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Handwritten notebook a reminder of lives lost during AIDS epidemic

Lambda Archives preserving LGBTQ+ history in San Diego
LGBT Archive pic 3.jpg
Posted at 8:48 PM, Jun 10, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In the late 1980s during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Gary Cheatham started doing laundry for his friends who were sick with a virus that had already killed thousands.

Cheatham’s simple gesture came at a time of great fear and when many patients were living in isolation.

There was so much demand for his helping hand that Cheatham quit his job and started a nonprofit called Auntie Helen’s Fluff ‘n’ Fold laundry service. The charity did laundry for thousands of AIDS patients.

Their names are listed in an old handwritten notebook stored inside Lambda Archives of San Diego.

“As people started dying that were clients of his, he would start crossing their names off of the lists in the notebook,” said Nicole Verdes, managing director of Lambda Archives.

The notebook is one of the most memorable pieces of LGBTQ+ history stored at Lambda Archives.

From old posters critical of the government’s handling of the crisis to boxes of magazines and newspapers, the nonprofit is preserving and sharing the story of LGBTQ+ people in San Diego.

Watch the video above to see the tour Verdes gave to ABC 10News reporter Austin Grabish showcasing some of the history inside the archives.