I came across a gentleman called Ted Hayes recently. We are both friends of Kindle Alexander and Ted mentioned he had read Stripped Bare and enjoyed it and was about to read Worth Keeping. Ted discovered M/M Romance novels shortly after the death of his long time partner Jack. The picture below is Ted and Jack- Ted is on the left.

Ted and JackWe talked and I found out that Ted has a remarkable story to tell, a really beautiful tale of love between two truly deserving men which I believed needed to be shared. There are some heartfelt wishes expressed in Ted’s missive at the end, which perhaps everyone in the world could sit up and take notice of. If they did, no doubt the world would be a much better place.  Ted tells me that Charlie Cochrane, Jake Wells and Ilene Cutler have been incredibly supportive about Ted telling his story because of its unique nature and tenderness so I thought I would do my bit for Ted too.

All about Ted and Jack

Ted is the oldest founding member of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Centre in Kingston, NY, which is arguably the largest rural Centre of its kind in the US.  This organisation began in 2005 with an exploratory group of 28.  At the close of 2013 it had a membership of over 1,800. Ted was also part of the Harvesting a Lifetime Project where teens and seniors met and recorded interviews- keepsake interviews in the effort of preserving stories and learning from their “elders.”

Hudson ValleyBefore Ted’s retirement in early 1995 he had a varied work life.  He was a chemist, minister, college professor and human resources counsellor.  Yet in all this time he says he did not come out until he was 47 years old—celibate all the years before. His Jack was his only partner.

Jack lived in New York and was coming back into the world after a 4-year period of mourning the death of his first partner, with whom he had 39 years of togetherness.  Ted was living nearly 2,000 miles away in Santa Fe and coming into the world after 52 years—47 in the closet—with the help of two long time friends.  Jack had placed an ad in the personals in a national gay newspaper, The Advocate, and when they still ran personals, and it caught Ted’s eye (along with 199 other men—Jack chose four with whom to carry on further correspondence) since Ted was planning on relocating to New York where there was a greater possibility of him finding a job calling for his training and skills.  They “courted” for about 6 months by letter and by telephone and with the exchange of photos.  They knew they loved each other before they met face to face.  I find this such a romantic story, it brings out the softy in me. Like a romance film…

man-i-love-trailer-titleTed says that those 199 other men have no idea what they missed and still marvels that Jack chose him but in doing so, it meant that Ted was privileged to be his primary caregiver the last year of his life—the most intimate of their time together. Sadly, Jack passed away at the age of 95 on May 2nd 2009 leaving a void in Ted’s life that will remain with him.

Ted shared this lovely story with us – I agree with him. There are things far stranger in life that we can sometimes dream about in fiction.

hummingbird When my Jack and I relocated to the Kingston, NY area in 1995, two of our friends owned and operated a delightful business—The Bird Watchers’ Country Store—in High Falls. Not too long afterward they got us hooked on hummingbirds and we always placed a feeder with nectar outside our screened-in back porch in early May. Our friends encouraged us to put it out the first week in May. We followed their advice even though we never saw hummingbirds at our feeder prior to the second week in May. Never!

On May 1, 2009, less than 24 hours before Jack died he “reminded” me to get the feeder ready. At first, I suggested that we wait until the following week because of our record with the little ones. But he insisted and, of course, I could not say no to him. So I set it up so he could know we were ready.

During the night Jack died. Early morning on May 2, 2009, as two friends and I sat out on that porch putting the finishing touches on his obituary, not one, not two, but three hummingbirds came to taste that year’s “crop” of nectar. The next year, and each one since, I prepared the feeder on the first of May. Since that day in 2009 no hummingbirds have appeared at the feeder prior to the second week in May. 

Try to convince me that the ones that visited that morning in 2009 weren’t there simply to pay their respects.

Ted was privileged to officiate at the wedding of the two long time friends—mentioned above—on December 14, of 2013, four months AFTER they had celebrated their 40th year together as a couple.   They knew and loved Jack since they had travelled together on a couple of occasions and they wanted to come to New York from Tennessee to be married in the room at the Centre which was named after Jack and Ted.

What a wonderful emotional moment that must have been.

This is something Ted wrote about Jack which I wanted to share with you as I think it encapsulates a tenderness and understanding that perhaps sometimes get lost in the fast pace of the world we know today.

The love of my life has died at the age of 95.  You probably didn’t know him.  Truly, truly that was your loss.  He was the kindest, gentlest, most loving person I have ever known.  All who knew him loved and respected him for who and what he was.   As for me, my life is a thing of greater beauty and purpose simply because he was a part of it.  In all our years together I was truly able to say every day, “I love him more today than I did yesterday.”

 He was one of that rapidly diminishing group of veterans of World War II.  He served in the U.S. Navy for four years. Fortunately, he never had to kill anyone.  He was a great lover of all life.  And, oh, how he loved animals. And he generously supported those organizations whose purpose was their protection.

 He supported the community in many ways both culturally and socially.  He supported organizations that were developed to advocate for the disenfranchised, the minority, and the poor.  He never was in trouble with the law and never shunned his responsibility as a tax-paying citizen nor did he ever shirk any other responsibility expected of the citizens of our country.  

 A truly model citizen you might say?  Indeed!  Yet, many who never met him nor ever came in contact with him – mostly people who identified as Christian — demanded that he be both condemned socially and be denied equality of citizenship.  Some even clamored for his death!  Why?  It was simply because he was gay.   

He was not raised in a home where he was exposed to any religion.  But I will tell you one thing: I saw in him a person much more like Jesus than many, many of those who sought to condemn him in the name of Jesus.

 We were life partners for decades and there is a great void in my life because he is gone.  Although known as a loving person, I never knew I could either love or be loved as deeply and completely as I experienced with him.  As we prepared for his death, we talked about many things.  One that broke his heart more than any other was the “Christian” attitude toward us.  He never hurt one of them — ever!.  So he could not understand why those “godly” people so despised us and demanded that we be relegated to no better than second-class status in the country of our births.  He never could grasp how our being married would have harmed another’s marriage in the slightest, especially since many of those who condemned us experienced three or more spouses during the time we were a loving, monogamous couple.  And so we were separated without our loving relationship ever having been recognized legally as a family.

 A democracy is defined as the “practice or principles of social equality.”  That he, who loved, was loyal to and served his country — allegedly a democracy — was not granted equality during his lifetime, is an indictment against that claim.  I will never forgive my country for that.

Ted campaignTed was awarded the Founders Award from the LGBTQ Centre in 2012 where he’d worked so tirelessly to support others. This is the video from the event and thanks to Ilene Cutler for allowing me to share this here with you today.

http://vimeo.com/45855546

Thanks so much to Ted, Irene, Charlie and Jake for their contributions to this post and I hope that some of Jack and Ted’s words and views might give you an insight on the world from their perspective.