Kenneth Felts found a new sense of freedom amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While quarantined alone at home in Colorado, the 90-year-old grandfather decided to write his memoir and wound up coming out as gay while searching for the man he dated in the 1950s.
“I had been keeping this secret most of my life, and I had planned to take it to the grave,” Felts told “Today.”
The Navy veteran knew he was gay since the age of 12, but kept it hidden due to his religious background and the less accepting attitudes of the time.
“If you came out, it really would cost you — your family, your job, all of your relationships,” Felts disclosed. “You would immediately be called a pervert.”
It was during his time in the Navy that Felts met Phillip, the man who he fell in love with for two years of his life.
“It was a void in my life that had suddenly been filled by another person who, apparently, had some of the same needs," he told the outlet. "And we just melted into each other.”
Unable to come to terms with his true self, Felts ended the relationship. He wound up marrying a woman, having a daughter, and eventually divorced.
While his daughter Rebecca came out as a lesbian to him in 1995, Felts remained closeted for 25 more years.
But as he reminisced about his life while writing his memoir, his romance with Phillip was something he could no longer deny publicly.
“One day I was talking to Rebecca and I just happened to mention, ‘I wish I had never left Philip,’” Felts told the morning show.
After explaining who Phillip was and seeing how well Rebecca embraced the revelation, Felts became motivated to come out to more people in his life.
“And I decided to send emails to my friends, which I did, but I sent the same email as a Facebook (post publicly) which I did not really intend to do, but it did,” Felts told USA Today.
His post wound up going viral and eventually put him in contact with people who helped him track down Phillip’s whereabouts.
Sadly, Phillip had passed away a few years ago.
“Phillip Allen Jones was the love of my life. I have a very sad and lonely heart today. My first and greatest love has passed away,” Felts wrote in a Facebook update. “I loved him in my heart so much over the years and now he is gone.”
Even though the romance didn’t have a fairytale ending, Felts said he’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love he’s received since telling his coming out story.
“A lot of them telling me that they've got more courage now to come out,” he shared, before proudly adding, "I'm out, I'm gay and I'm free."