Frank Zerilli was born on December 2, 1944, in the Bronx, New York. His family moved to Queens when he was three years old and to East Meadow, New York, when he was eight. He was raised in the Lutheran Church. Frank graduated from East Meadow High School in 1964 after taking courses in shorthand, typing and secretarial practice. After working for the Diners’ Club for a year, he decided to attend Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute (later Lutheran Bible School and Luther College) in Teaneck, New Jersey.
After one-and-a-half years in Bible school, Frank left and moved to southern California in January, 1967. There he went to work for the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad as secretary to the trainmaster at Fullerton, California. In 1968, he came out of the closet and in August of 1969, he moved back to Long Island. In June of 1970, while standing in a gay bar on Long Island, people came in passing out fliers for the first-ever gay pride march in New York City to celebrate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Frank went to the march and from there got involved with the Gay Activists Alliance of Long Island and later with GAA New York as well.
In June of 1971, Frank moved back to southern California, arriving in Los Angeles the week before the second gay pride parades. That Sunday, he attended Metropolitan Community Church-Los Angeles for the first time for their gay pride service. He marched with the Church in the parade in Hollywood later that day. Once settled in Los Angeles, Frank got involved with the Gay Community Alliance, One, Inc., HELP, Inc. and other gay groups in the Los Angeles area. He also joined MCC in November of that year.
On December 2, 1974 (his 30th birthday), after working for the Holiday Inn-Hollywood for three-and-a-half years, Frank started working for the Rev. Troy Perry and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC). He began as Rev. Perry’s secretary and later became his Confidential Assistant, a position he still holds today.
When Canada legalized gay marriage in 2005, while Metropolitan Community Churches was having their General Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Frank and his partner since 1979--Franklin Calvin--were legally married. The Rev. Brent Hawkes, pastor of MCC-Toronto and the Rev. Troy Perry co-officiated at this ceremony on July 25.
In November, 2006, Frank moved from Los Angeles to Abilene, Texas, to work in the UFMCC office there. He and Franklin now live in Abilene with their three miniature schnauzers, Gus, Gracie and Chester. Frank still works with Rev. Perry by phone and computer as he needs him. He and Franklin are active members of Exodus Metropolitan Community Church in Abilene.
Frank was one of the original members of the Advisory Committee of the LGBT Religious Archives Network in 2001 and served on the committee until he retired in 2008.
Frank died on March 20, 2020 in Abilene, Texas.
(This biographical statement provided by Frank Zerilli.)
Biography Date: November, 2008
Here is the link to an obituary for Frank Zerilli in the Abilene Reporter News:
MCC | Perry, Troy | LGBT Religious Archives Network | Gay Liberation Movement
“Frank Zerilli | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed June 17, 2021, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/frank-zerilli.
“My fondest memory of Frank- we were in high school together, I had my drivers permit and Frank decided to teach me how to drive a his VW, which of course was a stick shift. As I was attempting to shift and his poor car was bucking, there was my dearest friend standing on the seat of the car half out of the sun roof yelling at the drivers behind me that "I was just learning!" Between laughing and crying I did manage to move the car eventually. He would not let me give up. Thank you- I love you.”
– as remembered by Alexis (Cookie) on December 19, 2011
“The death of a friend in the middle of a pandemic who didn’t die of coronavirus. Frank Zerilli died yesterday. He and his husband Franklin Calvin had just celebrated their 41st anniversary.
I remember the first time that Frank shared with me that he had met at our church the man he was going to spend the rest of his life with. Frank introduced me to Franklin one week later. Frank was right, they spent the rest of their life together until yesterday March 20, 2020.
I remember in 1976 when I was looking for someone to hire to work at our denominational headquarters as my confidential assistant I met Frank for the first time. I interviewed him for the job and was impressed with what I found out about him. He had been raised in the Lutheran Church of America and had attended Bible college. I discovered he was one of the few men I had ever met who knew shorthand. He could type almost 200 words a minute without mistakes. He told me he had won A New York state contest for the fastest typist there and had come in third. All of that impressed me. But the thing that really caught my attention was when he told me he had been a member of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York City and had co-founded the same organization on Long Island. That day Frank and I started a collaboration of employer and employee that lasted for 35 years and friends for almost 50.
I heard some people say that Frank and I look like Mutt and Jeff. People could not get over his heavy New Yorker accent and my heavy southern one when we appeared together in front of our general conference. When it came to politics Frank was the New York lefty and I was more to the middle left. He always made sure when I was being conservative on issues that maybe I need to be a little more liberal. Frank took seriously my description of him as my confidential assistant. In the 35 years he worked for me, not once did anyone come to me and tell me Frank “said such and such.”
During the last 10 years of my term as moderator of our denomination Franklin, Frank’s husband, became my security person. Frank, Franklin, Phillip, and I traveled together to our general conferences which were held all over the world. Phillip and I could never ask for better friends than those two. Franklin has given me permission to give you his phone number so that you who loved Frank the way we did might want to call him. His cell number is 325-201-8507.
Rest in God Frank, until that wonderful day when we all shall see each other again!”
– as remembered by The Rev. Troy Perry on March 21, 2020
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