Vietnam veteran Col. Edward Thomas Ryan, Ret. came out in his obituary. He was a retired firefighter from Rensselaer, N.Y., directly across the Hudson River from Albany. His partner was from North Greenbush, a town just northeast of Rensselaer (pronounced RENSE-lur).

In his obituary, it says, “Edward wanted to share the following: ‘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.’”

I’d heard the story that a veteran came out in his obituary, but it struck me particularly hard when I heard he was from Albany, where I went to school. How sad, I thought, that even toward the end of his life, he believed he couldn’t come out even though he lived only three blocks from Center Square, Albany’s gayborhood.

Apparently, he met his partner in 1969, the same year the State University at Albany’s gay alliance was founded in the fall right after the Woodstock Music Festival, which took place just 50 miles away. And in 1975, the first gay and lesbian community center in the U.S. opened in Albany on Hudson Avenue, just two blocks up from his home. At that time there were three or four gay bars and a lesbian bar in that small city of 100,000 people. Often, the lieutenant governor’s limo with its distinctive license plate — 2 — sat parked outside the front door of the largest gay disco at 369 Central Ave. in site of the capitol.

The city’s liberal reputation dates from at least 1972 when it was the only city in New York to vote overwhelmingly for George McGovern for president in an election where the only state won by Democrats was Massachusetts. Since then, in mayoral elections, the Republican candidate usually comes in fourth behind parties like The Rent Is Too Damn High Party.

But even living in that environment, Ryan was afraid of rejection by his family, friends and co-workers. From his obituary, it sounds like he would have been a cherished member of Albany’s LGBTQ community had he come out during his life. I’m glad his loved ones loved him enough to include his coming out story in his obituary.

Rest in peace, Col. Ryan.

— David Taffet