Beloved Member of Local Gay Chorus Dies

Photo via François Ratzel, Facebook.

His smile shone brighter than the lights that lit up his stage. François Ratzel, a longtime member of the South Florida LGBTQ world and active member of community theater, has died.

A boisterous member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida (GMCSF), his death was announced at their event on July 2.

“He gave our community so much to remember,” Patrick Cuccaro said. “From choreographing performances at GMCSF to giving me belly-laffs [sic] in his tutu along with other over-the-top performances at The Foundry. He had a unique way of connecting with me as a performer and as an individual, and I suspect it’s that way for most people who knew him.”

GMCSF’s Edward Otto Zielke said, “Thank you for all the joy you brought to this world and to the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida. I will miss your fabulous spirit and your unapologetic sense of style.”

Ratzel was Native American and born outside San Diego. He eventually moved to New York City before moving to South Florida more than a decade ago. He lost his husband, Steve, to a series of strokes. Ratzel worked as a fitness instructor and in the service industry. But friends say his passions were his cat, cruising, and his mother, Gloria. She said his first performance was as her son.

“He was the featured character in my life.”

They had just taken a trip to Nashville and Dollywood, with no idea it would be their last vacation together.

“I realize how full of life he was. He lived to the fullest. I have comfort in that. I know he had no regrets. I’m so thankful for that,” she said.

Amid the shock and grief, many of his friends, co-stars and collaborators found joy remembering his roles. His wit and fearlessness were on display in life and are celebrated in his passing. No matter if it was wearing short shorts with bright red calf-high boots or singing and swinging, Ratzel found his joy in bringing joy to others.

He appeared in four of Ronnie Larsen’s plays and the two formed a bond.

“It’s hard to comprehend that this person with so much love, life and energy pouring out of him is no longer with us! It just doesn’t seem real,” Larsen said. “The world is a much darker place without your light, François. Your spirit will live on at The Foundry as long as we are there.”

On social media, Larsen said there will be a celebration of life in his honor, but no details have been announced.

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