Jerry Zachary, Founder of the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus, Dies at 72
Jerry Zachary, a fixture in the French Quarter since 1980, died on February 6, 2018. He was 72.
Zachary is survived by his partner, Henry Bernstein. Zachary and Bernstein met in 1990 on the outdoor volley ball court in Cabrini Park in the French Quarter and were inseparable for the next twenty-seven years. He is also survived by his brothers John Zachary and his wife Jo Anne of Benton Arkansas, James Zachary and G. W. Zachary and his wife Betty, all of Homer, Louisiana.
Born in Homer, Louisiana, Zachary obtained B.A. and M.A. degrees from Louisiana Tech and Louisiana State University, respectively. After finishing school, he then moved to Chicago and became a professional singer with the Chicago Symphony Chorus while working for Harris Bank. He subsequently became Assistant Choral Director to the legendary Margaret Hillis. During his career in music, Zachary had the pleasure of participating in concert performances at Carnegie Hall, as well as being an integral member of a Grammy Award winning chorus.
In 1980, Zachary moved to New Orleans, and instantly became a very active member of the French Quarter community. He was a member of Patio Planters, and he and Bernstein enjoyed opening their French Quarter backyard garden to tours of French Quarter gardens. Zachary was also an active member, and former board member, of Vieux Carre Property Owners and Associates.
After moving to New Orleans, Zachary continued with his choral performances and was a long-time choral member in the New Orleans Symphony Chorus and was one of the early singers in the New Orleans Vocal Arts Chorale. Zachary was a devoted follower of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the New Orleans Opera, and served as a member of the Opera’s Board of Advisors.
An avid theater goer, Zachary also performed in various local theater productions in New Orleans—his most memorable role being the part of Judge Turpin in Le Petit Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd. For many years, Zachary was the conductor of the student chorus at Our Lady of Holy Cross College. He also served as choral conductor of the New Orleans Chapter of the Sweet Adelines.
Zachary’s main source of pride was his founding of the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus in 1981. Noting the apathy of the gay community and the negative connotations that were often associated with it, Zachary once observed “The Chorus was always about putting a face on the community that wasn’t drag or sleaze.” Zachary served as choral director for a number of years.
Zachary was also a volunteer in many local organizations including the NO/Aids Task Force, from which he received its Volunteer Service Award.
A memorial service for Jerry Zachary was held on Friday, February 16, 2018, at Temple Sinai in New Orleans.