Gay Veterans — Ages 100 and 72 — Share Story of Coming Out and Falling in Love in Nursing Home

"I was expecting we'd be ridiculed, and there was very little of that," 100-year-old veteran John Banvard said during a StoryCorps interview with his husband

Photo: Cam Buker/Story Corps

True love is always worth the wait.

Although World War II veteran John Banvard and his husband, Vietnam vet Gerard “Jerry” Nadeau, have been together for “almost 25 years,” when they first met in 1998 neither one of them was openly gay.

“When we met, we were sort of in the closet, and I’d never had a real relationship,” Banvard, 100, told Nadeau, 72, during a StoryCorps interview, which originally aired on NPR’s Morning Edition radio show on Friday.

“What would it have been like if you didn’t meet me?” Nadeau asked his husband.

Replying, Banvard said, “I would have continued being lonely.”

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After three years of living together in a veterans home in Chula Vista, California, the couple decided to take the next step in their relationship, and in 2013 they got married in a casual ceremony — where hot dogs were served as the main course — at the nursing home where they lived together.

Although Banvard expected there to be some backlash from the other residents, who up until that time had been confused about what the couple’s relationship was, he was pleasantly surprised at how accepting they were.

“I was expecting we’d be ridiculed, and there was very little of that,” the 100-year-old said.

The pair then reminisced about a sweet moment when another resident introduced the couple to his family.

“I was with you in the cafeteria, and somebody came up with their family, and they said, ‘This is Gerard Nadeau, and this is his husband, John,’ ” Nadeau said, explaining that he had never heard Banvard referred to as his husband before.

“Yes, that was very nice,” John agreed.

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