FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Fresno’s LGBTQ+ community lost an icon this week. Jeffery Robinson led the way for the pride parade in the Tower District. He has also launched programs and safe spaces for those seeking support. On Saturday, his loved ones gathered to mourn and honor the “gay mayor of Fresno.”
“It hurt. It really, really hurt,” said Bianca Lopez of the Fresno Rainbow Pride Parade committee. “On a personal level, I felt like I lost my father figure. For much of my adult life, he guided me.
The activist died Wednesday of a heart attack.
“It’s not just a shock to me, but it’s a shock to a lot of people,” shared her husband, Juan Bustamente. “I knew how much people loved him, but to hear him, especially from the kids in our youth group…it meant a lot.”
The 60-year-old was one of the Valley’s most prominent LGBTQ+ advocates.
“Just from all the programs he started, especially the youth group in the early to mid-90s. Hundreds, thousands of kids and teens were given a safe space,” Lopez said. He also posted pink pages listing gay-owned, gay-operated, and gay-friendly businesses.”
He was CEO of Community Link, a nonprofit promoting the rights of those who identify as LGBTQ+, bringing the Pride Parade to Fresno more than 30 years ago.
“He left an indelible mark on all of us. The influence he had, the fight that will continue with all of us,” Lopez said. “We will take up the torch, I think we are even more inspired than ever.”
“His life was our community, the gay, lesbian and bisexual community was his family, and I was privileged to be a part of it,” Bustamante said.
Her husband said Robinson planned to retire on February 25.
“And I took him to the hospital on February 24, and he was never able to come out,” Bustamente explained. “People would ask him ‘What are you going to do, are you going to be bored?’ and he says ‘No, I’m going to start living my life.’ We had to cancel plans.
For now, his community is looking forward to this year’s Pride Parade on June 4, which will be held in person for the first time since the pandemic began. The organizers are looking for donations and volunteers. For more information, visit their website fresnorainbowpride.com