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Richard Spector

1948 - 2007

In Loving Memory

Richard helped found LGBTC Counseling back in 1994. He remained an active member of our group until his untimely death by heart attack on May 4, 2007. Please read the obituaries from the Washington Post and Washington Blade below to learn more about his enormous contributions in so many ways to the lgbt community and to broader concerns about mental health and social justice.



Richard Spector, 58; Clinical Social Worker
By Joe Holley, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2007; Page B07

Richard Spector, 58, a licensed clinical social worker who specialized in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual issues, died May 4 of a heart attack in his Washington apartment.

Mr. Spector was born in Chicago and moved with his family at age 11 to Silver Spring. At Montgomery Blair High School, he organized a civil rights group called High School Friends of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and helped run a coffeehouse in a nearby Unitarian church called "The Real Dirt," named for a passage in the Jack London novel "Martin Eden."

He graduated from Montgomery Blair in 1966 and received an undergraduate degree from Beloit College in 1970. He received his master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland in 1979.

Mr. Spector was a founding member of Everyday Theater, a community-based company that performed musicals based on the real-life stories of District residents. He was affiliated with the company from 1979 to 1985.

He also was a member of the Job Co-op Collective in the Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods. The group offered career counseling to young adults and assisted gay teens forced out of their homes by homophobia. From 1981 to 1986, he was a member of Men Against Sexual Violence.

"He was an artist at heart and also concerned with people," said his former wife, Ann Becker. "Social work allowed him to combine both interests."

Mr. Spector studied with pioneering family therapist Jay Haley at the Washington-based Family Therapy Institute, and for 10 years was a senior therapist and instructor at the institute.

From 1987 until his death, he was a senior therapist with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. As adult community services manager for special populations, he worked with the elderly and multicultural groups.

He also maintained a private practice in the Dupont Circle area and was part of a therapist collective called Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans Counseling.

He practiced what he called "a pragmatic yet caring approach to counseling and therapy," an approach that involved collaborating with his client to think about problems in solvable ways, determining goals, discovering solutions and putting those solutions into practice.

He was a volunteer therapist at the Whitman-Walker AIDS Clinic, beginning in 1987, and served on the clinic's board of directors from 1994 to 1997.

Spirituality was important to him, said Larry Cohen, a colleague. He was a member of Congregation Bet Mishpachah, a congregation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews, and a Buddhist meditation group.
Mr. Spector loved photography, filmmaking and the outdoors and enjoyed a hiking trip in Bhutan last year.

He grew up immersed in music, particularly folk and roots music, and was packing for a trip to the New Orleans Jazz Festival at the time of his death. Misha Berson, an old friend he had planned to meet in New Orleans, recalled hanging around the gospel tent awaiting word from the always-punctual Mr. Spector. As she waited, she listened to the rhythm and blues artist Irma Thomas sing "Down by the Riverside," "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," "I'm So Glad" and other gospel classics Mr. Spector would have appreciated.

"I felt like I'd been to a memorial service for him," Berson said.

Mr. Spector's marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include a sister.

Obituary, Richard Sumner Spector, 58
By Katherine Volin, May. 18, 2007

Clinical social worker Richard Sumner Spector, who worked extensively with Washington’s gay population, died of a heart attack on May 4 at his D.C. apartment, according to his longtime friend Loraine Hutchins. He was 58.

Spector was born on May 31, 1948 in Chicago, where he lived until he was 11 when the family moved to Silver Spring, Md. He returned to the Midwest to attend Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he graduated in 1970.

After college, he spent a short time in a “hippie commune” in Santa Cruz, Calif., Hutchins said, and then returned to Maryland for his master’s degree in social work at the University of Maryland.

Spector was married to a woman, but they divorced and afterward he identified as gay, according to Hutchins.

Once out, Spector became heavily involved in mental health work for gay and lesbian patients. He started volunteering his therapy skills at Whitman-Walker Clinic in 1987, where he worked until his death. His volunteer work was in addition to his full-time job at the Fairfax/Falls Church Community Services Board, where he also started working in 1987.

“He was a tireless advocate for specialized mental health services for older adults and their families and significant others,” his friend Mary Ann Carrie said.

Spector promoted mental health care for all gay men, Hutchins said.

“Being an openly gay therapist was one of Richard’s goals,” she said. “It was so hard for him to imagine ever getting to that point and when he did, it was one of his biggest emotional [and] professional achievements, being able to publicly advertise as a gay therapist.”

Spector co-founded Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans Counseling, a gay therapist collective, in 1994, and conducted private practice for gay clients in the D.C. area for 20 years.

Spector’s interests went beyond mental health, his friends stressed.

“Richard was a man full of contradictions, with a huge and diverse circle of friends and a very wide span of interests and involvements,” said his friend Ralston Cox. “Anyone who had a love of, and an intimate knowledge of, the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan as well as the music of Ricky Nelson is not someone who is easy to pigeonhole or describe in a few words.”

Spector founded a musical theater group, Midnight Special, which performed for children, in 1973. The group performed until 1985.

“He told me many times how much this experience had been a highlight of his creative life,” his friend Jeanne Hilson said.

Spector is survived by his sister, Abby Spector of Pennsylvania.

Donations may be made in Spector’s memory to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund or to the mental health program at Whitman-Walker Clinic.

© 2007 The Washington Blade | A Window Media Publication

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