Chris Brownlie; Crusader for AIDS Care, Hospices
AIDS-care activist Chris Brownlie, for whom the first Los Angeles County-supported AIDS hospice is named, died of the disease Tuesday at his Silver Lake home. He had been a patient at the hospice until Monday, when he was taken home to die.
Born in Farmington, N.Y., Brownlie, 39, had been active in Los Angeles-area gay and lesbian politics since the early 1970s, when he helped found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center. More recently, he wrote a regular column called “Liberation Politics” in the gay publication The News.
Since the mid-1980s, the one-time greeting card company owner also worked for a variety of AIDS-care projects, including service as a volunteer for AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Minority AIDS Project. He also helped found the nonprofit AIDS Hospice Foundation, an outgrowth of the 1986 Stop AIDS Quarantine Committee, which defeated a state ballot initiative that would have required detention of those testing positive for the human immunodeficiency virus.
In February, 1987, Brownlie learned he had AIDS himself and, after surviving several brushes with death, continued to work for expanded AIDS health care. For a while, it was slow going.
Faced with inaction by the county Board of Supervisors, Hospice Foundation members picketed in front of Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home. Brownlie, meanwhile, appeared before the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS, emotionally demanding: “You find a way for me to die at home in the arms of my loved ones, or a facility in which my loved ones can care for me in dignity.”
When supervisors eventually voted $2 million for AIDS health care, the Hospice Foundation agreed to operate a facility in Elysian Park at the site of Barlow Hospital’s old nursing quarters.
The 25-bed facility was named the Chris Brownlie Hospice, according to foundation President Michael Weinstein, “because he is a representative of those in the community who have the spirit, courage and grace to fight for those with AIDS.”
The Chris Brownlie Hospice, which has a waiting list, is the largest of its kind in the county and offers 24-hour medical service. Construction is under way on another 25-bed hospice to be operated by the foundation on the grounds of Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.
“If you want a miracle that is better than any drug, work to make life better,” Brownlie said at the start of construction of the Chris Brownlie Hospice.
“Of course, I’ve always hoped that I would not die, that I would live forever,” Brownlie told The Times when the facility opened last December. “But on another level, I actually get a sense of well-being about this experience. Sometimes it becomes very profound in a religious sense at the edges of my consciousness. And this is what the hospice program is about. It will help others accept the fact that death, too, is part of the life experience.”
Brownlie is survived by his father, Robert Brownlie; a sister, Pat Brownlie; brothers Peter and Andrew Brownlie, and his longtime companion, Phill Wilson.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the First Unitarian Church, 2936 W. 8th St. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Chris Brownlie Hospice.