Veteran comes out as gay in his own obituary so he can ‘rest in peace’

Retired firefighter and army veteran Edward Thomas Ryan, who came out as gay in his obituary

A retired firefighter and decorated army veteran has come out in his own obituary, saying he can “rest in peace” now his “secret is known”. 

Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan, who was in a relationship with a man for a quarter of a century, came out as gay in the obituary published on 8 June by Albany Times Union

After the obit listed many of his achievements, it contained a personal note where Ryan revealed he had not come out while alive for fear of being ostracised

“I must tell you one more thing. I was gay all my life: through grade school, through high school, college, through life,” he wrote. 

He added that he had been in a “loving and caring relationship” with Paul Cavagnaro for 25 years before his death in 1994. “He was the love of my life… 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 ostracised, 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 for ever rest in peace.”

You may like to watch

Ryan’s obituary said he had Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. He was a retired firefighter for the city of Rensselaer in New York State, and had been decorated for his role in the army. His honours included a Defence of Liberty Medal for “participation to the state following the attack on America, 11 September 2001”.

One of six siblings, Ryan was remembered by his nieces and nephews. He was 85.

Social media users paid tribute to Ryan, with several saying his fear of being ostracised is why Pride month is still important

“Rest in pride. How wonderful to have a great love that you so fondly remember 30 years after his death. I wish you could have lived openly in life,” one person wrote.

Another said: “May your words help evolve a kinder, accepting society.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.