Sam's Farewell

About the best Sam Templeton could say about his life last April was that he still had a roof over his head. He was jobless, nearly broke and suffering from the effects of full-blown AIDS. Ten months later, life has hardly improved for Templeton, and next week it will take another turn for the worse: he will have to move out of the Birdsall Street townhouse he has lived in since 1987.

When he does, Templeton will bid farewell to one of the last vestiges of his bittersweet life with Frank Koury, a former Fulbright & Jaworski partner who died of AIDS-related complications in July 1993 ("The Private Life and Public Death of Frank Koury," Houston Press, August 11, 1994).

For six years, Templeton and Koury shared their lives together on Birdsall Street. They considered themselves married and, in fact, Frank drew up a will that would have left the bulk of his estate, which included the townhouse, to Sam.

But Frank died before signing the will, an oversight that left the estate in the hands of his father, George Koury. Frank's father offered Sam $350,000, but then withdrew the offer, prompting Sam to file suit. Last April, after two days of testimony -- which revealed, among other things, that Sam was diagnosed with AIDS after he accidentally discovered that, during their relationship, Frank had secretly been living with the virus -- a jury agreed that George Koury had no obligation to give Sam Templeton anything.

When Sam moves from Birdsall Street next week, he will also be severing what has been a predictably tumultuous relationship with his lover's father. George Koury, who lives near San Diego, knew nothing about Sam and Frank's life together. And it wasn't until he heard his son had died that George learned Frank was a gay man with AIDS.

Since the trial, which was as much a battle over Frank Koury's memory as his estate, Sam Templeton and George Koury have continued to squabble over Frank's remaining possessions, including the townhouse. In September, Koury filed suit against Templeton in an attempt to force him out. He also asked the court to make Sam reimburse the estate for the value of silverware and electronic equipment he had sold to pay the bills.

A family court judge rejected Koury's plea for reimbursement and allowed Templeton to remain in the townhouse -- as long as he cooperated with Koury's efforts to sell it. Those efforts have apparently borne fruit: early last month, Sam received a letter from Koury's lawyer saying that a contract for sale of the townhouse was about to be signed; he was given until March 15 to move out.

Templeton, who survives on $700 in Social Security, is worried about now having to pay rent. And he finds the prospect of moving from quiet Birdsall Street to a less-secure apartment -- he figures he can pay no more than $400 a month -- is "pretty scary." Just as frightening to Sam, who suspects he was infected with the HIV virus during the years Frank kept his illness a secret, is his inability to afford the medicine he needs to stay healthy.

Most recently, Sam says, he has contracted an opportunistic infection known as MAIC. If he takes the prescribed dosages of the four antibiotics used to treat MAIC, it would cost him $800 a month. And that's more than he can afford. "I'm supposed to take it twice a day, but I'm only taking it once," he says. "If I had more money, I'd take more medicine."

Just as he did when he learned he had AIDS and again during the trial, when the strange duality of his lover's life emerged, Templeton's imminent departure from Birdsall Street has left him questioning how much he really knew Frank Koury.

The answers are as elusive as ever. But there is one thing he does know: "This is not what Frank wanted for me," he says.

-- Brian Wallstin

 
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