As the old saying goes, we all have an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other. Well, Scott Archer was all angel, his best friend Herman Coen believes.
"Everybody wanted to talk to Scott, because Scott was Scott," Coen remembered. "He was well-known and deeply loved by just about everyone who ever met him."
Archer, whose legal name was Scott Turner, died Jan. 29 at the age of 62. He was dedicated to LGBTQ causes as a member of the Windy City Empire, the Chicago branch of the Imperial Court non-profit organization, which provides outreach and funding for LGBTQ groups with its 65 branches throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Archer worked as treasurer of Chicago's Imperial Court chapter, and he also served as an Emperor, twice localy and once in Alaska. He had also been a member of the International Court Council for several years, recently being reappointed.
He constantly kept busy as both a mentor and supporter of LGBTQ+ organizations. And his contributions to the LGBTQ community went well beyond philanthropy. Archer helped found the gay and lesbian community center of Anchorage, Coen said, while he was also heavily involved in the leather and bear communities. Not only did he help raise tens of thousands each year, Archer also was the proud title-holder of International Mr. Bear 2008.
He grew up in Skokie, before going to college in Iowa. But he left the cold, Midwest winters to traverse an even harsher climate, living in Alaska from 1988 to 2011. Both Archer and Coen lived in Alaska, and the two met while helping with planning for the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, becoming fast friends.
"Scott was probably the easiest person to get to know," Coen said. "He was just a genuine, warm, and open person. He had a handout for anyone that needed help. He didn't know a stranger."
Coen and Archer separately relocated to Chicagoland, and Coen began to regard his friend as a brother. They shared many nights cooking together, and also lived as roommates for some time. Coen loved to make a main dish, a protein of some kind, while Archer was well-known for his sides, whether it was acorn squash au gratin or a simple stew.
Though he had grown up as an only child, Archer learned later in life that he had a brother, Bob, with whom he developed a close bond. Getting to build this relationship as an adult was a great joy for Archer, Coen said.
Alongside that familial bond, Archer built a chosen family, taking in younger members of the LGBTQ+ community who needed guidance.
Archer met Jerad Knight while he lived in Alaska in the early 2000s. Knight had just moved to Alaska on a whim, and Archer took him under his wing. The two briefly dated, and while their romance ultimately ended, they remained life-long friends. Archer considered him an adopted son, Knight said, the first of many in their family.
"He was the person that I would call in the middle of the night and say, 'Hey,' if I was feeling down, or if I was standing at a crossroads and just didn't know what to do," Knight recalled. "I knew that he was the one person I could call."
"Every time I talked to him, he would make that point to relay, 'I'm proud of you," he added.
The two maintained their friendship from across the country, with Knight eventually relocating to Colorado, where he currently lives with his husband. Knight and Archer made time for regular FaceTimes to keep up with their ever-changing lives.
"If Scott saw something in you that he deemed worthy of his love and friendship, he was one of the rare few that loved deep, hard and unconditionally," Knight said. "And the world is going to be a little bit darker without that."
While he devoted much of his life to service, he kept a whimsy to his persona. Archer was especially hairy, and Knight said their family poked fun at this by calling him Chewbacca, and the adopted childrenwho share a Facebook groupreferred to themselves as Ewoks.
Archer tirelessly supported the community, having worked closely with Lori Cannon and her organization, Open Hand Chicago, for many years. The organization, which was absorbed into the Heartland Alliance in 2011, helped provide relief for people suffering from AIDS. The alliance has since partnered with the Imperial Court for its continued efforts.
Cannon said Archer was an immense support to her cause. With him, "What you saw is what you got."
"Scott was my go-to guy and he never disappointed," she stated.
Through old friends and new, Archer touched many. David Krumweide, known in the Chicago queer community as Fifi DePraved, knew Archer for a few years when both were in the court. In that time, he developed an immense respect for Archer.
"Scott was dependable, he was always here," Krumweide, who was the court's Empress 18, shared. "No matter what he was going through, he always had a smile."
Kevin Bryson, a board member of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, had only known Archer a brief time. But within that time, he quickly learned what a powerhouse Archer was to the community. In the wake of his passing, Bryson said he's left huge shoes to fillquite literally, too, given he had huge feet.
"He was an angel," Bryson shared. "This man [spent his life] looking out for others, either in the big picture or directly one-on-one."
Many of his loved ones mourned his loss with an impromptu meet-up at Charlie's, while further plans to honor his legacy are in the works. A celebration of life is being planned for April, in partnership with the Leather Archives, according to Krumweide.
In the meanwhile, his impact continues to live on across the country.
"He leaves a huge legacy, and people will come to remember him," Cannon declared. "Certainly, he will never be forgotten. He has now earned his place in history."
A funeral service will be held Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. at Shalom Memorial Funeral Home (700 W. Rand Rd., Arlington Heights, IL). Along with the physical service, a live-stream will be offered for those who can't attend in-person.