Garey Lambert, AIDS activist Projectionist, writer lauded as 'the voice of the affected population'

January 20, 1996|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

Garey Lambert, a tireless and courageous advocate for people with AIDS, lost his own fight against the disease yesterday and died at Johns Hopkins Hospital, surrounded by family and friends. He was 49.

Alfred Garey Lambert III, known best by his middle name, died late in the afternoon with his daughter, Kathryn, 17, holding his hand. More than 20 people from his very wide circle of friends had gathered in his room as his life ran out with the day.

"He was awake and alert until the very end," said Dr. Richard Chaisson, the director of the Hopkins AIDS service who spent much of the day with Mr. Lambert.

Mr. Lambert's last words were: "I hope you all know how much I love you."

Said his father, Alfred Garey Lambert Jr.: "I've never seen so many gestures of affection."

Mr. Lambert had spent nearly 14 years as projectionist at the Charles Theater. The projection booth at the art house became a sort of clubhouse for John Waters, Pat Moran and their trash-film crews.

"He was the Harvey Milk of Baltimore," Mr. Waters said. Mr. Milk was a gay rights activist assassinated in San Francisco. "Even at the end he could stir things up."

Mr. Lambert died from a form of pneumonia associated with AIDS. He was admitted to the hospital for the last time a week earlier.

He was diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS more than a decade ago, and the diagnosis forged a fearless and dogged campaigner on behalf of people with AIDS. To describe him, people used such words as "soldier," "warrior" and "gladiator."

Yet he was equally apt to be called "generous" and "humble."

"Garey was unique," said Rawley Grau, editor of the Baltimore Alternative, the monthly newspaper that serves the gay community. "The loss to the AIDS community is immense. Essentially, there is no one to replace Garey."

Executive editor at his death, Mr. Lambert had written for the Alternative since shortly after its 1986 founding. This month's issue has four articles by him, including his column "AIDS Update."

"He was the voice of the affected population," said Dr. John G. Bartlett, chief of the infectious disease division at Johns Hopkins who became one of Mr. Lambert's best friends. "He was a really influential person."

With Ms. Moran and Lynda Dee, Mr. Lambert was a founder of AIDS Action Baltimore. Both were at the hospital when he died.

"He was a very aggressive fighter against the disease," said Ms. Moran, who now helps cast the TV series "Homicide." "Lots of people benefited from Garey's understanding and ability to inform people about this disease."

Mr. Lambert served on the AIDS Clinical Trials Test Group at the National Institutes of Health and the Johns Hopkins AIDS Service Community Advisory Board.

"He was totally committed to the battle against AIDS," Dr. Chaisson said. "He refused to yield to unsatisfactory answers. And he kept everyone's attention focused on fighting the disease.

"Garey lived through a terrible illness with incredible dignity and poise," the doctor said.

Mr. Lambert was born in Alexandria, Va. He had an English degree from the University of Baltimore, and he served three years in the Army stationed in Germany, where he was an announcer for Armed Forces Radio. He was an announcer at WCBM in Baltimore about a year.

His body is to be cremated and his ashes strewn along the banks of the York River in Virginia, where his grandmother lived in a place he loved. Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

Survivors in addition to his father and daughter include his mother, Evelyn; his sister, Carolyn; his brother, Robert; and his partner, David VanderMark, all of Baltimore.

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