by Fred Kuhr
Billy Manes, the former editor of Orlando’s Watermark, has died.
According to a statement released by his husband Tony Mauss, Manes “passed away peacefully … surrounded by his family of friends. He had been ill for a couple of weeks with what turned out to be pneumonia, and by the time we sought medical attention, it was too far advanced. He died due to complications of his condition leading to organ failure.”
Manes passed away on July 21. He was only 45.
Manes first made his mark on Orlando as a writer and columnist for the newspaper Orlando Weekly. In 2005, he ran for mayor – making him the first openly gay mayoral candidate in Orlando history.
In 2015, Manes left Orland Weekly to take on the role of editor in chief at Watermark. And he was the editor when 49 people were murdered at the Pulse Nightclub massacre in 2016. As Orlando Weekly put it in their tribute to Manes, he “became the voice of a grieving community, appearing on MSNBC and NPR. On the one-year mark of the tragedy, Manes reflected in a Watermark column that Orlando achieved the remarkable feat of pulling different people in the city together after Pulse.”
In that column, Manes wrote. “After June 12, thousands lined up to donate blood for the 49 dead and the 53 injured in that nightclub nightmare, not because standing in the sun on a hot summer day is an act to be applauded, but because they knew that, in times like these, the masses are needed. This was no time to hide behind your couch cushions and cry at the television broadcasts. This was a time of people connecting – arm and arm, blood to blood – in the manner that societies do when tragedy strikes.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called Manes “a vibrant force of nature with a healthy dose of wit.”
“He touched so many lives as a selfless friend, community supporter and a willing mentor,” read a statement from the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, of which Manes was a board member.
And his husband said that Manes was a “walking fucking miracle, a man who fought ferociously to create a world where justice, equality and respect were the cornerstones of his community. He loved Orlando. He knew what was possible here in this sprawling mass of ex-pats, misfits, introverts, seekers, party people, bookworms, performers, makers, artists and friends. His driving force was love. He loved you, Orlando, and he knew of your love for him. He fed off it; it sustained him. He would have fought proudly for each and every one of you forever. Unfortunately, his body had other plans. So grieve, Orlando, grieve, but don’t forget to laugh, create joy, and love each other wildly. That would honor him.”
In July of this year, Manes announced that he was “effectively let go” by Watermark and would no longer serve as the newspaper’s editor. According to a statement by the newspaper, however, Manes’ departure was “by mutual agreement.” The statement added, “Out of mutual respect, the reasons for this change will remain proprietary.”
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