Kenneth Felts recently made headlines when the 92-year-old divorced father and Korean War veteran accidentally revealed he was gay to his family. Rather than shy way from his unintended exit from the closet, the now grandad is proudly wearing rainbow colors. Felts recently spoke with Out and shared his unfinished memoirs, where he reveals more details about his upbringing and the lost love of his life.
“I had no intention of coming out,” Felts tells Out, noting it was the isolation of the social-distancing restrictions caused him to drudge up old memories. “In isolation I have been writing my memoirs, rather lengthy and some parts in depth. The old memories began to flow that I had kept hidden for so many years and they came to the surface with deadly aim on my broken heart for the one person that I really, truly loved.”
In his unpublished memoirs, Felts writes of a childhood living through the Depression and Dust Bowl. His family moved frequently, making friendships fleeting at best. The unspoken lesson he learned throughout his childhood was that it was better to withdraw inside himself and avoid serious friendships rather than risk the pain of his family’s inevitable departure.
“From all these moves I learned early on to not get too attached to others, that it hurts less when you were repeatedly being relocated,” he writes in his memoirs.
Felts realized he was attracted to other boys at the age of 12 while sharing a bed with another boy during a sleepover. Nothing happened, but he knew then he was different. At 15, he had his first intimate experience with another male, this time with a coworker, but it soon ended like all his friendships.
Born in 1930, Felts was too young to fight in World War II but he did enlist in the Navy during the Korean war because he didn’t want to be “boots on the ground.” After discovering he was prone to acute seasickness on the crossing to Japan, Felts was quickly transferred to the minesweeper USS Swallow where he served alongside a crew of roughly 30 officers and enlisted men. He describes coming under enemy fire and how he adapted to the constant threat of suffering horrific injury or death.
“The first attack was the worst, and, while each occurrence was enough to raise one’s blood pressure, once I convinced myself that I really had no control over what was happening, I began to relax," he explains in his memoirs. "Under fire, the first few minutes brings your entire body to alert, then you chill out.”
After his enlistment expired, Felts returned home and eventually landed a job as an insurance agent in Long Beach, California. It was here that he met the love of his life.
“One of my coworkers was Phillip J. In spite of my shyness, often seen as aloofness, we seemed to have an immediate attraction for one another and began a friendly association," he writes. "He made the first moves, offering to help me learn the format for writing reports and other office procedures. He was good at drawing me out and comfortable to talk with.”
Slowly, the wary Felts opened his heart to the man with whom he was falling in love. Their relationship blossomed cautiously, but intensely.
“I think we edged into our relationship edgewise, not really knowing where we were going or looking for," he continues. "We often spent a few hours after work at my apartment weekly for a little making out, but usually went to his residence. I began to spend an overnight at his place in his double bed from time to time as we became more and more intimate.”
While their moments of being truly alone together were rare, the pair made the most of them.
“There is no better way to understand the power of touch than by experiencing it standing naked at the kitchen cabinet making a cup of hot tea and feeling a person walk up behind you, who is also unclothed,” Felts writes. “The skin on skin encounter is like no other, like magic.”
After one memorable night of intimacy, the pangs of guilt became too much for him. He eventually quit his job and moved away forever.
“The instructors of religious Christian ideologies and moral precepts had done their job well,” he laments. “To give in to Phillip would mean abandoning my principles that were guiding my life. I was not ready at that time to take the final step.”
He no longer remembers what he told Phillip of his decision, writing only that “whatever it was, it was not the truth.” His actions and the loss of Phillip haunts Felts to this day.
“I never talked with Phillip again although he wrote several letters to me,” he reveals. “In his last message he told me if I did not reply, he would not bother me again. I had not replied to his previous letters and again, I did not respond. That was a decision that I have long regretted and even now, I still do. He deserved better.”
After reading Felt’s story in the media, an unnamed woman began searching for Phillip according to reports. Sadly, she discovered that Phillip Allen Jones had passed away only two years earlier. Felts revealed his pain in a moving post to Facebook.
“I loved him in my heart so much over the years and now he is gone.”