December 7, 2023

A decade in the past, Johnny Javier Hau Dzib took a nighttime drive round his Denver neighborhood, his thoughts in a suicidal thought loop.

A number of years later, Kenneth Wayne Felts was at residence alone in close by Arvada, Colo., considering demise by a special means. Chemotherapy for a Hodgkin’s lymphoma prognosis was robbing him of life’s pleasures. “I believed, I’m 90 years outdated,” Mr. Felts stated. “Am I going to reside the remainder of my life this manner?” In March 2020, after 4 months of chemotherapy, he voluntarily ended his remedies.

When the 2 males met later that yr, each had been in higher locations psychologically. Mr. Felts, a Navy veteran who served within the Korean Conflict, had just lately come out as homosexual. Mr. Hau, an I.T. specialist for Denver Public Colleges, hoped to observe his lead.

Mr. Hau is 34. Mr. Felts is now 93. He was born within the mud bowl city of Dodge Metropolis, Kan., one yr into the Nice Melancholy in 1930. His mother and father, Clyde and Ruth Felts, had been religious Christians. A youth spent in basic Christian church buildings induced him profound guilt over two secret romances with male schoolmates earlier than he graduated highschool in 1948.

In 1950, he enlisted within the Navy regardless of by no means having seen the ocean. It was lengthy earlier than the period of “don’t ask, don’t inform.” He recalled a number of males he served with being court-martialed for his or her homosexuality. To keep away from the identical destiny, he stated, “it was essential to not even affiliate with different homosexual folks.”

In 1957, when he took a job as an insurance coverage investigator in Lengthy Seaside, Calif., after graduating from the College of Kansas with a bachelor’s diploma in social sciences two years earlier, he adopted the persona of a straight man.

Throughout that point, nevertheless, he had a secret love affair with a male colleague named Phillip Jones, who additionally attended the native Church of God with Mr. Felts. “He was within the choir, and I used to be within the pews,” Mr. Felts stated.

Mr. Jones was in a position to sq. his sexuality with church doctrine; Mr. Felts was not. One Sunday, he stated, “out of the blue, I used to be bombarded with guilt. I knew I used to be going to go to hell, that I might burn in hearth for eternity.” Overcome with disgrace, Mr. Felts left California in 1958 and returned to Dodge Metropolis. He by no means stated goodbye to Mr. Jones, although Mr. Felts was certain by then he was the love of his life.

Through the years, Mr. Felts would intermittently seek for Mr. Jones in each California telephone e-book he might get his fingers on. “I referred to as each Phillip Jones and each P. Jones I might discover,” he stated. The search was by no means profitable.

Mr. Felts continued to current as a straight man. In 1962, whereas dwelling in Colorado Springs and dealing for the state as a rehabilitation counselor for the mentally and bodily disabled (from which he retired within the mid-’90s), he married Mary Guinn, a schoolteacher. In 1973, their daughter, Rebecca Mayes, was born. The wedding didn’t final — they divorced in 1980 — however Mr. Felts’s dedication to showing straight did. His resolve didn’t soften even when Ms. Mayes got here out to her mother and father within the mid-Nineties.

“‘It received’t final six months,’” was the very first thing Ms. Mayes recalled her father saying when she advised him she was homosexual. She and her then-girlfriend, Tracie Mayes, handled his prediction as a problem. In 1999, they had been married. The couple at the moment are the mother and father of Mr. Felts’s grandchildren, an 18-year-old boy and 14-year-old lady, and the household lives close to Mr. Felts in Arvada. (Ms. Guinn died in 2022.)

To occupy himself in the course of the early months of the pandemic, Mr. Felts began writing a memoir. “I received to the purpose the place I began writing about Phillip,” he stated. The reminiscence despatched him down a rabbit gap of remorse. So he advised Ms. Mayes in regards to the relationship, basically popping out. “He doesn’t open up a lot, however he was clearly very unhappy,” she stated.

Ms. Mayes dealt with the information of her father’s sexuality in a different way than he dealt with hers many years earlier: She was pleased for him. “I fully understood why it was so laborious for him to return out, given the time he grew up in,” she stated.

Mr. Felts was executed with the secrecy and remorse and able to come out publicly, which he did with a Fb put up in June 2020. The story of the newly out 90-year-old went viral. “I began listening to from folks from world wide who wished to interview me,” Mr. Felts stated. “And every day I received new messages from folks saying how a lot they appreciated me.”

One on-line acquaintance supplied to assist monitor down Mr. Jones, solely to be taught he had died a number of years earlier. Mr. Felts was heartbroken. “It’s so terribly irritating to be so near and but not attain my misplaced love,” he wrote on Facebook. “My coronary heart has turned to stone and I would like my tears to clean away my sorrow. Relaxation in Peace Phillip.”

One other on-line admirer was Mr. Hau. Like Mr. Felts, Mr. Hau was taught early that homosexuality is a sin. He grew up Catholic, the youngest of eight youngsters born to Josefa Hau de Dzib and Nemesio Hau Poot, in Yucatán, Mexico. By the point the household moved to Colorado when he was 11, he knew he was homosexual.

“I attempted to cover it,” he stated. “I might ask myself, ‘What’s occurring with me? Why am I this manner?’” He was 27 earlier than he kissed one other man. He had made makes an attempt at relationships, “however I simply felt large guilt creep in. The guilt advised me to finish it each time.”

School on the College of Colorado Denver, the place he graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in laptop science in 2014, was a welcome distraction. However ideas of suicide had been a relentless companion till the night time he drove by means of his Denver neighborhood in 2013 and met an older man who had immigrated from Japan years in the past to work in mining.

The person had missed his bus. Mr. Hau noticed him crossing the road. “It was late,” Mr. Hau stated, so he supplied him a journey. In return, the person supplied him friendship.

Mr. Hau’s good friend, who died of leukemia earlier this yr on the age of 90, turned a mentor and father determine. He was additionally the primary individual Mr. Hau stated he got here out to. The good friend, who was not homosexual, “checked out me and stated, ‘It’s OK. Be who you’re.’”

Mr. Hau struggled to take action till October 2020, when he received a response to a be aware of assist he had despatched Mr. Felts by way of Fb Messenger two months earlier. In it, Mr. Felts included his telephone quantity (Mr. Hau stated he lived domestically and hoped they might communicate sometime). On Oct. 16, 2020, the 2 met at Namiko’s sushi and Japanese restaurant in Denver to speak about their sexuality, and the trauma of hiding it.

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They continued speaking after the restaurant closed. In Mr. Felts’s automotive, Mr. Hau took Mr. Felts’s hand. “Ken was simply extraordinarily supportive,” Mr. Hau stated. He helped Mr. Hau previous a second supply of secrecy and disgrace. “I’ve at all times been interested in older males,” he stated. “And I at all times felt like, how will folks react if I begin a relationship with somebody older? Maybe the homosexual neighborhood will see it as odd.” Earlier than he met Mr. Felts, “I regarded on-line looking for out, Is that this regular?”

A primary kiss at Mr. Felts’s residence the identical night time pushed him previous that fear. “It was such a consolation,” Mr. Hau stated. By the top of October, Mr. Hau, who had by no means earlier than spent the night time with a lover, was spending each weekend in Arvada with Mr. Felts. In the summertime of 2021, he moved in.

Speak of marriage, initiated by Mr. Felts, began quickly after. However the price of authorized charges for a prenuptial settlement slowed it. Then, the Supreme Courtroom’s 2022 resolution to overturn Roe vs. Wade, with its implications for doubtlessly disrupting gay marriage rights, rekindled these conversations.

On Might 20, Mr. Hau requested Mr. Felts to marry him of their lounge. “I felt like, I had discovered this nice man, and the legal guidelines had been altering, and it triggered this concern,” he stated. “I actually wished to solidify the connection, to make it authorized.” Mr. Felts, given a second probability at marriage, was absolutely comfortable saying sure. “I really like being with Johnny, and I really like being liked,” he stated.

On July 8, with a prenuptial settlement in place, Mr. Felts and Mr. Hau had been married in a short, casual ceremony of their yard. (In Colorado, {couples} can legally marry without a formally registered officiant.) Jason Eaton-Lynch, a good friend and the director of elder companies on the Middle on Colfax, a Denver L.G.B.T.Q. neighborhood middle, led the ceremony.

Mr. Felts donned a pink jacket over a purple button down shirt; Mr. Hau wore a tan jacket and blue button down. Their 20 company, which included Ms. Mayes and her household, dressed casually on the grooms’ request. (Mr. Hau’s household was not current, however when he got here out to them final yr by way of textual content message, he stated “they had been very supportive.”) Earlier than Mr. Eaton-Lynch pronounced them married, Mr. Felts learn a poem he had written for Mr. Hau.

“Close to the top of my days and within the warmth of my night time, I discovered an ideal love, whom I shall ever maintain tight,” he stated. “We discover our new world with breathless delight.”

If you’re having ideas of suicide, name or textual content 988 to succeed in the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline or go to for an inventory of further assets.

When July 8, 2023

The place On the couple’s residence in Arvada, Colo.

D.I.Y. Reception After the ceremony, the grooms minimize a brightly frosted cake picked up from a close-by grocery retailer. Ms. Mayes had organized a light-weight lunch from a neighborhood sandwich store. The couple skipped dancing to deal with mingling.

Handful of Stars The most cancers Mr. Felts was being handled for earlier than he met Mr. Hau is “fairly nicely not there anymore,” he stated, although he’s nonetheless seeing his physician and getting common PET scans. The memoir he began writing throughout Covid, “My Handful of Stars: Coming Out at Age 90,” was self-published in 2022.

Out There After the marriage, Ms. Mayes stated her father had by no means appeared happier. She had began considering of Mr. Hau as a member of the household nicely earlier than. “We had been suspicious of John for some time due to the age hole,” she stated. “However simply watching them collectively — John takes actually excellent care of my dad. They proceed to be simply so pleased.” Popping out three years earlier enabled Mr. Felts to specific himself in a number of methods, she stated. “He was once such a conservative dresser. Now he wears the loudest stuff.”

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