March 22, 1958 – June 11, 2014
Rosetta Menifee, of Buffalo, who helped others with drug addiction and HIV after she overcame her own drug habit, died June 11 in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga, after a short illness. She was 56.
Born Rosetta Brunner in Red Bank, N.J., she came to Buffalo from New York City in the mid-1980s.
Addicted to heroin in her early 20s, she decided to turn her life around after she was diagnosed with HIV.
About 10 years ago, she entered Erie Community College on the College to Church program, became a dean’s list student and earned an associate’s degree in science.
She began her professional career in 1999 with the American Red Cross Women’s HIV Initiative as an HIV peer educator. She became an HIV training assistant in the Erie County Health Department’s HIV Education Program in 2003, supervised HIV peer educators and worked there until her death.
She served on the Statewide AIDS Service Delivery Consortium, the New York State Prevention Planning Group, the board of directors of the AIDS Network of WNY and the AIDS Alliance of WNY, the New York State People Living With AIDS Training Institute and the New York State HIV Quality Consumer Group.
She received numerous awards, including the AIDS Network Red Ribbon Award for Distinguished Service, the Courage to Come Back Award, the Erie County Honor Roll Award and the Found Woman Award. She also worked as a volunteer to promote knowledge about sexual health. A former member of the Buffalo Prostitution Task Force, she was one of the founders of the Buffalo John School, which educated men arrested for soliciting prostitutes, and talked tough to them about the dangers of AIDS.
Asked to provide counseling to johns and young women in prostitution by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, she assisted in the program until May and flew to New York City monthly.
She also ran an AIDS ministry with her mother, the Rev. Clara Gillies, an Episcopal deacon, who died May 26.
Survivors include a brother, Steven Brunner, and three sisters, Judy Martisek, Virginia DeCicco and Katie Ball.
A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. July 20 in the Delaware Park Casino, 199 Lincoln Parkway.