyard barbecue in the Hamptons as a benefit for the LGBTQ Network, Edie was the consummate host, welcoming friends and strangers alike into her home to raise money for something she cared about. Edie gave of her time, energy, and money to support those causes and organizations she believed in, such as SAGE, the LGBT Community Center of New York, and many more.

(Jim Obergefell, Chris Garvin, Edie Windsor, Todd Sears) 

Having paired the hat with a pink blouse and black leather pants, Edie charmed everyone at a party. Edie was in her element, doing what she did best – treat strangers as if they were longtime friends, catching up and chatting about shared memories when she was actually meeting someone for the first time. I know what that experience is like, feeling like nothing else exists because this brilliant, feisty woman was focused on me and our conversation. Edie had this way of making everyone she met feel special, noticed, alive.

Walking the beach in the Hamptons, eyes shaded by the pink hat, Edie never tired, leaving it up to one of us to say it was time to turn back. Tireless seems an inadequate description for Edie, a trailblazer in the world of technology as a young woman and a hero to the LGBTQ community for bringing down the Defense of Marriage Act. When Edie decided something had to be done, she didn’t rest until it was done.

No pink hat, but the fuchsia scarf was blowing in the breeze as she came down the steps of the Supreme Court with her arms thrown wide and an enormous smile brightening her face, an image of Edie that makes us smile in return.

During the memorial service, we learned that the smile had nothing to do with the Supreme Court but everything to do with love, as Edie broke into that smile and threw her arms wide when she saw her family waiting for her on the steps of the courthouse plaza.

Love is what many of us associate with Edie. Love for her first wife Thea, love for the LGBTQ community, and love for her second wife Judith. And love for equality, without which I would have never proposed to John, the love of my life and, as Edie liked to say,  helped take marriage equality all the way from where she left off.

After many laughs and tears during the service, and attempting to sing Over the Rainbow with voices cracking with emotion, we watched as someone carried the hat and scarf to Judith Kasen-Windsor before we filed out. And the tears began again.


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