The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida lost a pioneer whose early efforts cemented the ensemble as a fixture in the gay cultural life of South Florida. The longtime benefactor, Doug Pew, passed away in hospice on the evening of Sept. 17 after battling a long illness.
Pew, a contract lawyer with a world class-career, and husband, Don Croxton, donated the money that ushered the chorus into existence and continued their generosity for the next 13 years as major donors. After he filed the nonprofit’s articles of incorporation, Pew was named the first Board Chair. The myriad of initial challenges eventually gave rise to an enduring performing arts organization. Many Chorus members cite Pew’s clarity of purpose as his greatest strength while he helmed the seminal GMCSF Board of Directors.
The Chorus as it is known today is the result of a schism between the now defunct Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. In 2009, a group of members sought artistic changes and met at Doug and Don’s home to discuss a path forward.
“If we could have resolved our issues, we wanted to … But, if we couldn’t, then do we create a new chorus? And the discussions of how that would take shape happened at Doug and Don’s place,” said Bill Spinosa, who became the first Chorus President of the offshoot GMCSF.
Time heals everything, and the two groups reconciled last year, with the GMCSF absorbing the remaining members of the FLGMC into their ranks. Fortunately, Doug Pew had the great joy of seeing the two organizations reunited.
“It was time to get the family back together,” said Spinosa.
The two met in a St. Louis gay bar in 1969, introduced by the bartender. In the 1980s, Pew’s career brought them to suburban Connecticut, where they stayed until they moved to Florida in 2000. The couple were avid travelers.
“We’d been almost everywhere … twice!” said Don Croxton. “Not Antarctica, though.” They’d been together for 54 years.
Ironically, Pew’s health problems began as a result from travel about three years ago when he caught covid on a cruise.
“We were both fine when we left the ship, but by the time we got home, Doug was sick and was in the hospital within a day.”
After a months-long period of recovery, doctors found a separate virus attacking the spine, leaving him mostly paralyzed from the waist down. His legacy of community, philanthropy and music will live on in the voices of the GMCSF.
Visitation will be held on Sept. 23 from 2-4 p.m. at the Kraeer-Fairchild Funeral Home, located at 4061 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.
Interment will take place in Lockhart Cemetery in the town of Cuba, Missouri.