Decorated US Army veteran reveals a lifelong ‘secret’ in his moving obituary

Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan shares touching secret in obituary (Times Union)
Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan shares touching secret in obituary (Times Union)

Decorated US Army veteran Colonel Edward Thomas Ryan waited until after he was gone to reveal a lifelong secret.

“I must tell you one more thing. I was Gay all my life: thru grade school, thru High School, thru College, thru Life,” the New York-based retired army veteran revealed in his June 8 obituary, which appeared in The Times Union.

“I was in a loving and caring relationship with Paul Cavagnaro of North Greenbush. He was the love of my life,” Ryan wrote. “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.”

The message was written in Ryan’s own words. Despite harboring this secret, Ryan’s obituary depicts a well-documented 85-year life, not one lived in the shadows.

Known as “Uncle Ed,” he was a Vietnam War veteran, a Rensselaer fireman, the founder of an Albany radio station WHRL-FM, and a chef at the East Greenbush, American Legion Post #1231.

The late colonel was decorated with prestigious awards, including the National Defense Service Medal and Defense of Liberty Medal “For participation to the State following the attack on America, 11 September 2001.”

Ryan leaves behind five siblings and more than a dozen nieces and nephews. His body will be cremated and his ashes returned to Kinderhook, New York, where he will be buried, the obituary states. There will be a private funeral, only with family.

Many people commented on the online obituary, remarking that they were touched by Ryan’s lifelong profile of bravery, including his final message.

“Rest in Peace. You are a brave man on so many levels. Thank you for your service and Thank You for your Courage,” one person wrote.

Another remarked, “Condolences to your Family, Col. Edward Ryan. Thank you for your amazing service to your Country. Rest In Peace with your beloved lifelong partner in heavenly peace.”

“This brought tears to my eyes. Everyone deserves the right to live a life they choose, and to think that some people are denied this is tragic,” another said. “Sir, you were a brave man and thank you for your service to this country. RIP forever with your beloved Mr Cavagnaro.”

“Your story touched me deeply. I am so sorry that we live in such a judgmental world that you had to hide who you were and who you loved. But I am so glad that you got to experience a loving relationship for 25 years--not many people get that, gay or straight,” yet another wrote. “I hope there’s a way for you to know that sharing your story--no matter when you did it--will be helpful to others. Thank you for all your service.”