It's a special person who manages to leave behind a legacy of kindness and warmness when they pass on. Longtime Affirmations volunteer and Metropolitan Community Church
–Detroit member Violet ("Vy") Betty Reed was that kind of special.
“Vy cared about her students,” said longtime friend Cindy Clardy. “She was just a warm, wonderful woman. … Everybody loved her. She was a friend to everyone.”
Reed, who died Dec. 31 at 84, started volunteering at Affirmations in 1991, just two years after it opened. At the time, Reed was very much in the closet on the job. But that did not stop her from becoming involved with the center. She took training to become a group facilitator and facilitated many groups over the years. She also worked the hotline in the early days and volunteered wherever she was needed.
Reed spent her early years in both Gary, Indiana and Dearborn, Michigan before graduating from Dearborn High School in 1955. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in science from Western Michigan University and a master’s from Michigan State University. Additionally, Reed earned her certification as an education specialist in guidance and counseling from Wayne State University. This allowed her to work as both a teacher and counselor, mostly in the Roseville school system.
“She was just lovely,” said then Affirmations executive director and former Between The Lines (BTL) co-publisher Jan Stevenson. “She was always willing to help, always pleasant. She was not real talkative, though. Mostly I would ask her to do things and the most common thing she said to me was ‘yes.’ She was just so reliable.”
This at a time when involvement with the center could still be risky.
“All the teachers were way in the closet at the time because it was immediate firing if you came out,” said Stevenson. “So, Affirmations was kind of an island of freedom for her. … She came to all the events we did, the dances and parties and fundraisers. She was always there showing up and willing to help.”
In a 2019 Pride Source profile, Reed spoke about how volunteering at Affirmations had enriched her life. “I met more people than I would have ever met, and wherever I go I know somebody,” she said. “So, it’s a very, very nice thing and a great relief from the bars. … I know it allowed me to open up. I was kind of shy to begin with and even though I was a counselor at a school in the community, it gave me my voice to talk a little bit more.”
Through the years, Reed was involved with the Silver Foxes, a women’s group for those over age 45. She was also active in a later iteration of the group, the Senior Koffee Klatch. In addition to her volunteerism, Reed was a frequent supporter of the Forum Foundation, a group that gave out annual scholarships to queer students. Reed received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the LGBT Community Pride Banquet in 2004. Through the years she also received a slew of other recognitions.
Reed enjoyed a variety of interests including playing cards, bingo and dancing. She was also an artist with a prolific body of painting and collage under her belt. An active member of Metropolitan Community Church – Detroit (MCCD), there she participated in online prayer team meetings and hosted an in-person church connection group at her home for many years.
“Vy was a well-loved, longtime member of our church,” said MCCD Pastor Hattie Alexander-Key. “She was a faithful member of our Prayer Team Ministry. She even participated in prayer during her own hospital admission, praying for others as well as we prayed for her. … She will be deeply missed.”
A memorial service for Reed was organized by MCCD on Saturday, Jan. 28 and took place at Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale. Following the service, she was interred at the White Chapel Cemetery in Troy.