Zeke Will at their own wedding.
Religion drove them apart nearly 50 years ago; now love has brought them back together
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Will and Zeke met and fell in love at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie in the 1960s. But misguided theology told them they needed to be cured, and well-meaning friends and family drove them apart.
But the two men remained friends. They each served as best man at the other’s wedding. But after one “indiscretion” between them — they shared a kiss — Will remained married and living in Texas, but living under the one stipulation his wife imposed: He couldn’t have contact with Zeke again.
So for 25 years, the two men had no contact — until recently when they found each other again and then, after all those years …
“I felt I was called to full-time ministry,” Zeke said. And being gay wasn’t part of that plan.
“God told me he loved me the way I am and would fix me,” he explained.
After receiving an associate’s degree from Southwestern, Zeke finished his bachelor’s at University of North Texas. But he was called to preach, and he knew that Will couldn’t be part of that. So he allowed a group he knew from Bible camp to whisk him off to California where he met a woman.
That church group asked several things of Zeke; one of those things was that he cut off contact with his friend. “They believe you could make choices,” he said, “and they didn’t want me to have anything to do with Will.”
They also asked him to get married. Without being married, he wouldn’t be considered for a higher position in the church.
So he married the woman he had met, but he knew it was a mistake. Zeke said the night before the wedding, he begged his soon-to-be wife not to marry him. He knew it wouldn’t work.
But they did marry, and the newlyweds were sent to Brisbane, Australia by their church, where Zeke established what is now that country’s largest Baptist church.
It was, he said, a very welcoming church when he was there. But then he crossed a line: “My wife left me because I was working with gay people who came to church,” he said. “I became more convinced I couldn’t preach what the denomination believes.”
So in the early 1990s, after he had been pastoring for 15 years, Zeke’s wife left him and returned to the U.S. with his children. Zeke came out as a gay man, and stayed in Australia, becoming a citizen.
“I have known all my life that I have same-sex attraction,” Will said. “However, I did not want to be gay.”
He said that he knew since puberty, when other boys were talking about which girls they were attracted to, he was attracted to boys. But to be accepted by the other boys and by his church, he had to date girls.
Will’s then-wife-to-be knew about his past. But she believed that being gay was a choice, and that Will made the choice to be healed.
“My wife was perceptive,” Will said. “She picked up on the emotional connections with Zeke.”
But Zeke left for Australia, and Will and his wife had two sons.
“When my boys were in junior high school, I recognized the fallacy of my theological belief — that God would throw a light switch some day and I’d be straight,” he said. “I spent two years angry with God.”
Once his anger subsided, Will said, he decided to keep his family together — for the sake of his sons and because of his friendship with his wife. But once his boys left for college, he finally came out to himself.
“I had a ‘coming out to myself experience’ and admitted that I not only was gay, I wanted to be gay,” he said.
He wanted to be able to find love with a man. So he divorced.
To make sure none of the family friends blamed his wife for their divorce, he came out to 12 couples one by one. He wanted each of the friends to support his ex-wife.
“I was on my own,” he said. “I had no friends.” But he was still glad he did it. “I did not want to look back on my life and regret that I never had the courage to take the risk to be true to myself,” he said.
Will said he knew he was doing the right thing when his dad, who was 98 and a Pentecostal preacher, gave his approval. “He hugged me and told me he loved me,” Will said.
After his divorce in 2011, Will began to look for Zeke. Through people he knew on line, he asked if anyone had heard what happened to Ed Brewer, the name Zeke had gone by when they had been friends (Zeke changed his name after moving to Australia.)
For years, Will kept running into dead ends. Then in August 2016, he found somebody who knew somebody who knew one of Zeke’s sons — and that person gave Will an email address.
Will wrote to Zeke that day, which happened to be Zeke’s birthday. Will told him he and his wife were divorced. He ended the email with “I never stopped loving you.”
But Will had been told Zeke came out in the early 1990s, so he figured the love of his life was already partnered. To his surprise, he received a response that began, “I can’t believe we’re both available.”
In November, Will visited Zeke in Australia. He asked if Zeke, who was retired, could live in Texas.
But Texas represented lots of hurt to Zeke, and he wasn’t sure he could live here. Still, in the spring of 2017, he visited Will for two months and was surprised at the large, organized LGBT community he found in Dallas. It was something that hadn’t existed here when he left.
Not only was Will in Dallas, but Zeke’s three children lived in the U.S. He’d kept in touch with them and visited them but usually went several years between visits.
Zeke described being with Will for those two months as “a thrill.” And Will said Zeke’s visit to Dallas was “part of his healing.”
During his visit, Will surprised Zeke, during a visit to the Arboretum with friends, by going down on one knee to propose to Zeke. Zeke happily accepted.
So Zeke returned to Australia, packed his things and moved to Dallas in July 2017. And in November, Will and Zeke were married in Oak Lawn Park, in front of about 30 family and friends.
Their love story spans half a century. And although “it took a long time to get together,” Will said, they’re finally reunited and living in Oak Lawn happily … with the “ever after” still happening.