This week I was startled to see in the headlines that NFL Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw (one of 61 players to make it in on the first ballot) had died. He carried the Oakland Raiders to three Super Bowls, two of them winners. The obituaries describe Gene as "having a fine, understated sense of humor, and considerable depth," and being "introspective and reflective." I did not know Gene, but I did know his brother Doug back in San Francisco in 1985, and they must have been raised by some kind of mama and daddy back in Texas.
Doug Upshaw was slight, and gentle and funny. We knew he was rumored to be the brother of NFL great Gene Upshaw, but Doug never boasted about this. He was the only African-American agent in my real estate company at the time, but he was not exceptional in being gay. (This was San Francisco, after all.)
He once came to work in a raccoon coat to die for, vamped around the office and let us all try it on.
Doug also happened to be a CPA. When I needed to make a sudden move to a new house (there had been a tragic suicide by hanging on an outdoor porch behind my current home, and I couldn't bear to stay there any longer), Doug helped me put together a home loan application quickly and expertly. I feel I owe the success of that move to Doug. In many ways, it was the first move in a series that helped me and my family beyond reckoning.
Not long after, he fell ill with the scourge sweeping San Francisco that has now become a global challenge which transcends any differences of race, gender, class or national identity. At the time, such an illness was a secret to be hidden from family and society. Doug suffered a slow and agonizing death, surrounded by loving friends.
Doug, your brother Gene was lauded this week- but you, too, will never be forgotten.