As overhead lights shimmered across a mourning crowd Wednesday, candles were lit and tears were shed in sorrow and joy while celebrating the energetic and accomplished life of Thomas Anable.
The gay Fort Worth activist was respected in North Texas for his work throughout the Metroplex after the raid on of the Rainbow Lounge, but more than 100 friends who attended a vigil for him Wednesday remembered him as a friend who was funny, charming and, above all, a man who got what he wanted by finding a way to accomplish it.
“He was an anchor,” the Rev. Carol West said. “He was the voice of Fairness Fort Worth.”
West served on the board of FFW with Anable, who was president the past two years after quitting his job and dedicating himself full time to the organization.
Amid the underlying sadness that Anable left this earth too soon after taking his own life last weekend, West said it is time to “celebrate who he was and who he is and who he will always be in our hearts and in our minds.”
Jon Nelson with Fairness Fort Worth addressed the audience with a question of why Anable had devoted himself so fully after the raid, saying he finally found his voice when others couldn’t.
“He joined the fight and I can’t know for sure why he did that, but I think he did that for some of the reasons that you and I have,” Nelson said. “When he saw what he did, when he felt what he did that night, it may have brought back memories, memories that you have still today. The wrongs that were done to you, the wrongs that were done to him.”
Nelson said that Anable’s numerous accomplishments as president were attributed to FFW, but Anable was really the one who made them all happen.
“What he did, and make no mistake, what he did, he did. Not we did, he did,” Nelson said.
Friend Todd Camp said he couldn’t find words after learning of Anable’s death and he still feels lost without him.
“Tom lived his life his way,” Camp said before Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was sung. “And he even left this world his way. Our way, unfortunately, is far more difficult. Our way comes with the challenge of fining meaning in the darkness, continuing a legacy that few could live up to and bringing hope and inspiration to a new generation of activist, allies and leaders.”
The audience then lit candles and listened to a rendition of the song, many holding hands and clinging to each other as they said goodbye to Anable.
A memorial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Celebration Community Church.
Video and more photos from Wednesday’s vigil below.