ONE half of the duo that has been central to promoting gay rights on the Border is being mourned.
Andy Stevens, 68, died on Wednesday at the forest home near Yackandandah he shared with husband Gary Hayward.
The couple started Yackandandah's Spring Migration Festival, a celebration of gay culture, in 2005 and ran shops there and in Albury's Dean Street.
Mr Hayward has been left heartbroken by the death of Mr Stevens, tearing up as he told The Border Mail yesterday of what he meant to him.
"He was just the most amazing man," he said.
"He was kind, he was generous, he loved me unconditionally, because of his Buddhist philosophy there was no time in life to sit on all those bad feelings."
Mr Stevens was born and raised in Sydney and first met Mr Hayward in Melbourne in 1984 but they did not become partners until 1999.
It was then that Mr Stevens moved to Yackandandah to join Mr Hayward who had been living in the town since 1994.
Soon afterwards they opened up their High Street store before later expanding to Albury.
Mr Stevens' interest in Buddhism, which saw him ordained as a monk and travel to Thailand 16 times, was reflected in products such as statues and jewellery.
He ran A Bears Old Wares at Yackandandah until January when he was diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer.
After aggressive chemotherapy his cancer count fell dramatically before he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease after being unable to move his arms.
Mr Stevens remained at home throughout his treatment and died there at 8.30am Wednesday.
His funeral will be held at Gandy's Forest, where the pair have a wildlife refuge and planted 4000 trees, next Saturday.
Monks will travel from Melbourne to preside over the Buddhist ceremony that will see his spirit released.
Mr Hayward will close the Albury store, which he oversaw while Mr Stevens looked after the Yackandandah premises, on New Year's Eve.
He said he had pledged to honour a request from Mr Stevens that A Bears Old Wares keep trading.