Obituary: Fredia Hurdle / Among plaintiffs in Pa.'s gay marriage case

Oct. 15, 1963 - Aug. 7, 2014

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Not quite three months ago, Fredia and Lynn Hurdle were celebrating. Suddenly, they lived in a state where gay marriage was legal, and they had helped to make it so.

The Hurdles of Crafton Heights were among the plaintiffs in a case that went before a federal judge in Harrisburg. In May, the judge ruled that Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.

The ruling meant that the Hurdles, who were together for 24 years, who were united in a commitment ceremony five years ago, and who had supported each other through sickness and child-rearing, could have their union recognized by the state they considered home.

Maybe they could get officially married in July, Lynn Hurdle thought, to mark the fifth anniversary of their original wedding ceremony. But her daughter planned to marry in October, and Fredia Hurdle said they should wait until after her wedding. It was her year, her “moment in the sun,” she told the woman she had long considered her wife.

“It's legal. We have time,” she said.

But Thursday, Fredia Hurdle died from a stroke. She was 50 years old.

“I was looking for the next 25 or 50 years together,” Lynn Hurdle said. “It's been shell shock.”

For half a century, Fredia Lynn Hurdle was a woman who friends and family say lived life large. She was born on Oct. 15, 1963, in Norfolk, Va., the youngest of the Rev. Willis M. and Addie Odessa Hurdle's five children.

She spent many years as a bus driver for Greyhound Lines, eventually logging over 1 million miles. In 1990, she was driving a new route, and a passenger who helped her with directions turned out to be her co-pilot for life.

“She was just larger than life,” said Lynn Hurdle, who started buying bus tickets so the two could spend time together. “I just got captivated with her and her life and her personality.”

Soon, Fredia Hurdle moved her home base from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh to be close to Lynn Hurdle, a nurse. Together, the two women raised Lynn Hurdle’s daughter, Ashley Wise, and also helped raise some of Fredia Hurdle’s nieces and nephews after her sister died. Fredia Hurdle later worked as a driver for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Their July 2009 wedding ceremony was “maybe the coolest wedding I've ever gone to,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who knew the couple through his wife.

A few years later, he asked the Hurdles to be plaintiffs in the suit the ACLU was filing to strike down the gay marriage ban in Pennsylvania, and they agreed.

Fredia Hurdle had been hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery, and the doctors and nurses had refused to give Lynn Hurdle information about her condition because they were not legally family. It was an episode that had caused them both great stress, and they recounted it in the suit. They considered their union a marriage; they wanted the state to recognize it, too.

“She often said to me in fighting this that they were not the kind to seek out attention,” Mr. Walczak said. “They just wanted to be known as the friendly couple across the street, who was always there with a helping hand and a smile.”

They were blessed, and proud, to be able to share their story, Lynn Hurdle said.

“They symbolized how a lesbian couple is absolutely no different than a straight couple, in terms of the trials, the tribulations, the love, the family, the highs and the lows,” Mr. Walczak said.

In addition to Lynn Hurdle and Ashley Wise, Fredia Hurdle’s survivors include her father, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and three siblings: Cynthia Lynnelle Lightfoot of Richmond, Va., Geraldine Annette Franklin and Julius Bernard Hurdle, both of Virginia Beach.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. today and Tuesday at the Schepner-McDermott Funeral Home, 165 Noble Ave. in Crafton.

A celebration of Fredia Hurdle's life will be held in Norfolk, Va. Friday, followed on Saturday by a funeral and internment in Belvidere, N.C.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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