Paul Woodyard, 41; A Leader In City's Gay Musical Groups

Posted: April 07, 1995

Paul Woodyard, 41, who took care of plants for a living, played Chopin on the piano, sang second tenor for the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus, founded Philadelphia's gay and lesbian marching band, and tap-danced until he was hospitalized several weeks ago, died Tuesday at Hahneman University Hospital

from complications of AIDS.

Mr. Woodyard, who lived in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, was well-known in the city's gay and lesbian communities for his musical abilities and his tireless work organizing concerts, raising funds and doing the publicity for the musical groups he led or participated in.

"Without Paul, I'm not sure some of these organizations would have made it," said Paul Jensen, who worked and sang with Mr. Woodyard in the Gay Men's Chorus and the Spruce Street Singers, another gay choral group. "He did so many of the thankless jobs," particularly selling ads in the program books both groups used to finance their concerts and keep afloat, Jensen said.

Mr. Woodyard's neighbors knew him more for his piano playing - for the Chopin and show tunes that sweetened summer evenings when his rowhouse windows were open.

Mr. Woodyard grew up in Berwyn and started playing the piano in the second grade, his mother, Juanita Woodyard, said. They had gotten a piano for his older brother, but "Paul was the one who really took to it. He would not leave the piano alone," she said. After graduating from Conestoga High School, he studied music for a year at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.

In 1975, Mr. Woodyard began working for the Barnes Foundation in Merion. He started out as a gallery assistant, moving paintings. Then he moved into the arboretum, where he studied horticulture.

He left the foundation in 1981 to work for Intergreen, a Philadelphia company that installs and cares for indoor plants. In 1986, he opened a similar business, Tropical Interiors, from an office on the 400 block of Fairmount Ave.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Woodyard founded the Philadelphia Freedom Band, a gay and lesbian marching band that participated in Gay Pride parades in Philadelphia and other cities. "They were at the inaugural. He waved at President Clinton," said Joel Kaylor, Mr. Woodyard's longtime companion.

He joined the Philadelphia Gay Men's chorus in 1987 and served as its president for several years. He also was manager of the Spruce Street Singers.

"When he learned of his HIV status, he started to give a lot more time to these organizations," Kaylor said. "He spent hours and hours working for them - fund-raising, publicity, everything."

As his health declined, Mr. Woodyard had to give up singing for lack of stamina to stand onstage, and his voice weakened. But he played the piano every day, and several years ago, was a founding member of Men on Tap, a tap group of gay men.

"He was having trouble walking up flights of stairs and he was still trying to dance. He was just amazing," recalled Jensen.

Kaylor said Mr. Woodyard had been hoping to perform in the forthcoming Dance for Life benefit for Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives that had provided him with services.

In addition to Kaylor, Mr. Woodyard is survived by his parents, Robert and Juanita Woodyard of Stone Mountain, Ga.; two grandmothers, Mary Alice Woodyard of Stone Mountain and Katie Moore of Decatur, Ga.; a sister, Beverly Winn of Snellville, Ga.; two brothers, Phillip, of Fairfax, Va., and David, of Tallahassee, Fla.; and a large circle of friends who helped care for him during his long illness.

A memorial service will be held in several weeks.

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