Nickie Valdez, Pioneering Catholic Lesbian Advocate, Dies on Christmas Day
DignityUSA and Dignity/San Antonio mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Nickie Valdez, who passed away December 25, 2020 at her home in San Antonio. Her spouse of 35 years, Deb Myers, was with her, as she was throughout Nickie’s 8-year battle with multiple myeloma.
Nickie co-founded Dignity/San Antonio in 1976 with her beloved friend Bruce Jarstfer. Even long before that, Nickie worked to make a home within the Catholic church for LGBTQI people. As far back as the mid-1960s, Nickie would sit on the steps of her local parish church, making herself available for gay and lesbian people who may have felt excluded by the church. She spoke with leaders of the many religious communities in the San Antonio area, urging them to include LGBT people in their outreach and ministries.
Through her work, many priests and sisters became involved in Dignity/San Antonio, and Chapter representatives served on the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission for many years.
Nickie met Deb Myers in 1985, and they had a Holy Union ceremony four years later. One of the happiest times of their 35 years together was when they were able to get a marriage license from Bexar County, Texas in June 2015 and they were married that September. As a couple, they led many of Dignity/San Antonio’s programs, were active in a variety of justice-oriented activities throughout the San Antonio area, and were leaders of DignityUSA’s Committee for Women’s Concerns, the forerunner of Women of Dignity. For many years, Deb and Nickie also headed DignityUSA’s Couples Ministry, maintaining a registry of couples who had celebrated their commitments before they could be legally recognized in most places, and sending anniversary cards out each year. Nickie also served on DignityUSA’s Board, representing the Committee for Women’s Concerns, from 1997-2001.
At the 2017 conference Rolling the Stone Away: A Gathering of LGBTQIA Saints and Prophets, Nickie was celebrated for her decades of activism on behalf of our community and was honored by being asked to speak the final blessing and commissioning of those gathered.
Marianne Duddy-Burke recalled meeting Nickie at the DignityUSA conference in New York city in 1985. “From my first conversation with Nickie, on a cruise in New York Harbor, it was clear she was passionate about Dignity’s mission, and about ensuring LGBTQI people had a home within our Church.
"She had an unshakeable vision of God’s love being all-embracing. Nickie was involved in so much justice work in San Antonio, nurtured so many Dignity leaders throughout the decades, and pushed the organization to embrace women, people of color, poor people, families, and all who needed us. She was wise, generous, loving, had a wicked sense of humor, loved music, color, dance, and above all, Deb. Even when incredibly frail, she remained the leader of Dignity/San Antonio. I am honored to have called her a friend.”
When Nickie’s death was announced to the Women of Dignity, spontaneous tributes poured in. Lauren Carpenter, immediate past-Vice President of DignityUSA, said, "Before I met Nickie at Dignity in 2008, the only other queer people I knew were my college friends, all in their early 20s. Getting to know Nickie and learning about her lifetime of LGBTQ activism, her engagement with her community and her deep commitment to Deb, was my first a glimpse of what a full life an LGBTQ person could lead, and gave me a vision for my own future." Former Board member Linda Pieczynski said, “What an example she was of love and dedication to the world and its problems. I am honored to have known her.” Longtime member Maria Gambatese wrote, “To know Nickie was to love her, but also to be in awe. She lived her life as Jesus and Mary would have wanted her to be. She and Deb had a relationship that made us all want to strive to have one like it.” Mary E. Hunt said of Nickie and Deb, “For me, they have long been models of the care and commitment that make a committed relationship so generative of others. When I attended mass in San Antonio it was clear that they were pillars of their chapter, nurturing others and leading with skill and gentleness.” Women of Dignity leader Honour Maddock noted that Nickie was “the Godmother of the group,” the one whose quiet but forceful leadership infused so much of what was done.
DignityUSA President Chris Pett said, “I had the honor to spend time with Nickie and Deb in February 2020, when the DignityUSA Board of Directors met in San Antonio for what turned out to be our last in-person meeting before the Covid pandemic expanded across our nation. I always felt a glow of God’s sacred presence in Nickie, and always referred to her as ‘mother’, in recognition of her unique role in our history and powerful witness.
"She was suffering but resilient in her intent to be present for our liturgy with the community and the festive meal that followed. And, although we are filled with great sorrow at the loss of Nickie’s sacred presence to her beloved Dignity/San Antonio community and the extended DignityUSA family, we rejoice in her enduring legacy of faithfulness to the cause of justice, especially the full and active inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in the life and leadership of the Church."
“St. Nickie Valdez, priest and prophet, pray for us!”
Visitation will be held at Port Loring Funeral Homes in San Antonio on January 10th from 5:00pm-7:00pm Central with a 7:00pm Central Rosary.
Nickie's funeral mass will be held at the Oblate School of Theology on January 11th, at 1:00pm Central and will be live streamed online. The obituary and live stream link will be available at the Port Loring Funeral Homes website.
Nickie is being remembered by the larger San Antonio community, as well. The San Antonio Express News published a tribute on December 28, 2020.
See Nickie's biography on LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.
Hear Nickie speak at the 2017 Rolling Away the Stone Conference.