A Secret Love

Released in 2020. Written by Chris Bolan, Alexa Fogel & Brendan Mason. Directed by Chris Bolan. Running time 1 hour 21 minutes.

Synopsis

Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel have been together over 65 years at the time of this documentary. Terry was born and raised in Canada with her parents and brother; while Pat was born and raised in Canada with her parents and seven (?) siblings. Neither one really seem to know they were gay until they met.

When Terry was a teenager, she would play baseball with her brother and became so good, when the scout came around to recruit girls for the All American League, she went to Chicago and tried out. She was offered a spot on the Peoria Royals team as the catcher.

Pat dated a few men as a young woman but after the three men died from various accidents, she thought there must be something more for her away from home. Pat went to the U.S. as a hockey player where she met Terry and they played hockey together.

Terry and Pat knew quickly into their friendship there was something more. Pat wrote Terry many love letters and their love grew but in secret. They both grew up thinking being gay was wrong and they did not want to harm their families. They passes each other off as best friends who lived together to save money and the families bought it.

Now, 65 years later, Terry’s health is seriously declining and Pat is doing her best to take care of Terry. Terry’s niece Diana Bolan is very protective and wants the best for both of them; although, she admits she feels the relationship she has with Pat doesn’t always feel genuine. Diana and the rest of the family had only learned truth of Terry and Pat’s relationship a few years ago and it didn’t change their love for them.

The main battle at the center of the story is that Terry and Pat must sell their house and move to an assisted living facility so they can receive the proper care and attention as they are both in their 90s. Terry is willing but Pat is having a hard time letting go of the freedom and control she has developed over all the years.

Finally, Diana convinces them and they move to a nearby place where the two finally agree to get married. It is a sweet and dear wedding and long overdue for this sweet pair.

Terry and Pat’s health decline more so the pair move to Canada to be closer to Diana for care. Terry passes away and Pat remains near Diana where they can support and love each like family.

What I Liked

This was not only a great story of two women who “broke the rules”, as they laugh about during the film, playing baseball and hockey as well as managing to stay out of the limelight with their relationship–this was a great love story. More than 65 years together is remarkable for anyone and even more so in the face of what it meant to be gay publicly during the 40s, 50s, …even now at times. They had tremendous lives with adventure and love and complete dedication to one another.

I think they did a pretty good job laying the foundation of what being gay meant in those days, sharing the memorabilia of their relationship and the sports, photographs and home film footage, and shared memories.

The documentary takes place over a span of two years, I believe, which is quite interesting to see how much both Terry and Pat changed and declined. Especially, Terry as she had Parkinson’s Disease and there were times when she would just look blankly into the camera and I wondered, “I wonder what she’s thinking right then…” An intimate feeling of being in the room and listening to these amazing stories from their life.

The poem Pat wrote to Terry shortly after they met: “Always–I’ll Remember This Night”: “It might have been just one more walk / Beneath a moonlight hue / But darling – it meant everything / Because I walked with you / It might have been just one more night / A single night of seven / My darling – you were there with me / ‘Twas one more night of heaven / On we sauntered seldom speaking / As we passed through Moonlight Lane / Happiness walked there inside me / When you smiled and called my name / Hours fled like winged moments / Hand in hand we walked alone / ‘Twas one night I shall remember / One more night to call our own.” Perfection.

What I Wished Was Better

I think the story was a bit slanted more toward Terry than equal parts Terry and Pat. Probably due to Chris Bolan’s connection to Terry as her nephew. It would have been nice to know a tad bit more about Pat and how she met Terry and their time together playing hockey or maybe what they did for work after the sports. I would have liked a bit more of a recap of how Pat was doing after the love of her life passed away.

Final Thoughts

I found myself quite touched and teary-eyed watching this film because of the enormity of love Terry and Pat had for each other and knowing the reason they couldn’t share it with the world. It made me feel bad for them the views of so many would actively do whatever it took to squash that love if they had been found out. I was happy when they finally married after all these years even thought it was more of a “why not” instead of a necessity of sorts. They didn’t have to have a piece of paper to prove anything to anyone–they lived their whole lives proving it each other every day. A wonderful documentary about the power of love. Available on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

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