Saturday, June 22, 2024

Lesley Rebecca Phillips, 78, of Cambridge, passed peacefully Aug. 14 while in hospice care at Beth Israel Deaconess hospital. She is survived by her beloved spouse, Linda Sophia Pinti, who was with her at the time of death.

Lesley was a renaissance woman and a trailblazer. She was a lifelong Democrat and activist for civil rights, women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community. She completed her undergraduate studies at University of Pennsylvania majoring in math, economics and music. She did further studies in economics at New York University. A deep lover of opera, Lesley also studied opera direction at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Lesley went on to earn a Juris Doctorate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and practiced law for a dozen years.

Feeling a call to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, in 1982 Lesley moved to Cambridge and earned a master’s degree at Harvard Divinity School, studying theology and ministry. She became the first openly transgendered person to be ordained in a mainstream denomination in America. She served several congregations in Massachusetts and was active in the UU denomination at many levels. Though a Unitarian Universalist minister, Lesley maintained her connection to her Judaism and served as the president of Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness for five years.

A deep interest in politics was always a part of her life, and she served as chair of her Cambridge Democratic ward committee for many years. She moderated numerous forums for Cambridge City Council candidates and served on the Cambridge LGBTQ commission from its formation to the present.

Lesley was the first transgendered person elected to a seat on the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee. She served for 16 years and was elected delegate to state and national party conventions, including twice for Bernie Sanders. She was a co-founder and served on the governing board of Our Revolution Massachusetts and in 2020 was the first transgendered person in Massachusetts to be elected a presidential elector which granted her the title “honorable.”

A memorial service for Lesley will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 15 at the First Parish Cambridge Unitarian Universalist, 3 Church St./1446 Massachusetts Ave., Harvard Square, Cambridge, where she was ordained 35 years ago.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Lesley’s honor and memory may be made to: First Parish in Cambridge, UU, 3 Church St., Cambridge, MA 02138, or B’nai Or of Boston, P.O. Box 550122, Waltham, MA 02455