The Hat Sisters’ Legacy Lives On: Farewell to John Michael Gray

Studds Award HonoreesThe Hat Sisters, Tim O’Connor (left) & the late John Michael Gray (right) are the 2017 Studds Award honorees.

Nothing will ever be like The Hat Sisters’ work and charisma

By: Chris Gilmore/TRT Reporter—

On September 24 the LGBTQ and Allied community in eastern Mass. and beyond learned of the passing of one giving, iconic legend of the treasured duo known as “The Hat Sisters.”

John Michael Gray, a South End activist and art educator, succumbed to lung cancer in his final days. But his passing is not what made the man great; it was what he did for others with his life and his life partner Tim O’Connor.

The Rainbow Times extends its deepest, heartfelt gratitude and condolences to O’Connor, their family and friends.

According to the Cape Cod Times, “O’Connor and Gray met in the summer of 1984 at a dinner party in Boston. Both men liked to dress up.”

The iconic duo had celebrated their 33rd Provincetown Carnival together this year, according to a quote O’Connor recently gave to the paper. Their favorite hat was created in 1987 for the March on Washington, according to One New Englandan online publication.

The Hat Sisters participated in many fundraising events, locally and nationally. Their giving extended to, and did not go unnoticed, for charitable organizations dealing with various causes they held dear to their hearts.

“Mayor Thomas Menino and his wife, Angela, attended the Hat sisters’ wedding,” O’Connor told the Cape Cod Times recently. They also attended Mayor Menino’s funeral.

The union, compassion, creativity and art that came with both men cannot be replicated, many say. The remaining Hat Sister told the Cape Cod Times that he could not imagine wearing fabulous hats anymore. “

It’s the end of an era, which really upsets me because we just got these heels that are really great for fall,” he joked.

A GoFundMe page was started to help The Hat Sisters’ other half cover the medical expenses and financial stress caused by Gray’s health treatments. Some of the fundraising page reads: [The Hat Sisters] “ … joyously and generously entertained people from all walks of life with their unique and artistic fashion statement. They did not walk away from controversy. They walked towards acceptance, breaking down barriers of prejudice wherever they went. Just as they walked for us then, we will walk for them now.”

Gray also left one of his last messages on that page—with special gratitude to the P-Town area.

“Dearest Friends and Family, It is quite amazing to receive the daily love and support of so many as I continue my battle against cancer. I continue to believe in the medicine working within my body and the spiritual support of the extended Provincetown community. Thank you to my husband for his continued organizational skills, guidance, support and LOVE. xoxoxoxoxox” -John Michael Gray”

As of the closing of this story, two tributes were announced by O’Connor for Gray. One to be held on October 11th in Provincetown at St. Peter’s Church, 1:00 p.m., and the other one on October 16th in Boston, at the Arlington Street Church at 1:30 p.m.

Their legacy lives on in people’s minds and hearts, in the giving, the creativity and meaning behind the hats—the very many hats that for over 25 years made them carry the name “The Hat Sisters.”

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1 Comment on "The Hat Sisters’ Legacy Lives On: Farewell to John Michael Gray"

  1. I am so saddened to learn of the passing of John Michael Gray and offer my heartfelt condolences to Tim O’Connor. More than most, the fun and mad-capped duo were always a bright spot of reverie sunshine at events and marches during the saddest, darkest and most dangerous times for our community. You will be missed, John Michael, and our hats are off to both of you forever.

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