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Peggy Stabile: Dick Bongard was a fierce advocate of PFLAG in SCV

Posted: January 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Members of the Santa Clarita chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, were saddened to learn of the death of Dick Bongard, loyal member since 1992, past treasurer and catalyst behind completing the very complicated paperwork that moved the group from its position as a satellite of PFLAG LA into becoming its own nationally affiliated entity.

On a dusky Tuesday evening in May 1992, Dick, retired from LAPD after 30 years of service, and his wife, Isobel, found themselves on the doorstep of a Valencia Hills home, not knowing what to expect.

Their daughter, Debra, had told them several years earlier that she was lesbian, and the Bongards, like most parents in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, felt very alone and uneducated about the issue.

Wanting to be supportive of Debra, they heard of a local parent group whose goal was to support and advocate for their gay children. They wanted to know more.

Dick, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, a complement of snow-white hair covering his head, was a commanding presence. During that first meeting he grilled the moderators, seeking answers to the questions that he had been compiling and which he had written down on his ever-present yellow legal pad.

Apparently he got those answers that night, as he was able to resume a wonderful father-daughter relationship with Debra and he became one of the fiercest promoters of the group.

An excellent writer, Dick submitted many letters to The Signal, often to combat the myths and misinformation about homosexuality that many Santa Claritans believed as factual and, equally as important, to support the civil rights of his daughter and of all of the gay members of our community.

He continued to educate himself by attending regional, state and national PFLAG conventions, always returning to our local group energized and determined to defeat homophobia at all levels.

He proudly marched along with Isobel, Debra, her partner, Julia, and their young son, Jacob, annually in both the Los Angeles and Long Beach Gay Pride Parades and was the first to volunteer to staff the PFLAG booths at the festivals that followed.

But Dick’s specialty was in relating to the gay youth of our community who felt so lost and alone, as well as the many parents who came to our PFLAG meetings wondering what went wrong — parents who asked themselves, “What made our children different from the others?”

PFLAG member Roland Zwick aptly explains the impact that Dick, with his hearty laugh and twinkling eyes, had upon others: “He offered instant love and acceptance, was always ready with a kind and supportive word, and never allowed anyone to feel unloved or unvalued in his presence.

“For a gay person, who is often made to feel both of those things by an unthinking society, that acceptance can seem like a healing balm or a place of refuge in an often-hostile and dangerous world.”

Dick provided all this. Parents, too, were comforted and inspired by Dick’s poignant story of his journey to acceptance and unconditional love for his daughter, Debra, and her family.

PFLAG Santa Clarita was blessed to have Dick numbered among its members, and he will be greatly missed by the many whose hearts and minds he touched over the years.

To Isobel and the rest of his family, we offer our most sincere condolences at this difficult time.

Peggy Stabile is a Santa Clarita Valley resident and co-founder of PFLAG Santa Clarita.

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