WORLD mourns the passing of Moher Downing, founding board member & long-term advocate for the rights of HIV-positive women

Memorial services for Moher Downing was held on Sunday, June 17, 2012, at St. Martin de Porres, 255 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, at 1:00 p.m.


Moher Downing, born Patricia Downing, died surrounded by loving friends and family in her home after a long struggle against breast cancer, on May 25, 2012, at 2:30 a.m. She lived a remarkable life in a life that was not very long. Her life was marked by hard work,  social activism, and a commitment to justice, freedom, and joy, at all levels, from the cosmic to the personal.

Born June 11, 1946, in Jersey City, New Jersey, Moher came to California with her first husband, Dave Devlin, and her sons David and Timothy (Timi), in 1975. Here she completed college and got a Master’s degree in Anthropology which she put to use in public health, becoming an early and effective front-line worker in the fight against AIDS. She helped to found Prevention Point Needle Exchange in 1988, and worked in the Youth Environment Study, the MidCity Consortium Against Aids, and the Urban Health Study.  Eventually her work took her overseas where she worked with international agencies to develop programs for both AIDS prevention and for healthcare and quality of life support for HIV-positive people.  This work took her to Namibia and to Kenya.

Moher had a strong commitment to activism in other fields as well.  Her name came to her during one of her many non-violent anti-nuclear actions.  She had been dissatisfied with her birth name for a while, feeling that “Patty” did not adequately express her personality and presence.  There was a brand of cigarettes at the time named “More:” this inspired her, as she said: “That’s what I want: more! More peace, more justice, more fun, more everything!” It was a fitting name, as Moher was a person who, as her partner Luis Kemnitzer said, “worked hard and played hard.” Soon afterwards she changed the spelling to Moher to match the cliffs of Moher in Ireland, which are near the area where her family came from.

She was a founding member of the street theater group Ladies Against Women, in which she donned vintage tea-party clothing including hats and gloves as Esther Poly and carried signs parodying anti-feminist positions.

After living in a long-running collective household (first founded in the Sunset District, then moving to the Suburban Palace in the Richmond District), Moher went in with some friends to buy the Poole Mansion, where she lived until she died.

During Moher’s last trip to Africa in 2005, she had a severe stroke, which forced her to retire from her AIDS work, but neither that nor the death of her partner kept her from being active.  For the last years of her life she was a devoted volunteer at St, Martin de Porres soup kitchen, and visited convalescent homes with her dog Scarlett.

Moher was a great believer in the inclusive family.  When she brought people into her circle, she considered them as family and treated them that way. Pictures of Moher feature her laughing with generations of children and then their children as well.  Her phone message was: “This is the home of the antinuclear family of Moher and Luis. leave a message.”

Moher is survived by her children, David Devlin and Timi Devlin, her stepchildren, David Kemnitzer and Lucy Kemnitzer, and her grandchildren, Kia Luzula Devlin, Makena Devlin, Alyesia Massey, Frank Trollman, and Emma Trollman, and her great-grandchild, Julianna Diskin, as well as the large number of friends she considered to be family.

Moher Downing led a full and joyous life. Her many friends and family will miss her loving attention, humor and concern for others, but her spirit lives on through the people who shared her energy and good deeds. Please watch Moher’s video tribute created by family and friends.

Forever Moher With Love

Comments 1

  1. A lovely write up about a dynamic and engaging friend, advocate, change agent, and provocateur. She is missed.

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