A prominent figure in the Florida LGBTQ+ community has died from the ongoing global pandemic after attending the annual Winter Party in Miami. This is the second such passing from attendees who were diagnosed with the virus following the event.
Ron Rich, 65, of Fort Lauderdale, was a talented musician, former high school band director, and a familiar face within the local community for his activism and volunteer work. His death over the weekend was announced Monday in a Facebook post by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Another Winter Party attendee, Israel Carrera, 40, also died after contracting the virus following the event.
“Ron was a familiar face to the guests who attended the Task Force Gala, Winter Party Festival and our Fort Lauderdale house parties over the past five years as his big smile and warmth had him mostly serving on our hospitality team Ron also volunteered with the Outshine Film Festival and Lambda Legal,” the National LGBTQ Task Force wrote in a Facebook post. “He will be missed. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.”
While the virus is particularly deadly for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it can still fatally strike others as well. Carrera’s partner, Franco Conquista, indicated that Carrera had no underlying issues prior to contracting the virus.
“This poor boy was only 40 years old,” Conquista told WVSN of the Cuban native who had lived in South Florida. “He started to feel sick after the event. We went together. I went to his place, taking care of him for two days, and I also had it. He couldn’t breathe, so he wanted to go to the hospital, and then, he was at the hospital for four or five days. Then, they put him to sleep because he was really agitated, and then, he never woke up again.”
Condolences have poured in from around the community for Rich on social media.
“I am devastated this morning,” Theo Vernan wrote in a Facebook post. “I student taught at Grissom under him and worked with him my first year teaching at Grissom High School in 1985. He was an amazing mentor, musician and we became great friends.”
According to Vernan, Rich was a band director for some time.