With deep sadness we announce that we have received word that Ina Mae Murri and her partner Stella Lopez-Armijo passed away this weekend following an automobile accident in Southern Idaho. Ina Mae led Affirmation in 1986, and was a great inspiration to many of us in Affirmation. She was recipient of the Mortensen Award in 1989.
We will have more information and a tribute page later this week.
Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons
Tribute by Leon D. Berg
It was quite a shock to read this yesterday as it circulated among the Affirmation membership far and wide. Ina Mae and Stella were among the dear friends who kept me alive in the early 1980s in San Francisco, California as I came out as a gay Mormon. Their long time relationship gave me hope and their wisdom and guidance and humor led me into Affirmation leadership roles for the next 10 years.
Tribute by Susan Newell
It was with great sadness that I learned Saturday of the deaths of Aunt Stella and Aunt Ina. I was blessed to be part of their family when I married their great nephew Tyrone. They were at our wedding and any function thereafter with them was a fun, laughter and loved filled event. I miss them terribly and take small comfort in knowing they are together in eternity.
Tribute by Karen Murri
In 1980, when I was at BYU, my parents received Ina Mae's coming out letter and mom let me read it. Being a good Mormon at the time, I was saddened. Later, I was proud.
I think it was 1984 when I snuck into my mom's address book and got Ina's address. Several months later, I was living in Seattle and was finally living as a lesbian and feeling great about it. I wrote Ina a letter to come out to her and then we talked on the phone for hours.
Shortly thereafter, she paid for me to fly down to visit her in the Bay area. What a memorable trip! It included a visit to a lesbian show at one of the bars and the Halloween party on Castro among many other adventures. What a way to celebrate coming out. :-) I had a blast!
I spent a few of my vacations with her and Stella in CA over the years and we always made a point of spending some time with them at any family gathering. I could always depend on them to make me laugh and to give me some useful perspective
on my family. Goodbye Ina. Goodbye Stella. I will miss you.
Tribute by Duane Jennings
What a shock to receive word at work this morning about the accident and untimely deaths. It left me numb all day. I met Stella and Ina Mae at my first Affirmation Conference back in San Diego in 1993. Then I read Peculiar People and learned more about Ina Mae - pre-don't ask, don't tell US military court marshal if I recall. Since 1993 there have been many opportunities to hear their stories, and laugh and cry. God bless them for all they've done for gay and lesbian people and for Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons. They will be missed, but fondly remembered.
Tribute by Walt Richey
Ina Mae and Stella were remarkable women. They are part of the foundation that has eliminated most of the bigotry LGBTI experienced forty years ago. They have provided role models for scores of people, including Jaysen and myself. They gave of their time and energy freely to help others. They had colorful personalities with big tempers that were balanced by big hearts. Thank you, ladies, for all you have done.
When I read that they had been killed, I got a little tearful. I wondered why. I was not close to them and had not seen them for many years. Then I realized my tears were more related to joy than sorrow. They died together. They shared a long and wonderful life together and they left together. I have little doubt this is they way they would have wanted it to be.
Tribute by James Kent
"I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
You used to rock me in the cradle of your arms,
You said you'd hold me till the pains of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you,
Now I need you, and you are gone."
--Lyrics by Ysai M. Barnwell
Ina Mae & Stella go back to the very beginning of my involvement in the San Francisco Chapter of Affirmation in 1988. They were the very first two people who greeted me, and enthusiastically welcomed me to the group.
I was so closeted that it would still take me a few more weeks to admit to myself that I was gay.
Ina Mae was one of the founders of the San Francisco Chapter of Affirmation in 1979. In 1989, she was the third recipient of the Mortensen Award for outstanding leadership and service to Affirmation. She has thus far been the only woman to lead Affirmation (as a General Coordinator).
But she didn't do it on her own. Her Catholic partner Stella was with her 110% in everything they did. I could not think of either person without thinking of the other.
I owe a lot to Stella in helping me to overcome my LDS patriarchy and misogynist prejudices. When I said something sexist out of total ignorance, she would call me on it. She helped me to be more inclusive with my words.
Their influence went far beyond Affirmation, as they involved themselves in several women and senior organizations.
Their home in Hayward, and then in Fremont, was a haven to hundreds of LDS GLBTI over the years.
They were among our first historians in taking photographs, keeping newsletters, and anything that might be of potential historical significance for Affirmation.
But more than anything else, there were very dear friends of mine.
Tribute by Lowell Goodsell
I first met Ina Mae and Stella about 25 years ago at an Affirmation conference. I am forever grateful for their friendship, example, and love. In those early years of my coming out they were both there to support me and guide me on my journey. I remember one of them (tho' I don't remember which) holding me in her arms one day while I cried about something. As we got to know each other better, I learned that Ina Mae grew up in Newdale near my family's farm (we had a Newdale RFD mailing address), and that Ina Mae's father and my Aunt Carma were first cousins. Stella and Ina Mae's lifelong devotion to each other has always been an example to me. I am glad they are together, and hope to see them again one day.
Tribute by Mark Coberly
My heart just broke when I learned of Ina Mae and Stella's passing. I first met them in 1995 when I first attended the San Francisco chapter of Affirmation. They greeted me with arms wide open. I had a special love for Stella, as she and I would joke and banter constantly. Ina was the rock, always had wonderful ideas of how to do things and get things done. I especially loved it when we would have an activity at their home in Fremont. I will miss them very much, but I am also at peace knowing they are together . . . as it should be.
Tribute by Laura and Annette
How can one begin to express the sadness that the passing of Ina and Stella brings. It is next to impossible. There is no way to thank the two women for the part they played in our lives. Our friendship began in a part of our lives that were troubled. Because of the love Ina and Stella had for one another and for all other people, we gained a love and acceptance for our own selves. Always ready to visit us and have us visit them. Always willing to extend loving advice when needed. They had such a love for life and for our community and it was and still is an inspiration for all of us. We will greatly miss them. I know that some where in heaven they are having a little bicker session and Stella is pleading for Ina to get her something, or at least go to the Deseret Industries or other thrift shops. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to know these two fine women. This earth just won't be the same with out them in it. Thank you Ina and Stella for all that you have done throughout your lives. We will be seeing you in better places.
Tribute by Lynette Longmire
I am so sorry to hear the news of Stella and Ina. I loved them dearly. God bless you too, the family; you are in my prayers. My heart goes out for them.
Tribute by Olin Thomas
I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of both Ina Mae and Stella. I enjoyed seeing both of them at Affirmation Conferences when they were attending them. Ina Mae was such a gentle and friendly person while Stella had fire and passion but always friendly advise. Affirmation owes a lot to Ina Mae and her loss is a blow to all of us.
Tribute by Karen S Ripley
They were always there. El Rio, Michigan, San Antonio... whereever I was performing, I'd see them. They loved to laugh. I used to always feel a piece of home when I saw them at an event out of state. RIP. Love,
Tribute by Dianne Davidson
I am heartsick. I think I have known these women forever. I was always thrilled to see their smiling faces at one of my shows or on a cruise or anywhere. They went together - of course - how could it be any other way? I will miss you, deeply, my friends.
Tribute by W. Lee Beardall
I was saddened to learn about the untimely deaths of Ina Mae and Stella. They were two of the rocks of the Affirmation community. And they were two of the friendly faces who welcomed me at my 'official' coming-out at Affirmation in San Francisco in October 1986. I appreciated their hospitality in hosting the annual chapter Thanksgiving dinners at their Fremont home in the late 1980s and early 90s. They lived remarkable lives, were dear friends, and were real characters in the best sense of that term.
Tribute by Monica Palacios
Please accept my deepest sympathy for the passing of Stella and Ina Mae. I met them when I first started doing stand up comedy in San Francisco in 1982 at the Valencia Rose Cafe. They were extremely supportive and loving women to us gay comics. They were perfect role models for the LGBT community. They will be hugely missed.
Tribute by Carole Isaacks
I am deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of these wonderful women. I am glad to have been a part of thier lives, at least for a time. I first met Ina at a Halloween party she and her then partner had in 1977. It was my first party as a LESBIAN and I was more than a little freaked out by the whole business.... especially when Ina's then partner dumped Ina at the party and announced she was now in a relationship with another woman, also at the party. Ina eventually found her soul mate in Stella, and I was fortunate to have their support through my own "dramas" as I sorted my life out and found my own soul mate. I Last saw them at my wedding in 1999, where both wore their infamous tux t-shirts. Their love a support was amazing over the years, I will miss them.
Tribute by Christel Cantlin (Stella's Daughter)
Thank you all for sharing your beautiful memories of our mothers. They are deeply missed. In my mind, I know they are happy together, but my heart aches of the thought of losing them both. In addition to being your wonderful friends, they are amazing mothers. Teaching their children love, compassion, strength, and how to be a good person. As many of you have written, Ina was the rock and my mom was the comedian - always. Again, thank you for sharing your stories of them with all of us.
Tribute by Don Harryman
I cannot imagine two bigger-than-life characters than Ina Mae and Stella. Ina Mae's gentle strength was an anchor to so many in our coming out process, and Stella was the spark that kept all of us laughing and also kept all of us from taking things too seriously. We love you Ina Mae and Stella.
Tribute by Jewelle Gomez
I can only express my sadness at their loss by voicing my appreciation for the joy they brought to all of us old lesbians who looked to each other for love and understanding. Their joyous spirits will be with us for ever. Let's think of the way we will honor them and continue the example they set for future generations!
Tribute by Christopher Alexander
Could two people affect the lives of so many people as was true for Ina and Stella? Of course they died together, as it was always Inaandstella. After I read the news today, I walked outside my office and there was a huge rainbow spanning the mountain range here in Albuquerque. Later, I went to the store and on display was a new release of white wine titled, 'Sweet Stella.' Be well girls; we love you and appreciate who you were in our lives.
Tribute by Devin Baker
I first met Ina and Stella through Affirmation back in 1985. The two were instantly welcoming, warm and ridiculously funny. I remember one Halloween where they dressed as Bartles and Jaymes, with a twist. A smile comes to my face as I recall the laughs; there were a lot of laughs. I feel joy in my heart for having known you both.
Ina Mae Murri in Idaho, 1953
Ina Mae Murri, Hard at Work
Let's remember with a smile that
we all have in Ina Mae and Stella two of our Founding Mothers
By Hugo Salinas
Exactly one year ago, I had brunch with Ina Mae. I had to go to the Bay
Area for an Affirmation leadership meeting, and I flew in one day earlier
to visit Ina Mae and Stella. I taped a wonderful interview with Ina Mae
(Stella had her say, too!), we took pictures, and I helped Ina Mae organize
her Mormon papers for a donation to the Special Collections at the
University of Utah's Marriott Library.
Among the thousands of papers, letters, and miscellaneous materials that we
unearthed on that day, an old picture popped out. When Ina Mae saw it, her
face lit up: It was a picture of Ina Mae pitching hay on her brother's land
in southern Idaho in 1953.
Except for the real old-timers, it is difficult for most of us to fathom
how much work Ina Mae put into Affirmation over the years. We know, of
course that she was Affirmation's director (or the "general coordinator,"
as it was then called) for 1984 and 1985, and the 1989 recipient of the
Mortensen Award. But there is so much about Ina Mae and Stella that you may
Ina worked hard all her life. She was born in Newdale, Idaho, on January
15, 1935, the 8th of 9 children, in a devout LDS family. She grew up
working hard in a farming community. "By the age of 10 I worked the fist
time in the potato harvest," she wrote many years later. "School was let
out for two weeks, and you got a partner and picked up potatoes. It was
hard work, but we also played with our friends working with us and earned a
little money for school clothes."
Ina Mae discovered Affirmation in San Francisco in 1979. By that time she
had served in the Air Force, married, divorced, and been in two long-time
relationships with women. Ina Mae got involved in the gay and women's liberation movements in the early 1970s;
helped run a women's center in Hayward, California, in the mid 1970s; and
became a strong supporter of Mormons for ERA in 1979. "I am a Lesbian," Ina
Mae wrote in a letter she sent to all her siblings in 1982. "The reason why
I'm telling you this now is because I want you to know the whole person. I
want you to know there is a lesbian in the Murri family and in the Church.
If I am fighting to change the attitude of the Church and members of it, I
have to start with my own family."
Ina Mae's 1982 letter received mixed responses. One older sister, who had
served a mission, sent her a reply which included a list of 13 scriptures
which, the sister said, warned against homosexuality. Yet over time, Ina
Mae's family learned to love her partner Stella, and both became a fixture
in the family reunions the Murris held every summer in Idaho.
Ina Mae was the rock. Stella was the comedian. They complemented each other
so well, and were so united in everything they did, that some relatives
called them "Stina," as if they were a single person.
Stella once wrote a delightful account of how the two met, and how unlikely
it first seemed that they would end up together. "Ina and I were introduced
at a Gay Pride Parade, and then she called me to find out if I wanted to go
to this rally and that political meeting. I said, I don't do that stuff. I
asked her if she went to bars. She said no. We didn't think we had anything
in common. We went to a movie, she dragged me to a Slightly Older Lesbians
meeting, and the next thing I knew I was at an Equal Rights Amendment
At Affirmation, Ina Mae excelled. In May 1980, before the days of the
Internet, she decided to start what she called "a unique experiment," a
newsletter for Mormon lesbians. Ina Mae was also Affirmation's first
official matchmaker, as she launched the Pen Pal program in 1983. By the
mid-1980s she had become Affirmation's general coordinator, a position
which she held for two years. Then in June 1988, when she no longer had the
heavy burden of being national director, she focused again on the women of
Affirmation by creating "An Affinity for Women," a publication which she
edited between 1988 and 1998.
During those ten years, Ina Mae and Stella's home in Fremont became Lesbian
Mormon Central. Ina Mae corresponded with hundreds of people. She wrote
dozens of articles and made presentations for Sunstone and other forums.
She received mail from women all over the U.S., England, Switzerland, and
Japan. Her correspondence sometimes turned into deeply personal exchanges
with Mormon women who were barely coming out and desperately trying to
reconcile their orientation and their religion. Ina Mae's purpose was
always the same: To help her fellow sisters and brothers get to know each
other, support each other, and strengthen each other.
Ina Mae and Stella died in a car accident three weeks ago. Neither the
Mormon service held in Idaho nor the Catholic mass held in California was
your average funeral. Both the Mormon bishop and the Catholic priest
validated Stella and Ina Mae's love. Morgan Smith, who went to high school
with Ina Mae, was one of the Affirmation members who attended the service
in Idaho. In California, another Affirmation member, John Minagro, took his
guitar to the funeral mass and during the offertory sang a beautiful
adaptation of a song from the classic movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which
is the tale of St. Francis of Assisi.
What is so compelling about Ina Mae and Stella's story is that it proves
that love really can conquer all—even the deep-rooted prejudices that we
may experience in our families. As she described the multiple funeral
arrangements, one of Stella's daughters wrote to me, "Everything will be
with both: Together forever, side by side." The day after Ina Mae died, one
of her Mormon nieces told me, "Our consolation is that they died together
and now they are in heaven, together forever."
Ina Mae herself expressed that wish in a 1989 article published in Marty
Beaudet's Flamingo News: "I remain a Mormon in thought, if not in activity.
I have a great concern for my brothers and sisters who are struggling to
reconcile their sexuality with the Church. It is a tremendous burden to be
labeled a 'sinner' when what you really want is to love and to be loved; to
be open with our love, and to have the acceptance of our families, friends,
and yes, our Church."
May we never forget Ina Mae and Stella's legacy. And every time another
lesbian Mormon comes out, every time an Affirmation couple gets married,
and every time a judge rules for equality, let's remember with a smile that
we all have in Ina Mae and Stella two of our Founding Mothers.