Ed De Hay was born in the small town of Bamberg, South Carolina, on September 2, 1936. Ed’s seven siblings were much older, so he grew up feeling like an only child. Deepening his sense of isolation were his father’s death when Ed was four years old, and his mother’s general lack of interest and affection. Today, Ed remains in touch with only one family member, his niece Cindy, who finishes every conversation by telling Ed, “I love you”. It means the world to him.
As a young man, Ed was drafted into the military. He could have avoided it by coming out as gay to the draft board, but he was afraid that the information would get out and jeopardize his mother’s safety. Once in the military, however, he was unable to keep his sexuality a secret. When he came out, he was locked up in a padded room. Finally, after speaking with a psychiatrist, he was given an honorable discharge and sent home. Although he and his mother spoke not once about the reason for his discharge, he thinks she probably knew.
After his mother passed away in the mid-1960s, Ed followed a friend from South Carolina to Los Angeles. In April 1968, amidst a tense environment of police raids on gay bars, Ed went out one night and spied Ronald Greenquist, a professional ice skater who had performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Ed and Ronald got together and stayed together “like peas in a pod” for 34 years, surviving the AIDS epidemic as countless close friends passed away. Ronald working as a costume designer and Ed designed floral displays for department stores. Ronald died of esophageal cancer in 2002.
In November 2016, at the age of 80, Ed was diagnosed with cancer. He took it as an opportunity to renew his appreciation for the simple gift of life. He also discovered how powerful his support system of friends was. About a month before his OUTWORDS interview in July 2017, Ed was declared cancer free.
Ed currently lives at Triangle Square, an LGBT-friendly elder community in Los Angeles. He choosed to live every day by Harvey Milk’s directive to “never blend in”, always dressing nicely and putting on jewelry (his complex-mates call him ‘the jewelry guy’). He also urges future generations to never put up with bullying, insisting that ”we teach people how to treat us.” Ed remains positive and hopeful about the future, and hearing him talk, it’s easy to feel the same.