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MOWSF senior Emil grew up in New York City. He was born in the Bronx and spent his childhood there and in Brooklyn. The 81 year old says he knew from an early age that he was gay. “I was called all sorts of names,” he says. “Sticks and stones and words did hurt me.” Sometimes Emil would walk home backwards to prevent being attacked by neighborhood kids unawares. Being different also meant that he was often in trouble. His parents sent him to a home for “wayward boys” for a few years and then later into the US Navy.
When Emil returned from the service he worked making deliveries in NYC’s Garment District. Through his connections in Manhattan’s “gay society” he heard about San Francisco. “Everyone said it was gorgeous,” he says. So Emil took his very first flight with a first-class ticket on TWA. From the moment he landed, he says fell in love with SF. “I came here in 1958 for a two-week vacation and ended up staying two months.” When Emil finally did head back East, it was to pack up his things. “On New Year’s Eve of 1960, I said, ‘Ciao, Brooklyn. Goodbye! I’m going home’,” Emil says.
Today Emil lives in an elegant if sparsely furnished apartment in Nob Hill. He moved in to the apartment with a roommate on Labor Day of 1978. For many years Emil worked as a bartender. And then, after getting his cosmetology license, he styled hair on the side.
Emil’s health was relatively good until a few years ago when he had a stroke. Walking to the local grocery store, he suddenly fell and was unable to move his legs. He was carried home but got worse and ended up in the hospital. Walking was very difficult for a long time. But a friend encouraged him to exercise more.
These days he’s doing much better. He still has arthritis in his neck, shoulders, arms and hands, but he has been able to reduce the amount of medications he must take. And for exercise, he always makes the extra effort to walk down the hall and meet his MOWSF meal delivery driver. Emil also has a MOWSF Friendly Visitor volunteer, Amy, who he brunches with on Sundays and another volunteer pal Shipra he sees every Saturday.
Though he can’t travel like he used to on road trips to Alaska or Hawaiian cruises, he doesn’t have regrets. “I never stopped living from the 1960s to the 1990s,” he says. “I just absorbed life completely and did everything I wanted to do. When I go, I’m ready to go.”