Tom Galster recently contributed his story to the LGBTQ: Voices of Butte oral history project.
Born and raised in Butte, Tom moved out of state at the age of 17, first to Houston, Texas and then Anchorage, Alaska. He first realized his sexuality as a gay man while living in Texas. He contracted AIDS while in Anchorage in the early 1980s shortly thereafter and was one of the first people diagnosed with AIDS in the United States.
He eventually moved to Lower Lake, California with his partner, where he worked at Homestead Goldmine as maintenance personnel.
Tom’s partner died of AIDS. It took all of three days. According to Tom, “We thought he had a cold. I came home and his skin came off in my hands. I took him to the hospital and 10 minutes later he was dead.” Tom continued to struggle with AIDS after his partner’s death, which is what brought him back to Butte in 1994. Tom and his mother attempted to start a Butte chapter of PFLAG and Pride in the early 1990s, but they lacked community support to sustain the organizations.
The entire 28-minute interview will be available in the near future through the Montana Memory Project. If interested in contributing your story to this project, please contact Marian at email@example.com or 732-3361 x6302.