Jon Letke, the reigning Mr Leather Ottawa (MLO), died suddenly the evening of Thursday, July 24, in an apparent suicide.
Letke, 26, known in the leather community as Nizzi Greatpup, was a well-loved member of Ottawa’s queer community. He had moved to the city from Toronto in June 2013.
“We are all shocked by his sudden death. It is the ones closest to Jon that are on my mind in this rough time; I wish there was something I could do to ease their hearts,” Mike Tattersall, MLO 2010, tells Xtra.
Letke leaves behind many friends in the leather community, as well as his partner, Steve Loki.
“Tonight, Zelda Marshall and I will hold a moment of silence in his honour at Centretown Pub,” Tattersall says.
As news of his death became known late Thursday night, messages of grief, tribute and condolence from friends across North America and in the international leather community began to fill Letke’s Facebook profile.
“With a smile from knowing you and quite a few tears I’m headed to bed; glad that you’ll rest well brother. (Pats and scritches) We will make sure Loki’s taken care of,” wrote Woody Woodruff, International Mr Leather 2012.
A poignant photo of the leather pride flag flying at half mast was posted by Youkali Youkali, Ms Leather Toronto 2013.
“Jon, my Canadian brother, a kindred spirit. I am in shock and sad beyond belief. Thank you for the gifts that you gave me and so many,” wrote Patty, International Ms Leather 2014.
Many expressed shock and surprise, and some shared resources for suicide awareness and prevention.
“There are also people with a lot of anger, as well, as is common in these situations,” Tattersall notes. “We all deal with the stages of grief, and yes, all emotional responses are valid.”
“Many people have banded together, in person and in constant contact online, to gather strength from each other, both here and in the IML Class of 36,” Tattersall says. “Jon’s IML brothers took it hard.”
“I am so saddened by this. I still cannot believe it. We shared so much before and during the IML process. I feel that a brother has been taken . . . and will not sleep tonight,” Peter Reid posted upon hearing the news.
“So easy to work with, so gentle, so kind he was, and so proud to have made a mark on IML for his community — which, after his win, [some were] not so behind his run for IML,” posted Dean Ogren, a longtime IML volunteer who was staging director of the IML 2014 contest in which Letke competed. “I hope that in death they realize the great commitment he had . . . and I hope that they realize the contribution that he made in his short time with us. I am truly saddened by this very untimely loss.”
National Capital Leather Pride has posted condolences on its Facebook page.
Valerie Bishop, a fellow member of the Ottawa leather community, was photographed with Letke and Karl Couture, MLO 2013, for the November 2013 cover of Xtra Ottawa, for a story about Ottawa’s evolving leather and kink scene.
“Our photo shoot with Karl for Xtra was such a memorable time and we broke down preconceived notions that even the photographer had,” she wrote on Facebook. “He did so much work to help the younger members of the community get involved and, as one of those people, I owe him a great debt.”
“Jon was one of the most caring people you’d ever meet. He was so eager to help others and give back to the community that welcomed him when he came to the city,” Bishop said in a post on the Mr Leather Ottawa Facebook page.
“Many people can easily remember his enthusiasm and kindness towards his brothers and sisters in leather,” he wrote. “He was so much more than a titleholder. He represented what was great about our community and helped bring a lot of us together.”
The Ottawa Police Service declined to comment on Letke’s death.
A memorial service planned by Letke’s friends and members of the Ruff ’N Tumble pup group will be held Thursday, July 31.