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2 Vets Celebrate Love: 'If You Came To See The Bride, You're Out Of Luck'

Feb 9, 2018

When John Banvard, 100, met Gerard "Jerry" Nadeau, 72, in 1993, neither of them had been 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 tells John during a StoryCorps interview.

"What would it have been like if you didn't meet me?" Jerry asks John.

"I would have continued being lonely," John says. "I'd been absolutely lost."

Both are veterans, having served in World War II (John) and Vietnam (Jerry), and when they moved into the veterans home together in Chula Vista, Calif., in 2010, Jerry says people there wondered what their relationship was.

"Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was," Jerry says, laughing.

The couple married in 2013, and John says he was surprised by the warm reception they received. "I was expecting we'd be ridiculed, and there was very little of that," he says.

"We'd gotten married at the veterans home, and we said, 'If you came to see the bride, you're out of luck.' Do you remember that?" Jerry asks John.

"Yes, of course," John says. The two indulge in the memory of a casual wedding — a frank display, if you will, of their unabashed love — featuring hot dogs as a main course, which, John says, "is hardly wedding food."

Later, their achievement was affirmed by a simple introduction. "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 recounts. "I'd never heard that before."

"Yes, that was very nice," John says.

"You've made my life complete," Jerry tells John.

"I could say the same to you," John replied. "I think we're probably as happy together as any two people you're likely to meet."

Produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Today, an early Valentine's Day card from StoryCorps. This is a conversation between two senior citizens. One is 100 years old, the other a sprightly 72. Both are veterans. One served in World War II, the other Vietnam. And together they live in a veterans home in Chula Vista, Calif. They sat down for StoryCorps.

JERRY NADEAU: So I start with my name and all that stuff? OK. We'll see how it works. Hello. My name is Jerry Nadeau. I'm with John Banvard.

JOHN BANVARD: And I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.

NADEAU: No, no, no, no. You got to say your name and everything. Hello, my name is...

BANVARD: Hello. My name is John Banvard. I am 100 years of age.

NADEAU: When I first met you, John, you were 75 years old. What would it have been like if you didn't meet me?

BANVARD: I would have continued being lonely. I'd been absolutely lost.

NADEAU: When we met, we were sort of in the closet.

BANVARD: Yeah.

NADEAU: And I never had a real relationship. Now we've been together almost 25 years. And when we moved into the veterans home, we moved in together. And a lot of people were wondering, I wonder what their relationship is.

BANVARD: Yes.

NADEAU: Well, when we got married, they knew what our relationship was.

(LAUGHTER)

BANVARD: I was expecting we'd be ridiculed, and there was very little of that.

NADEAU: We'd gotten married at the veterans home. And we said, if you came to see the bride, you're out of luck. Do you remember that?

(LAUGHTER)

BANVARD: Yes, of course.

NADEAU: It was very informal.

BANVARD: It was done simply, yes.

NADEAU: We served hot dogs.

BANVARD: Which is hardly wedding food.

NADEAU: Remember, John, I was with you in the cafeteria and somebody came up, and they were with their family. And they said, oh, this is Gerard Nadeau, and this is his husband, John. I'd never heard that before.

BANVARD: Yeah, that was very nice.

NADEAU: You've made my life complete.

BANVARD: I could say the same thing to you. I think we're probably as happy together as any two people you're likely to meet.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICK JAINA'S "MISSISSIPPI TURN-AROUND")

GREENE: Wow. Thank you guys. You have made our day a lot better. That's 100-year-old John Banvard with his husband, 72-year-old Jerry Nadeau at StoryCorps in La Mesa, Calif. They were married in 2013. Their conversation will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And you can hear more love stories on the StoryCorps Valentine's Day podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICK JAINA'S "MISSISSIPPI TURN-AROUND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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