The Key West AIDS Memorial continues to grow, with an additional 10 names being added this year to the collection of more than 1,000 names inscribed in granite at the foot of the Edward B. Knight Pier. 

The memorial was the first of its kind to honor those lost to the AIDS epidemic. It was funded with private donations and dedicated in 1997. The Friends of the Key West AIDS Memorial, an all-volunteer group, maintains the tranquil memorial and solicits names each year to be added.

The site is the location each year of Key West’s World AIDS Day commemoration, which includes a reading of the 1,000-plus names during a candlelight march from City Hall to the memorial. This year’s ceremony will be held virtually on Dec. 1.

“After serious consideration, our board felt this was the best path forward to ensure the safety of our community,” said Don Dotzauer, treasurer of the Friends of the Key West AIDS Memorial. “Our board plans on doing something pretty special this year to hopefully reach those beyond Key West.”

The names are inscribed in Zimbabwe granite by Atlas Memorials, located at Southern Keys Cemetery on Big Coppitt Key. 

“The names are sent to a stencil company, Design Mart in Elberton, Georgia,” said Stan Sabuk at Atlas Memorials.

“A stencil proof attachment via email is sent back for review and approval by Don Dotzauer of the Key West AIDS Memorial board. The stencil fabric is shipped to Atlas Memorials here on Big Coppitt, then the sandblasting process is a two-day task with a three-man workforce,” Sabuk said. “First the area where the names are going to be inscribed is cleaned and made ready to receive the stencil. Tack glue is brushed on the area and allowed to air dry. The stencil is applied and the names are ‘picked’ off the stencil revealing the inscriptions. On the second day, the compressor and sandblast pot are driven and parked near the memorial site. We use a tent and wind panels to contain the sandblasting media. The rubber stencil bounces the silica media and the exposed granite is carved by the force of the sandblasting. Once the desired depth is achieved, several times checking to assure quality control, a white lithochrome paint or auto body paint is sprayed to highlight the sandblasted names. We let that dry and remove the stencil before cleaning up and heading home.”

NAMES TO BE ADDED

The following names will be added this year to the Key West AIDS Memorial: Larry Kramer, Dennis W. Jaeger, Eric Pedersen, Thomas M. Griffiths, Robert “Rafael” Fernandez, Steven Lee Bond, Bruce R. Peele, Thomas A. Payne, Lysle T. McCown Jr. and Harold Frank Garner Jr.

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