A Memorial: James J. Pechacek 1954-2009

My husband passed away on Tuesday. Actually, he was my Fiance. We’d been engaged for 33 years. He tried to hang on long enough for us to get married. That goal helped keep him alive for the last several years. He’d have been perfectly content with “domestic partnership”.

JJ was a very private person. Few of you ever met him, nor even knew of his existence. Those who did were indeed, very privileged.

JJ was the counter balance force in my life. We were polar opposites in so many ways. He was a meticulous stickler for details, a deep thinker, a slow responder. He prided himself on his rationality, and his memory. JJ was the best “phone a friend” walking encyclopedia that anyone could have ever hoped to have known. And though he didn’t think so, he was the cutest little puppy in the world.

JJ was the first fan of Vintage Vegas. He’s the one who made me believe 20 years ago that we could create a vibrant, energetic, fun urban core. When we first moved to Las Vegas 1985, he’s the one who only wanted to live downtown. He’s the one who pointed out the first “mid mod” homes that I soon fell in love with. We didn’t know the words for mid mod, but JJ’s the one who showed me why they were important. JJ was my biggest supporter, my most ardent fan. And he was my most vocal critic. I’m so going to miss him.  

JJ liked his privacy and his anonymity. I was most shocked on Sunday when he told me that I could tell some of our story in public….as long as it was to make a point. 

We met in 1975. We were both 21 year olds. He was hitchhiking to Florida. I was driving the semi-truck. I stopped to pick him up in Louisville, and was in love before we got to Nashville. He wanted to be a Gypsy. I wanted to be rich. He wanted to see the great cities and buildings and mountains and rivers and I wanted to meet a couple of million interesting people. We both got what we wanted.

It’s been a long, exciting, and fun journey since then. We’ve been rich and poor and rich and poor again. We’ve been healthy and sick. We’ve been fun loving and furious. We were a couple thru lots of thick and thin. We were PARTNERS. That’s the word we used to describe ourselves. And in our minds and in the reality of space and time we were married. We were married because we said we were. We could have cared less what any church might have thought. That our government considered us second class citizens… mattered a lot.

It was crushing to me yesterday when the coroner’s office didn’t have a category that described us for the death certificate. They wrote that he was SINGLE. They said I WASN’T THE NEXT OF KIN!

Back in January, the hospital recognized the legal power of attorney and other forms that had cost us thousands of dollars in legal fees. Most “not married” couples don’t have those papers ready when they need them. Many couldn’t afford them in the first place. We were fortunate in that regard. Without them, they would wouldn’t have even had to let me into the room.

There’s a thousand things, both big and small that require “the stamp of recognition” from our various governments. Social Security Survivor benefits, taxes, inheritance rules, property rights, parental rights, and on and on and on. This is no small matter to the lives of many millions of Americans.

And that brings us to the irony of the timing of JJ’s passing. Within a few minutes one way or the other of JJ’s death….The Nevada Senate passed “Domestic Partnership” legislation. JJ would be very proud of them. Many of our best friends are in Carson City this week to tell our stories, and to lobby for passage of the bill. JJ wanted me to go, but I couldn’t leave him alone for 3 days. I’ve asked them to deliver a copy of this obituary for me.

Our governor has said that he’ll veto it if it passes. Why? Because “he doesn’t believe in it” is the only answer he has. JJ believed in it and so do I. I hope you do, as well.

One of JJ’s final requests was that I tell you our story and that I ask all of you, in his memory, to PLEASE call or write the Nevada Legislature, AND THE GOVERNOR and tell them that you support domestic partnership legislation.  For that matter, tell the Congress and the President as well.

All JJ wanted was that I be recognized, at the barest of minimums, as his LEGAL “next of kin”.