Three weeks after the election, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group in Topeka, Kan., known for staging hate-filled, antigay protests at military funerals and other ceremonies, held a small rally in Silverton, where they lofted signs condemning Mr. Rasmussen and the town.
But an even larger number of locals turned out for a counterprotest. Some 200 people, including several men who had dressed in women’s clothing for the occasion, held their own signs, reading “Jesus Loves Stu” and “Stu Rocks.”
The encounter, which also drew national attention, later inspired a musical, “Stu for Silverton,” which debuted in Seattle in 2013.
Despite his celebrity, Mr. Rasmussen spent his second stint as mayor, from 2009 to 2015, with his head down, focused on the sort of issues that undergird most of life in small-town America. He built a skate park and a senior center. He established an early-warning system at a nearby dam. He ran City Council meetings. He was, in most ways that mattered, no different from any other politician, and the town treated him that way.
“A lot of people who are transgender think, ‘I can’t be myself here. I have to go somewhere else, go to Portland or to San Francisco, and let the other side of me come out,’” he told The Salem Statesman-Journal in 2015. “I transitioned in place. And the community came along with me.”
Stewart Alan Rasmussen was born on Sept. 9, 1948. His father, Albert, was a Danish immigrant who at various points in his life panned for gold, delivered mail and managed the Palace Theater. His mother, Nan (Dowling) Rasmussen, was a homemaker.
Stu received an associate’s degree in electrical engineering in 1971 from what is now Chemeketa Community College, in Salem, after which he spent nearly eight years working for a tech company in Beaverton, a western suburb of Portland. It was the only time in his life he lived outside Silverton.
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