Marty Bernstein and Joyce Crain

Long-Term Donor Sustains Memory of Friend Who Died of AIDS

As a professional artist, Joyce Crain creates installations for public and corporate spaces. During the holidays, she also likes to set up a Christmas village scene from her childhood. When her late friend Marty Bernstein came to her home to celebrate the holidays, he always switched the couple in the sleigh and the couple on the bench so there would be same-sex couples in the Christmas village. “I continue to do it every year in his memory,” she said.

Joyce’s affinity for Marty has also shown up in her philanthropy to GMHC. She made her first annual donation to GMHC in 1989 after Marty passed away that year from AIDS. After decades of annual giving, she and her partner Carl Philabaum decided to make their first major gift to GMHC last year in the form of a significant five-figure gift.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were concentrating on what we could do to help in every way that we could think of,” said Joyce. “GMHC has always been very important to me and Carl knew that. You were facing two epidemics at the same time and you needed help doing that.”

Like many GMHC donors, Joyce has remained a loyal supporter because of her own personal experiences with the agency. She first met Marty when she moved to New York City in 1969. “He was a quintessential New Yorker, a sophisticated lover of the arts, an accomplished graphic designer, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and an amazing cook,” she recalled. “I loved him deeply.”

When Marty’s health deteriorated from HIV/AIDS and he needed more care, Joyce and her sister became secondary caregivers for Marty.

“We really didn’t know a whole lot about caretaking, so we took a workshop at GMHC led by Judith Peabody,” said Joyce. “The workshop gave us a lot of support in this difficult time. The first rule that I learned from Judith was that the caretaker must take care of themselves.”

Peabody was a New York City socialite and philanthropist who volunteered and supported GMHC and other AIDS-related causes. Each year at its fall gala, GMHC honors noted humanitarians with the Judith Peabody Humanitarian Award.

In addition to participating in the GMHC caretaking workshop, Joyce recalled regularly reading the GMHC newsletter for the latest information about HIV/AIDS. She said there was no other source of accurate information about the disease at that time.

After Marty passed away, Joyce moved to Minneapolis and later to Arizona where she has lived for the last 18 years. In addition to supporting GMHC, the couple have a range of other philanthropic interests including the University of Arizona, Primavera Foundation, Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Tucson Botanical Gardens.

Joyce has remained committed to GMHC for more than three decades now since Marty’s death. “Even in difficult times, I never missed making a contribution,” she said. “I’m keeping Marty’s memory alive and also supporting an organization that supported me when I needed it to help me take care of Marty.”

Joyce’s philanthropy and that of other major donors were key to helping GMHC weather the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We faced a significant gap in our fundraising revenue during the pandemic primarily because we couldn’t hold in-person fundraisers,” said Poul Olson, chief communications and development officer. “We are deeply grateful to Joyce and our other major donors for stepping up over the last year and helping ensure that we could sustain our services.”

Poul added that he encourages other donors like Joyce to consider making a major gift to GMHC to honor the memory of someone who has passed away from AIDS.

For more information about different ways to give to GMHC, visit gmhc.org/get-involved/donate/other-ways-to-give or email Demetri Sparks, managing director of individual giving, at demetris@gmhc.org.

Joyce Crain continues to honor the memory of Marty Bernstein every holiday season by putting together same-sex couples in this Christmas display called Foolerville.
Joyce Crain continues to honor the memory of Marty Bernstein every holiday season by putting together same-sex couples in this Christmas display called Foolerville. Photo credit: Carl Philabaum.

Photo caption (top): Marty Bernstein and Joyce Crain. Courtesy of Vincenzo Vella.

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