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obituary coming out

Elderly military veteran comes out as gay in his obituary

While in many ways being part of the LGBTQ community is more acceptable than it used to be, members of the community are still marginalized and are sometimes treated poorly. Many people still experience negative consequences for coming out as anything other than a heterosexual cisgendered person. Due to these factors, it's not surprising that some people choose to hide their identity until they feel safe to reveal it.

Recently an elderly Army veteran's obituary highlighted the difficulty of living with the fear of not being accepted. Col. Edward Thomas Ryan recently passed away in Albany, New York after having lived with a secret his entire life. The obituary for Col. Ryan starts off like any other obituary, reviewing who he is leaving behind, who passed before him and his life's accomplishments.

The veteran was twice retired, once from the Army as a Colonel and again as a firefighter. He had many accomplishments that would make just about any family proud to be related to him, but Ryan requested his family tuck in a note from him to share with the world.


He was gay. Not only was he gay but he was in a relationship for 25 years. All of this was kept a secret as he did not want to be outcast by the people he loved the most so he held who he truly was close to his heart until after his death. Col. Ryan's family printed his confession in his obituary which appears to be his last wish.

The personal note reads, "I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life. I was in a loving and caring relationship with Paul Cavagnaro of North Greenbush. He was the love of my life. We had 25 great years together. Paul died in 1994 from a medical Procedure gone wrong. I'll be buried next to Paul. I'm sorry for not having the courage to come out as Gay. I was afraid of being ostracized: by Family, Friends, and Co-Workers. Seeing how people like me were treated, I just could not do it. Now that my secret is known, I'll forever Rest in Peace."

Though Col. Ryan was able witness the public perception shifting about LGBTQ people, he likely still lived with the scars of past treatment of queer people.

Photo credit: Canva


In 1973, homosexuality was pathologized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a mental illness or sickness. It wasn't until 1997 that the adopted a resolution discouraging coercive measures a resolution discouraging coercive measures to change someone's sexual orientation. Progress has been slow going. The APA just recognized that being transgender wasn't a mental health disorder in 2013, and America didn't recognize same sex marriage until 2015.

Col. Ryan's fears were not unfounded. Jim Kisthardt, only came out just a few years ago at the age of 73 after his wife of 51 years died. He tells ABC7, "Times were very different. Being gay would be a curse. Being gay was one of the worst things you could bring to your family, worse than divorce."

Kisthardt explains to the station that coming out when his parents were alive wasn't an option because he thought it would've killed them, revealing that in the 50s and 60s gay people were ostracized and had to move away. While progress for LGBTQ rights may be moving slowly, they're still moving and though Col. Ryan didn't get to live fully as himself, at least he is now resting in peace. It's fitting that he was able to have his final wish granted during pride month.