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William Stern

ARRIVED   January 17, 1957
DEPARTED   April 4, 2022


  • I was shocked and saddened to see that Bill has passed on. I met Bill in the early 80’s when in lived in Boston and we became friends. We spent many a night in the Boston clubs and enjoyed talking about music and what the latest hits were going to be. He was a witty conversationalist and we spent much time laughing and talking about all things that mattered in those early days of the 80’s. We stayed in touch over the years and met up one time in Hawaii and whenever i was passing thru San Francisco. We picked up right where we left off. I’ll miss those fun times with him – he was a free spirit that knew how to enjoy life! Rest now Bill, my friend.

  • Barry’s memory of Bill:

    Bill, Bob and myself played in a band called The Few when we were just kids in 1981. I was just 21. The three of us met in line waiting for Clash tickets to go on sale in Harvard Square. Unfortunately we never played a live show out of the basement of Bob’s house but we would play for friends and it was great fun

  • Jack’s connection

    I got to know Bill during our junior year in France. He always shined from his brilliance- his exuberance and lust for life , but also his intellect. He was so knowledgeable about so many topics. I learned a lot from him- not just about art and literature and other topics he was passionate about- he had such an uncanny ability to bring his playful humor to help me and others to see things in novel ways. I was impressed how he kept his positive outlook and humor in spite of the challenges he faced.

    He will be deeply missed by so many.

  • Jackson’s Memory

    In my years at UCSB and before and since he was the only person I’ve ever known, of any ‘gender’ who had an aesthetic sense. For the grad student presentation we overturned the standard wqith two art historians rather than one. We did two different takes on Mapplethorpe’s “Black Book”. I dressed up [tie, glasses with no lenses] and he dressed down, New York punk. More fun than I’ve ever had with art.

  • Genevieve writes,
    I was one of Billy’s many friends and loved him. We lived together in Santa Barbara for a couple of years during grad school, from about 1994 to 1996, and had a lot of fun. I have many great memories of him. One of my favorites is a road trip we took to Taos, NM with our friend Paige Payne in ’93. It occurred to us 18 hours into the drive that it snowed in NM (who knew?) and we were pretty unprepared to do much more than read and drink in the hotel room and hot tub. 😉
    His spirit: compassion, adventure, happiness in the face of adversity and a lust for life. He’ll so be missed.

  • It is such a sad time for me and my family. Losing a loved one like Bill is so difficult but many of his friends have reached out with stories and memories of there connection to Bill. I have received so many wonderful emails and hope to share some with everyone. Here is a part of one sent by his friend Phil.

    He kept a little kind of teapot or some such thing that he purchased on his trip to Morocco (with three others of his Junior Year pals, me included). That purchase would end up draining his funds, which I am sure he did not realize at the time. We all pretty much emptied our pockets without much thought. At the end of the trip, we had not, between us, one coin to buy so much as a breakfast roll for the last 24 hours of the long ferry/train-ride home! Now, memory being what it is, Bill may have his own story behind the provenance of that little treasure which I hope he kept and gave to one of you. If he did not keep it, as he would have said, “c’est la vie”.
    In any event, his memory was uniquely better than most. But, I am sticking to my story!

    There is an item on that same trip that he wanted and did not get. This was a little bottle of Coca Cola he had bought on which “Coca Cola” was lettered in Arabic. After drinking his coke, he slipped the empty bottle into his coat as we boarded a bus out of Town. But, before the bus pulled away, the store owner followed us onto the bus to retrieve the bottle and we ended up getting harangued in a mixture of Arabic and French; we considered ourselves lucky to have gotten out of there with no other consequences. Again, it is possible that Bill had a better or different (or both) description of that little adventure.

    As you can tell, I have some great memories of Bill and will continue to cherish them.


  • Bill’s Obituary

    William Alan Stern, age 65, passed peacefully on April 4, 2022, in his San Francisco home.

    Born on January 17th, 1957, Bill was raised in Bolton, CT. He graduated “Best Dressed” and Valedictorian of his class at Bolton High School. Bill went on to the University of Connecticut and studied abroad at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, France. He received his master’s degree in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, while also serving as a curator on a French and American Impressionism exhibit at the Springfield Museum of Art. He then spent two summer terms at Trinity College, Oxford, England, and later went on to receive his Ph.D. in Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While attending classes there, he taught undergraduate courses in Art History, served a two-year term as Graduate Student President and founded and edited an interdisciplinary publication titled Thresholds: Viewing Culture. After successfully completing his expansive education, he moved to San Francisco and settled in the sunny Mission district where he made his home for over three decades.

    Throughout his life, Bill adored all varieties of culture. He was very fond of the theater, poetry, literature, fine art, films and photography. He was a true patron of the arts and collected beautiful works to display on his walls. He also had a passionate love for music. At a young age he was an accomplished pianist and over the years he spent much of his time developing his skills as a guitarist. He started out playing with his garage band, then his talents carried him to the stage in Boston, and years later into the recording studio with his rock band, Blue Ruin. Bill always had a guitar close at hand and was still writing and recording new songs until his passing. He loved to listen to all genres of music, attend concerts and operas, compose, play, sing and dance.

    Bill also had a strong affinity for travel and an eye for beautiful places. He loved exploring other cultures: the adventure, the architecture, the food, the art, the people. Bill traveled extensively, always documenting his trips with frame-worthy photography — from New England to New Zealand, Cornwall to Key West — he collected fantastic stories, memories and treasured mementos. He followed a distillery tour through Scotland, hiked the mountains in Costa Rica and loved the rainforest in Puerto Rico. He went to Egypt, Morocco, Iceland and Rome, with so many other stops along the way…Paris being the closest to his heart.

    After being diagnosed with HIV [in 1988] and surviving many arduous medical treatments (some of which led to compromised eyesight), Bill discovered the miraculous power of massage. He pursued this modality as an empowering healing tool and completed a certification in Swedish & Deep tissue massage in order to support many others in the HIV+ and AIDS community with restorative touch. In 2000, his compassion and drive for giving back compelled him to found his own non-profit organization, Positive Being. This was an inspiring organization whose primary goal was to bring together the power of touch, empathy and community through massage, retreats and educational workshops. Positive Being fosters the integration of the physical, healing and spiritual nature of our bodies to affect positive change in the health, self-esteem and well-being of anyone with HIV. Bill also led an ongoing support group and participated in fundraising events for the AIDS Foundation.

    Bill had many passions and talents, but his greatest contributions were his undying spirit, relentless perseverance and fearless heart. Losing dear friends and partners to the AIDS epidemic broadened his capacity for deep joy and love, while he faced his own ailments with dignity, strength and courage. Throughout his journey, Bill always felt that empathy and human connection were vital to living fully. He made life-long friendships and relationships through his ability to connect with people on many different levels. He was a gentle listener and knew how to offer support and advice when needed. He was also a gifted storyteller, wonderful writer and enjoyed bringing out stories in others. He was resolute about maintaining a positive attitude and loved to laugh and celebrate all manners of occasions, be they big or small. He frequently held social gatherings in his home and was a phenomenal host, thoughtfully curating all the elements of a memorable soirée — the musical playlist, the hors d’oeuvres, the lighting — his events were filled with all varieties of stimulating conversation, philosophy and laughter. He had a true joie de vivre. His genuine smile, sense of humor and intelligent wit were all part of his unforgettable charm, as was his kindness and compassionate spirit. His friends and family cherish the memories of the times they shared with Bill.

    Bill was preceded in death by his father, William Frederick, and is survived by his mother, Victoria, brother, Timothy and wife Barbara, his sister Allison and husband Michael, nephew Nick and his partner Lani, nephew Dan and his wife Brittney, as well as beloved aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

    Although we are mourning that Bill is no longer with us, we are comforted knowing that his passing was peaceful and that he is at rest. In lieu of flowers, we are asking anyone who would like to donate to please give to either Positive Being or Shanti Project (another volunteer organization that brought Bill much support, healing and friendship).

  • Eric Peter Jansen writes:

    I called him Bill, as that’s the name he was using when we met 21 years ago at a queer swing dance club in Oakland. We were dancing partners for quite some time. He loved to dance and loved music, introducing me to many performers. He also introduced me to the Billys, and to Body Electric massage school. In fact, when he was working there he had been trying to convince me for over a year to take the school’s “Celebrating the Body Erotic” weekend workshop (if I remember the name right), and finally one day called me from work and said “Eric, I’m signing you up now, give me your credit card number!” I’m forever grateful he did. Bill was a good friend for two decades, and a model of perseverance as he weathered monumental health challenges. RIP Billy, and peace be with your family and friends.

  • Richard Azzolini writes:

    I received word that William (Billy) Stern died. A more articulate, witty, intelligent and interesting man would be hard to find.
    Billy was a long time survivor of HIV. The new HIV meds. saved him on the brink. But they caused severe vision loss. For someone with a PHd in Art History it was a cruel fate. Billy did not let that or anything else stand in the way of living life to the fullest. It was a joy and sometimes a challenge to know him. He never hesitated to tell you exactly what he was thinking.
    ‘You’re going to wear that !?’ ‘Your choice of music sucks’, ‘your makeup is all wrong !’ I appreciated that (most of the time).
    I will miss him and will remember all the adventures we shared over the years. In these last few months his kidneys were failing. His family is compiling a memorial website. R.I.P dear one.


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