As friends work to install signage at a meadow in San Francisco named after a gay political leader who died of AIDS complications, park staff recently repaired a bench with a plaque in his honor.
Located in Corona Heights Park, it is in memory of Bill Kraus, a regular visitor to the hilltop open space in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The inscription honors Kraus for his “courage and commitment to social justice.”
Kraus died on January 11, 1986 at the age of 38 after contracting meningitis, according to a news obituary in the Bay Area Reporter. His role in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the city’s response to the deadly disease was chronicled in the book And the Band Played On.
An aide to gay Supervisor Harry Britt and later Democratic Congress members Phillip and Sala Burton, Kraus also served as president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club in the late 1970s. He was a dog lover and frequent user of Corona Heights Park.
Shortly after Kraus died, his friends attempted to rename a small mini-park on Noe Street near Cafe Flore after him. But city rules prevented it, and based on the recommendations of a panel formed to review the matter, it was decided that a meadow and trail in Corona Heights Park be named for Kraus.
As detailed in a B.A.R. story today (Thursday, May 2), it does not appear any signage was ever installed to let users of the park know that the triangular area at the entrance from Roosevelt Way and Museum Way is officially called Bill Kraus Meadow and Pathway. There is, however, the bench with the plaque.
It had been in disrepair as of last week, said John Mehring, a gay man who knew Kraus from the Milk club and is spearheading the effort to install signage at the meadow that also includes a brief bio on Kraus.
“The plaque there has been painted over. Usually, a park bench is a dark green but this is painted brown,” Mehring had told the B.A.R. last week.
Sometime after Saturday, when the Friends of Corona Heights Park held a cleanup day in the meadow, staffers with the city’s Recreation and Parks Department repainted the bench and cleaned up the plaque. Gil Sperlein, an organizer with the volunteer group, spotted the work and emailed several photos of it to Mehring.
“It looks much better,” noted Sperlein, who asked that the photos be shared with the B.A.R.