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IN MEMORIAM: JERI DILNO

1936-2024

Celebrating Jeri Dilno


Joint Statement from San Diego Pride and The San Diego LGBT Community Center:

Rarely does one person so profoundly impact the foundation, growth, and sustained progress of a movement the way that Jeri Dilno did. Her presence and influence are irreplaceable for not only the San Diego LGBT Community Center but San Diego Pride.

One of the many things we loved about Jeri was her storytelling — she had the best stories. We invite our community to celebrate her memory and activism with us as we collect quotes from friends, fellow activists, and the community members she mentored. We share our reflections and those of a few others below to begin to celebrate her legacy. With the deepest of gratitude, we say “Thank you, Jeri.”

California State Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni G. Atkins (39th District)
“The San Diego community lost one of its pillars with the passing of Jeri Dilno. For a half century, Jeri was an outspoken advocate and trailblazer for LGBTQ+ equality and women’s rights, serving in top leadership roles with organizations such as San Diego Pride, San Diego Democrats for Equality, and the San Diego LGBT Community Center. She will be remembered for her dedication and indomitable spirt, as well as her wit and wisdom. I will miss my dear friend, Jeri.”

Cara Dessert, CEO, San Diego LGBT Community Center
“Jeri Dilno was a lesbian icon, community shero, trailblazer, veteran, mentor, and friend, who touched the lives of countless people over her lifetime of activism and leadership and paved the way for generations of San Diego LGBTQ+ leaders, including myself. As the first female Executive Director of The Center and its first paid staff member, Jeri led The Center at a time when the world was an especially hostile place for LGBTQ+ people and our community centers were brand new places of refuge. Jeri is part of a legacy of leaders who helped create one of the largest and most impactful LGBTQ+ organizations in the country. She fought for our rights and dignity with unparalleled determination and commitment that brought so many together and built real community power. Her legacy will live on in our hearts and history, and in the many people whose lives she touched. We are forever grateful for her courage, her compassion, and her lifetime of deep community leadership. Thank you, Jeri, you deserve to rest in power.”

Jen LaBarbera, Interim Co-Executive Director, San Diego Pride
“Jeri Dilno is who I want to be when I grow up. It was an honor to know her, to not just follow her footsteps but get to walk with her in this journey for a short time, to get to experience the joy of Jeri Storytime, and to have the honor of witnessing and being pulled into her legacy of liberation.”

Sarafina Scapicchio, Interim Co-Executive Director, San Diego Pride
“Jeri Dilno possessed the rare talent of being able to visualize and articulate the delta between what currently exists in the world, and what *should* be. Whether fighting against harmful legislation like the Briggs Initiative (Proposition 6) or working to re-establish San Diego Pride as a community-centered nonprofit organization that contributes back to the community financially, her passionate commitment to our collective freedom created a ripple effect that we all benefit from today. Thank you, Jeri, for your lifetime of work and for the fearlessness, honesty, and humor that you did it with. We are so grateful to you.”

San Diego Pride Board of Directors
“Pride brings people together and no one knew that better than Jeri Dilno. She was a community organizer, a leader, and a trailblazer. We are deeply grateful that her dedication to the LGBTQ+ community included over a decade of service on the San Diego Pride Board of Directors. As Board Emeriti, her guidance was deeply valued and her commitment to our mission remained unwavering. The history of San Diego Pride could not be written without her. The Board of Directors mourns her passing and will continue to celebrate her legacy.”

Joe Mayer, San Diego Pride Board Emeriti
“Jeri was truly a guiding hand for me during my tenure on the Pride Board. Whenever things got tumultuous, she always had a sense of calm to offer those around her. She would reassure us that we would get through, just as we had in the past.”

Doug Moore, San Diego Pride Board Emeriti
“Jeri and I were the oldest and served Pride almost from its beginning. As the members of the board changed we both felt that we were the historians, providing the why’s about how things were done. She provided me with a different perspective and I’ve counted on her. I am most thankful to have known her, and will fill the empty spot with many memories.”

Nicole Verdes, Managing Director, Lambda Archives of San Diego
“San Diego has lost an incredible force with the passing of Jeri Dilno. Few individuals have left such an indelible mark on our LGBTQ+ community as Jeri. For somebody who had such a historically significant impact and who had personal friendships with people like Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, many of us here in San Diego will remember her as being brilliant, compassionate, a superb storyteller, and a friend. To say she will be missed is an understatement. Thank you, Jeri – for everything.”

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