History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Wisconsin - People - Bios

Ronnie Grace



February 15, 1958
November 9, 2023
Primary Involvements:

Leader in BIPOC, transgender and HIV/AIDS care community
Active in Diverse & Resilient organization

Primary Location:

Milwaukee, WI



Ronnie Grace was a significant leader in the BIPOC, transgender and HIV/AIDS care communities in Milwaukee.

The Diverse & Resilent website published the following biography of Grace the day after his death:

    Diverse & Resilient Mourns the Passing of Longtime Advocate Ronnie Grace

    It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Ronnie Grace, a cherished member of the Diverse & Resilient family, who left us on Thursday, November 9th, surrounded by loved ones. Ronnie, an integral part of our organization for over 17 years, has been a beacon of strength and inspiration in the LGBTQ and HIV communities for nearly two decades.

    Ronnie's journey with Diverse & Resilient began in 2006 as a program participant, and his dedication and passion led him to become a crucial member of our team. Ronnie joined Diverse & Resilient in 2012 as a coordinator for the HIV testing program. His exceptional contributions quickly elevated him to lead coordinator for both the HIV and STI testing programs. In addition, Ronnie facilitated the agency's support group for women of trans experience, Sister Helping Each Other Battle Adversity (SHEBA).

    In 2020, Ronnie took on the role of lead Peer Navigator for the agency's HIV Peer Navigator Program, further showcasing his commitment to serving the LGBTQ and HIV communities. Throughout his tenure, Ronnie garnered numerous awards for his tireless work, participating in HIV and LGBTQ anti-stigma campaigns and serving on various boards, including the Wisconsin HIV and HCV Statewide Action Planning Group (SAPG) and the City of Milwaukee Commissioner on Domestic Violence Sexual and Assault (DVSA) Commission.

    Ronnie's impact extended beyond professional achievements. He founded and facilitated GROWN UPS, an empowerment and support group for men living with HIV, demonstrating his dedication to creating safe spaces for the underserved and underprivileged LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities of color.

    Known affectionately as "Uncle Ronnie," he was more than a colleague – he was family. Ronnie's warmth, kindness, and unwavering support left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of knowing him. His recent feature in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted his incredible journey from his Mississippi roots to becoming a beloved Milwaukee activist.

    Ronnie's legacy will continue to inspire and guide us as we strive to uphold the values he championed – advocacy, mentorship, and unwavering support for the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. Diverse & Resilient extends our deepest condolences to Ronnie's family, friends, and all those whose lives he touched. In honoring Ronnie's memory, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of equality, justice, and resilience.

The Journal-Sentinel website subsequently published a bio and obituary for Ronnie.

According to the Journal-Sentinel articles, Grace was born in Mississippi and grew up in Milwaukee, where his family moved during the Great Migration. He was also a ballroom dancer who worked in Hollywood, New York City and Atlanta. When HIV hampered his health, Grace returned to Milwaukee and became active in the LGBTQ and HIV communities. Early in 2023, he had sought treatment for Stage IV liver and bile cancer at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he died.

An article honoring Grace had also appeared in 'The Advocate' national LGBTQ magazine in August, coinciding with an event feting Grace, held August 20, where fellow Diverse & Resilient staffers and others praised him as a tireless worker for the LGBTQ+ community and people living with AIDS. He is a "selfless person" with an "Energizer Bunny" attitude, said Gerry Coon, director of grants and budget support at Diverse & Resilient. "Ronnie is the epitome of what a Black gay man should be. He's educated, loving, understanding, and all-inclusive, and he's never disrespected anyone on their journey," said Joshua Jones at the event, who’s been friends with Grace for two decades.

In June of 2013, the Journal-Sentinel website had featured an interview with Ronnie Grace conducted by "the House of History" group, part of Diverse & Resilient, in their Oral Histories project.


Grace's memorial flyer

Credits: Source info from Diverse & Resilient;
Last updated: January-2024.

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