Willy Jump was born Willy Broekveldt in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on August 2, 1936 of Frisian origins. Willy emigrated to the United States in 1958 to marry Harold Jump, whom she had met in Amsterdam while Jump was stationed in Germany during the Korean War a few years prior. In the early 1970s, I came out to my parents and Willy pledged to help other parents cope with learning about their children’s sexual orientation.
My mother first marched with me at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979, for which I was part of the planning the year before in Philadelphia as a representative of Gay People at Queens College.
Amsterdam-born activist Mom succumbed to complications of COVID-19
We went backstage to meet some of the parents from what was then called National Parents of Gays — and we met the New York City PFLAG co-chairs Amy and Dick Ashworth. Willy was immediately drawn to Amy since they looked like sisters (and later became as close as sisters) and my mom heard a Dutch accent that they shared in common.
The following summer of 1980 was Willy’s first of more than 20 consecutive years marching in the New York City Pride March with PFLAG. Parents of Gays had briefly become POLAGM — Parents of Lesbians & Gay Men — before becoming PFLAG. My suggestion to the PFLAG board one year to continue our course of ever greater inclusion in the organization’s name was to call ourselves PFLABAGASTR — Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Bisexuals & Gays & Sometimes Transgenders. They didn’t go for it.
In 1980 when the Pride Parade was still a “march,” I told my mom to meet me on the corner of Bedford & Christopher Streets an hour before the march actually began its lurch uptown toward Central Park — thinking it wouldn’t be that crowded yet.
So there I was looking for Willy amongst the throngs of leather queens, drag queens, dykes on bikes, and twinks, screaming, “MOM! MOM?” on a lightpost I had climbed. Almost immediately this handsome older guy with an impish smile and a little space between his teeth came up to me and tugged at my pant leg, shouting over the din in an incredibly hoarse voice that seemed incongruous to his appearance — putting his fingernail up to his mouth to hide his incredulity — “You really aren’t looking for your MOM but some big queen you call MOM — right?”
“No, I said, slowly realizing who it was that was inquiring. “I really am looking for my Mom.”
Then in rapid-fire, breathy-dragon-voice that sputtered like a typewriter on steroids, he shouted, “OH MY GOD! If my mother would just even acknowledge my being gay let alone come march with me! COME MARCH WITH ME? I could just die right now and go to heaven a happy drag queen. Do you know how lucky you are? I have to meet this WOMAN! MOM! MOM! MOM!”
And almost as soon as he had appeared, so did my mother.
“Hi Frankie. Who is your friend?”
“This is the infamous Harvey Fierstein,” I proudly exclaimed.
“Points! Points! You are scoring here,” Harvey raspily whispered. “And this is my mother, Willy Jump,” I continued.
Harvey grabbed my mother around the neck and planted a wet one on her cheek.
Coincidentally, the two of them would run into each other for the next decade at LGBTQ events and panel discussions. When I ran into Harvey repeatedly over the years — from his book signings to rides on the subway while he was going to the theater to perform “Torch Song” to spotting him on parade floats — he always gave me a warm greeting, “HOW’S YOUR MOTHER?”
Willy volunteered at PFLAG for more than 20 years, counseling parents of LGBTQ children and fundraising for the group’s annual dinners.
On Facebook, on the day I announced my mother’s death, my friend Jay Blotcher wrote, “What a dynamo she was! What joyous energy and awareness and defiance. I’m so sorry she has left us. Willy was a perfect surrogate mother for a generation of ACT UP and LGBTQ people… her passing is a loss to the entire progressive community.”
Willy Broekveldt Jump died on April 22 of complications related to COVID-19.
Donations in the name of Willy Jump can be made to:
130 East 25th Street, Suite M1
New York, NY 10010
Make checks payable to PFLAG NYC. Donations can also be made in memory of Willy Jump at pflagnyc.org/donate.
Frank Jump, who worked alongside his mother Willy Jump for many years in PFLAG and other LGBTQ rights activism, is an artist and educator and the author of “Fading Ads of NYC” (History Press, 2011).