John Graham Wilkinson
February 25, 1948 – December 28, 2019
John Wilkinson, devoted husband, dedicated community activist, and award winning Eastman Kodak employee, died peacefully in his home after a courageous battle with cancer on December 28, 2019. John was generous with his time and always thought of others first, never hesitating to do a favor or lend a helping hand. He displayed a remarkable ability to empathize with people, which made him a pleasure to be around, regardless of the situation. John easily made friends, who quickly discovered how thoughtful and intelligent he was. Never one to raise his voice in anger, John persuaded by tact and compromise, or humor and love, and these traits enabled him to be an exemplary team leader and someone to be admired. Forever loved and cherished by his life-time partner, David Davenport, John was also loved by David's family, who quickly adopted John as one of their own.
Born in Seattle WA, John was the only child of Sparks and Beulah Wilkinson. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1966, where he received a one-year scholarship to attend the University of Washington from the Kiwanis Club. John spent three years studying at the U.W. and was elected President of the local chapter of Phi Kappa Tau, before moving to Portland, OR, in 1969.
When he arrived in Portland, John volunteered to work as a studio camera operator and audio and floor director at KCTV. He also worked at the underground newspaper, the "Willamette Bridge," as a lay-out editor. While at the newspaper, he challenged the editorial staff when they refused to print a letter from a gay man seeking companionship. John was passionate about civil rights, and being a gay man, he felt strongly that a prejudice towards gays existed at the paper and in society as well. John soon set about correcting the situation by calling for the first Gay Liberation meeting ever held in Oregon. John has since been credited, by the Oregon Historical Society, for co-founding the Oregon Gay Liberation movement in 1970. John and co-founder Holly Hart were honored in 1995 by the placing of a plaque at the Centenary Wilbur Church in Portland, site of the first meetings.
In 1974 John began a decades long and distinguished career with Eastman Kodak. He won the Joseph F. Iadarola, Western Region, Service Excellence Award in 1990 and 2001, and was greatly admired and liked by co-workers and customers alike. John also fought for recognition of Domestic Partner Benefits by Eastman Kodak, which were eventually adopted by the company. John retired from Kodak in 2009.
In 1978, and John and David moved to San Francisco, where John became active in the Stop Aids Project, becoming a discussion group leader and serving on the board of directors for several years. The couple returned to Seattle in 1987 to care for John's widowed, ailing mother, and soon John was involved in the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights in his home town. In a matter of months, John was appointed to be a member of Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities, which later became the Commission for Lesbians and Gays. John served a little over two and half years, working on the Domestic Partnership Ordinance with Shelly Cohen. The ordinance was enacted and then challenged in 1990, and John became a member of the steering committee for the "No on 35," campaign, which formed to protect it. The campaign was successful and John was recognized for his efforts by Mayor Norm Rice.
1995 was a momentous year for John, as it was the beginning of a long and hard fought battle for marriage equality. After attending a business luncheon where Evan Wolfson gave an impassioned presentation on the national movement for gay marriage, John quickly began a grassroots effort to organize a local group devoted to the movement. In October of 1995, from the living room of his home in north Seattle, John and a group of dedicated men and women met to start the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington.
The LMA primarily served as resource for people interested in the subject of gay marriage. Members provided out-reach to the gay, lesbian and straight community, lobbied government officials, and fought for and promoted the right for gay and lesbian couples to marry. John served as president of the LMA for the first three years, and despite numerous setbacks and disappointments over the next decade, witnessed in November 2012 the passage of Referendum 74, the Washington State ballot measure legalizing same-sex marriage. Then, on December 9, 2012, John and David, at a Seattle City Hall event hosted by Mayor Mike McGinn, became part of the group to be the first legally married gay and lesbian couples in the state.
Before he became ill, John loved to visit and explore the Methow Valley with his husband, staying at the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop. The couple also enjoyed taking local day trips, where they would hike, rock hound, and John could engage in his hobby, photography. John was an accomplished amateur photographer and became an expert in the art of digital photography. John also enjoyed weight training and kept busy around the house on various projects, and he loved helping David care for their two cats, Pete and Sam.
John is survived by his husband, David Davenport, by John's in-laws, Mike and Cathy Davenport and their children, Tom Davenport and Elizabeth Hull Davenport and his cousin Vicki Wilkinson Culley. He is also survived by David's late brother's sons, Ashton Davenport and Derek Davenport, and by David's half-brothers, Tony Scaturro and Dan Scaturro.
Celebration of John's life will be held on February 8, 2020 at 2:00 PM at Evergreen Washelli Funeral Home in their Tribute Center 11111 Aurora Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98133, reception following in the adjacent celebration hall from 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM.
Celebration of Life service Evergreen-Washelli Tribute center
Saturday, February 8, 2020
John Graham Wilkinson
December 28, 2020
To my husband, my lover, my friend.
Now a whisper on the wind.
A sunny day was in your smile,
Your loving arms made life worthwhile.
Early this morning,
Under our Maple tree.
I scattered ashes of you -
and pieces of me.
Then I looked at our photo,
From so long ago...
In black and white only,
It’s my favorite, you know.
Oh how lucky I was,
To be chosen by you.
I’ll love you my dearest,
Till my time comes due.
February 8, 2020
John Graham Wilkinson was one of the great human rights figures in the history of the Pacific Northwest. I am writing this on February 7, 2020. Today is the 50th anniversary of the article John wrote that helped launch what would become Oregon’s LGBTQ movement.
Having inspired people by the article, John went about organizing them. In the process, he met Dave Davenport who soon joined him and became his life partner as well.
John and Dave eventually moved to Seattle where they cofounded Washington State’s marriage equality movement in their living room. After a long struggle, they succeeded. The two got married shortly thereafter.
I am sorry that John is gone and I offer my condolences to Dave. But in a sense, John will always be with us through the countless people whose lives he has bettered.
February 6, 2020
Although the time I spent with John was at Kodak San Francisco in the '70s, the photo I enclose was taken during a visit to him and David during the next phases of our respective lives, and it shows John as I remember him—smiling (though that *could* sometimes be a *smirk*), self-possessed and confident, and deservedly happy in his life. We were kindred spirits, technicians with a wider view of things and a shared sense of humor and an appreciation of the absurdity of much of what was going on in the world. We spent many an evening after work in a good piano bar, putting things to rights, at least in our imaginations. He was perhaps the most fearless person I have ever met. I was very gratified to re-connect with him online. One of the people you meet who stay with you.
February 4, 2020
I thoroughly enjoyed talking about beer with John, he was quite the aficionado and had a great pallet. I have fond memories of visiting local bottle shops and returning home with a wide variety of delicious beer to enjoy. We had many pints together while visiting with family.
February 3, 2020
To my Uncle John,
I will miss your smile, the smell of your coffee in the morning and the sound of the newspaper in your hand. I will miss the wonderful way in how " Yes, Dear" came so easily to you whether it be a request for another road trip, an unexpected 11yr niece needing to find comfort in your home or to please play some music for the family impromptu pushup contest. Thank you for teaching me what it is to be a good partner in both love and life. I love you.
January 31, 2020
When I think of John, I can hear his laugh, see him reading newspapers then moving on to read those newspapers via a phone or tablet, and holding his beloved to-go coffee cup.
His laugh was always one of delight and true enjoyment.
And he was so smart! We shared what books we were reading, including a current book he was reading about physics. He could converse about anything with anyone.
And the world was always put right when he had the day’s first hot cup of Starbucks in hand. I learned he could order his drink of choice by using hand signs rather than by providing a verbal request when a shop was really busy. A smile forms picturing him doing so.
Oh, the gifts this humble man had!
John made the world a better place, working endlessly on matters of equality; endeavors which touched thousands of lives in positive ways.
I am so thankful to have known John. Everyday he is loved and missed so much.
Thank you Dave for sharing your beloved with our family.
Vicki Wilkinson Culley
January 21, 2020
Deepest condolences to Dave and his family. John was a great help to me in our geneaology project and in sharing family photos and history. I will really miss his informative and humorous Facebook posts, as well. I am sad and so sorry for your loss.
January 19, 2020
To us, John was a real-life hero. I was at that early meeting with Evan and later in their living room as LMA was started. So often, John kept positive when, at times, things looked bleak. I think of him as the consummate terminal-optimist. To my husband and me, John was our role model for how to approach our work, to change our society. And, John had GREAT vision. Rest in peace!
January 18, 2020
When I remember John I think of a man that had many interests and creative endeavors in life.
He took wonderful photographs.
He was also a fun guy to be with. He had a clever sense of humor.
He will be missed.
January 16, 2020
I first met John over 50 years ago, after discharge from the Navy, during a visit to see Dave in Portland. I was immediately impressed with this intelligent, kind, thoughtful person who happened to love my brother. I remember thinking: “Wow Dave, you’ve found a great partner!”
As the years passed, we always looked forward to visits with Uncles Dave and John. Whether it was family gatherings at 4th of July fireworks, birthdays, holidays and trips to the toy store for a surprise gift for Thomas and Elizabeth (and even their friends), we loved sharing so many of those good times together. John had a gentle and dry sense of humor, which we all appreciated. I remember talking with him about Dave (and Cathy’s) love of cats vs. love of spouses, and smiling, John said: “I don’t go there.”
I came to admire John’s qualities of compassion and willingness to work for change that would affect so many lives and are such a tribute to his legacy. John was humble about his achievements, and it was always interesting to learn about his ongoing work. I also admired John’s courage and grace in his fight with his last illness. But that’s who he was, admirable in so many ways.
Thank you John, for loving my brother and being a part of our family life. You will live in our hearts forever.
January 16, 2020
My most cherished memories of John are of times during family reunions during the 1990's and early 2000's in south/west Oregon. John was always a joy to be around and conversate with on any topic. He also was pretty good on the football field during the family reunion football games.
I also have a very fond memory of the time John and David when they both came to my work office when I was a fire engine captain with the US Forest Service in Cave Junction, Oregon (I believe sometime in 2008). John was very fascinated with all the science measures involved in wildfire ecology as we enjoyed a long conversation on the subject that afternoon. I have always remembered that day with John and always will.
January 16, 2020
I first met John at a Stop AIDS Project retreat back in 1986. Being a young gay man just coming out, John and David were a big part of the very first circle of gay friends I made. They took me under their wings, gave me a place to stay in San Francisco when I needed one and were there to point me in the right direction. Although they moved to Seattle, I made it a point to stay in touch and although over the years we communicated with each other less, they both still held a special place in my heart. I’ve known John since I was 19 and am now 54 and I can’t even express my sorrow and sense of loss. Thank you John for being a dear friend for a big portion of my life. I love you and you will be missed for the rest of my life.
January 14, 2020
John, sure will miss you when I get up to Seattle. Having known you and Dave for all these years, you guys are part of my family.
will miss seeing you. Dave, sure sorry I am so far away, but I will see you when I can. My thoughts are with you. Love you, Hembo
January 13, 2020
I met John and David in San Francisco in 1978. They were the most handsome and nicest two men in town. As a photographer who was just starting his career I knew I had to photograph them. This is the photo. Even though John was dealing with his health issues he took the time last year to be supportive and encourage me to be positive with my own cancer. He was a class act and a great gentleman.
Ben J Plumly, Jr
January 13, 2020
I first met John and Dave in San Francisco in 1977. We became fast friends and decided to become roommates in a beautiful Victorian flat in SF. They taught me so much, John, already an accomplished photographer and Dave an incredible budding artist. We have remained best friends always. They will always be my brothers.
Damn, Johnny, I'm gonna miss you. Dave, I'm here for you 24/7.
R.I.P. BIG JOHN
January 13, 2020
Dave, we are so sorry for your loss. Thank you for being there for him always. His long battle was yours also, and take comfort in knowing that he is now at peace.
We have many sunny memories of John; Thanksgiving at your house, the parties in Karl’s backyard. Great stories he shared and fun conversations . We miss him so much, but are so grateful to have known him.
You and your family are in our thoughts.
Bill and Byron
January 12, 2020
Hello Dear, it’s me.
I miss you so much, nothing feels right anymore. I know my life will never be the same, but I also know you want me to be strong, and I will.
Dear, our friends and loved ones have been wonderful - so generous in their love and support. I can’t think of what I would do without them.
I am so proud of the way you touched people’s lives, how you made society a better place, even for people who never heard of you. You were always modest about your accomplishments, but I won’t be.
I’m planning a Celebration of Life for you, hon, I think you would like it. I know you will be with us in spirit and we will cherish your memory. I will always love you as much as the first day we met.
Your loving husband,
Shelli Stoughton Whitmarsh
January 12, 2020
My condolences to Dave, and all John’s loved ones.
John was a lovely human being and he and Dave’s long, loving relationship is an inspiration.
January 11, 2020
John and Dave and I have been friends for almost 50 years..They were my neighbors and then we moved to San Francisco together and lived together there... John was the kindest most humorful person... he always found time for others...Truly a great human being.. he cared about our animals and our planet...and he cared for many people and equality for all, he changed peoples lives....
John and Dave changed my life... all wonderful. I will miss John greatly....My Love and heart goes out to Dave, left behind too soon...I have many photographs that john took, he was an excellent photographer...I can't believe that he is gone...much love, Suzanne
January 3, 2020
John and I were great pals at Roosevelt High School, graduating in 1966. In the following years John has lived a life of courage and love. I send deep condolences to Dave, other family members and the many friends of this special man.