ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida gay activist Billy Manes, best known for his roles at Watermark Online and the Orlando Weekly, has died at the age of 45.
Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan posted on Facebook that Manes died Friday of pneumonia and organ failure. Sheehan told News 6 she was "absolutely devastated" by the loss of her close friend.
Manes was recognized as one of the pioneers of Orlando's LGBTQ community and a leading role model for gay rights.
"Our hearts are heavy learning @billymanes has passed away. Always a vibrant force of nature with a healthy dose of wit. You'll be missed," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted.
The Orlando Weekly reports that Manes died surrounded by friends and family, including his husband Anthony Mauss, at Orlando Regional Medical Center shortly after 4 p.m.
Manes spent years writing influential and often personal columns at the Orlando Weekly and was also the first openly gay candidate for Orlando mayor in 2005 during a special election that was eventually canceled, the newspaper reports.
In 2015, Manes moved to a new role as editor-in-chief at Watermark Online, a local LGBTQ newspaper. He became a pivotal voice for the community after the June 12, 2016 terror attack at Pulse nightclub.
Manes said he was "let go" from Watermark on Sunday.
He described himself on Twitter as "a journalist and wandering raconteur, separately, but in the same place."
The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence PAC released a statement about Manes' death:
“ On behalf of the entire Pride Fund team, we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Billy was an integral member of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence and was one of the LGBTQ community’s most outspoken advocates. He touched so many lives as a selfless friend, community supporter and a willing mentor. We will greatly miss him and his contributions to the gun violence prevention movement and the advancement of LGBTQ equality.”
“Our organization would not be where it is today if it were not for Billy’s advocacy and tireless efforts immediately following the Pulse tragedy last June. Billy's insight and friendship were essential to our founding, and for that, I will forever be thankful.”