On Dec. 10, 2015, Chris Zander posted news to his Facebook page that rocked the Palm Springs community and beyond. There, he announced that his husband — a high-profile and popular local LGBT activist and local Equality California field director George Zander—had died.
It was unfathomable.
He left a void no other can fill.
George and Chris Zander had been attacked on Nov. 1 near Calle Encilia and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs after leaving Hunters Nightclub, which is located in the heart of gay nightlife. The heinous attack left George Zander, 71 at the time, with a double-fracture to his hip and subsequent surgery. Chris Zander was struck in the back of the head with a tire iron, suffered a concussion and needed staples in his head.
A coroner later ruled that Zander died of natural causes unrelated to the assault.
Earlier this year, two men pleaded guilty to felony charges for attacking the Zanders. One pleaded guilty to assault and admitted a hate crime allegation; the other pleaded guilty to assault.
Their names are not important here; George Zanders’ is. Their crime is what matters. There is no room for such vile bigotry in this community or country. George Zander knew that and preached that.
The name George Zander personifies love. He loved to laugh and hug and be hugged. He was a Teddy Bear.
I, like so many, had the privilege of knowing him. He worked with senior citizens and LGBTQ youth. He cared.
It is fitting and proper that at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1, the second annual event to reflect, remember, and stand up against hate violence around the world will be held in downtown Palm Springs.
His widower, Chris, agreed to comment for this article if he could put his words in writing and send them via email. He wanted to give it thoughtful reflection.
“This march and this vigil is a breath of life into the legacy of a man that we must preserve in order for his passing to provide the positive and powerful impact against ignorance and hatred that is needed to restore balance,” Chris Zander wrote. “And (to) solidify his death as something much more than the loss of a beautiful person, but someone that we can all significantly learn and benefit from for generations to come. This is a great opportunity to prove once again why our community has been known to be so strong.”
Attendees will join in memory of all victims of hate crimes and remember George Zander on the anniversary of the day he and Chris Zander were attacked in downtown Palm Springs. It is designed to be a time of reflection.
“Help us carry forward the social justice efforts that defined George Zander’s life and honor his memory so that no other individual falls victim to a crime of hate,” say organizers of the event. “We must remain determined to change hate, intolerance, and ignorance into love and acceptance.”
The candlelight vigil will begin at Grand Central Station, 160 La Plaza, across from the Hard Rock Hotel, in downtown Palm Springs. The vigil features a rally and march through the heart of Palm Springs.