Gay veterans who tied the knot in retirement home celebrate 25 'very happy' years together

John Banvard, 100, a World War II vet, and Jerry Nadeau, 72, a veteran of Vietnam, first met 25 years ago. They were married in 2013 at their retirement home in Chula Vista, Calif. (Photo: Instagram/StoryCorps)

When John Banvard, 100, met Gerard “Jerry” Nadeau, 72, neither was openly gay.

“When we met, we were sort of in the closet, and I’d never had a real relationship. Now, we’ve been together almost 25 years,” Jerry said in an interview with NPR’s StoryCorps.

Both Banvard and Nadeau are veterans. Banvard served in World War II, and Nadeau in Vietnam.

According to Banvard, if he hadn’t met Nadeau, he would have “continued being lonely. I’d been absolutely lost.”

The two moved into a Chula Vista, Calif., retirement home for veterans in 2010. At first, the other residents were unsure what their relationship was. That is, until the retirement home became the venue for their wedding in 2013.

“Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was,” Nadeau recalls.

They weren’t sure what kind of reactions they would get, but were pleasantly surprised. “I was expecting we’d be ridiculed, and there was very little of that,” said Banvard.

It was a casual ceremony, where they served hot dogs as the main course.

“We’d gotten married at the veterans home, and we said, ‘If you came to see the bride, you’re out of luck,’” recalls Nadeau.

One memory after the wedding stands out to the couple as particularly special. “I was with you in the cafeteria, and somebody came up with their family, and they said, ‘This is Gerard Nadeau, and this is his husband, John,’ ” Jerry recalls. “I’d never heard that before.”

The two continue to live at the retirement home and say they are very happy. “I think we’re probably as happy together as any two people you’re likely to meet,” said Banvard.

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