Only on 13: Marker mystery solved, tombstone for life-partners moved to Texas AIDS Memorial Garden

Briana Conner Image
Monday, March 4, 2024
Marker moved to memorial honoring those who died during AIDS epidemic
The tombstone of Kenneth French and James Brickey, first discovered at a construction site, is finally resting at the Texas AIDS Memorial Garden.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Last year, ABC13 reported the discovery of a tombstone at a construction site. The inscription showed it was for two men who were life partners in the late 1980s.

They both died battling AIDS, but now their marker is part of a memorial dedicated to people who passed during the height of the epidemic.

After our original story, several community members and local leaders worked together and learned these two men who lived and died together were actually buried separately. The marker that bears both of their names has now been moved from a work site to the Texas AIDS Memorial Garden in Third Ward.

Pictures show Kenneth French and James Brickey's headstone, which is finally resting in peace in the garden along the Columbia Tap Trail. It dates back to 1986 and honors several people from southeast Texas who died of AIDS.

The woman who found Brickey and French's tombstone near the corner of Calumet and Chartres last March is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She made it her mission to ensure the truth about their lives wouldn't stay buried. She worked with Councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, the founders of the AIDS Memorial Garden and Friends of Columbia Tap Trail, and other community members to move the 500-pound marker to a place that was forged through fear and pain almost 40 years ago.

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R. Michael Lee is the founder of the Texas AIDS Memorial Garden.

"Even though you may see a pretty picture, there's a story, and this is the story of this piece of artwork, you know. It's tearful artwork, but it's a story of representing something that happened in 1986," Lee said.

"It's neat to see, you know, a community gather around and really care for this memorial and make sure that it's taken care of. I mean, it's awesome. It's pretty neat to see what community can do when we have people that care," Melissa Mims, who found the grave marker, said.

The owners of Heavenly Memorials and Monuments in Houston used their heavy machinery to transport the tombstone safely from the museum district to the AIDS Memorial Garden along the Columbia Tap Trail last week. There's a rededication ceremony at the garden planned for next Tuesday.

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