When The Rose Has Faded
By Devyn Sherry
When the rose has faded,
Memory may still dwell on
Her beauty shadowed,
And the sweet smell gone.
That vanishing loveliness,
That burdening breath,
No bond of life hath then,
Nor grief of death.
Tis the immortal thought
Whose passion still
Makes the changing
Oh, thus thy beauty,
Loveliest on earth to me,
Dark with no sorrow, shines
And burns, with thee.
-Walter De La Mare
Nikolas Regimbal sits behind a large wooden desk, the walls around him covered
from floor to ceiling in rainbow-colored flags and printed posters.“When I first learnt
about Joe Rose, I would be confident in saying only around ten students knew who he was,” Regimbal explains.
As president of the Etc. Club, Regimbal oversees all the club’s activities, from
movie nights to protests. Since its founding, the club has served as a safe space for
Dawson’s LGBTQ+ community, striving to support LGBTQ+ students in any way it can.
Nearly everyone has heard about the club and what they do, yet what most people don’t know about the club’s founder and the club’s reason for beginning.
Joe Rose was 23 years old when his life was tragically cut short. An outspoken
activist for gay rights, Rose founded the Etc. Club in 1985 to build a support network for
LGBTQ+ students like himself. By 1989, Rose had contracted AIDS and was staying at a
hospice for people living with the disease. On March 19th of the same year, Rose would
be violently assaulted by a group of teenagers while on his way home from the Atwater
metro station and die shortly after as a result of his injuries.
The story of his death shocked the Montreal gay community, and dozens of
activists banded together to continue the fight that Joe was so passionate about. Rose’s legacy of resistance and solidarity continues to influence Montreal to this day, and now, thirty
years after his death, one important question remains: What can the people of Dawson do to commemorate him?
“The first thing we need to do is to make people aware,” says Regimbal. “These
acts of despicable violence still happen today, and I believe that the best thing we could
do is talk about it. Talk about how it affected the community back then, and now.” In the
club space, a poster on the wall displays Rose’s name alongside countless others who were victims of violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Some belong to other activists who, like Rose, lost their lives for refusing to hide who they were. Others were children,
betrayed by the families and communities, often ending their own lives after being
subjected to constant abuse by the very people meant to protect them.
Despite all this, awareness of Joe Rose and others like him is limited within
Dawson. The only reminders of his existence within the school reside in room 2C.10:
the Etc. Club’s base of operations.
It wasn’t always that way though. In May of 2013, a plaque honoring Rose was
put up in Conrod’s for all to see , although its stay there was short lived - the plaque
disappeared in the years following its unveiling. to this day no one knows who took it
down, or why.
Daniel Boyer, coordinator of Student Services, spoke briefly about the
disappearance, saying, “I don’t think there was any malicious intent in removing the
plaque. Everybody was very happy that it was up there”. Boyer says that there are plans to replace it soon, and that, after all these years, it’s high time for another unveiling.
When asked about Rose, Boyer smiles and nods. “He was way ahead of his time.
Back in those days, it would’ve taken a lot of bravery to start the club that he did here and
for him to be an advocate. We would definitely want to honor someone like that.”
On March 19th, the Etc. Club will host a vigil in memory of Rose and the new
plaque will go up. While these events are incredibly important, they should also be
viewed as a starting point. They are a reminder of the victories won by the LGBTQ+
community, but also of the people we’ve lost. A reminder of the fight that we take up
every day on behalf of those who are still suffering.
Most of all though, the vigil is a testament to the bravery of a young man who was
proud of who he was, and a promise that his memory may still live on.
Photo by Marta Branco/ via: Pexels