Growing up in Kansas the son of a railroad worker, Ken Felts could always be sure of two things: he’d never spend long in any one town before his father had to move on in search of work, and they’d always attend church on Sundays. It was a lonely childhood.
But in the late 1950s, Ken moved to California and found the love of his life, a coworker named Phillip. Both in their 20s, Ken and Phillip were inseparable during the two years they spent together, before the weight of Ken’s religious background became too much for him to bear. He left California — and Phillip — to return to Kansas and lead a straight life.
Kenneth Felts (L) and his first love Phillip (R) in the 1950s. Courtesy of Kenneth Felts.
Ken is now 90 years old, a father and grandfather. But he never forgot Phillip or forgave himself for the decision he made. So, in March 2020, while under quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ken finally told his daughter, Rebecca, the secret he had been keeping for more than 60 years.
Top Photo: Kenneth Felts and Rebecca Mayes after their StoryCorps interview in Arvada, CO in July 2020. Courtesy of Kenneth Felts and Rebecca Mayes for StoryCorps.
Originally aired July 17, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.