We set out to find the great men behind Vermonts great women, and discovered an alarming number of them are single, widowed or divorced think former governor Madeleine Kunin, Vermont Teddy Bear honcho Liz Robert and philanthropist Amy Tarrant. When we finally did come up with a short list, half the husbands turned us down. Precious few brave souls, it seems, have the self-confidence and the generosity of spirit to stand by their women, at least in print. Read on to discover what it takes to be a real man these days.
For Avery Hall, The question is always, Well, I guess you go to all the shows? But playing backup for the executive director of the Flynn Center is not all free tickets and cast parties.
When he does get comped for a performance, the 70-year-old husband of Andrea Rogers is most likely sitting solo. For 21 years, his wife has tirelessly managed the renovation and development of Burlingtons Flynn, from a run-down moviehouse to a multi-facility performing arts complex.
Overseeing capital improvements, fundraising initiatives and a performing arts series, including the Discover Jazz Festival, hasnt left a whole lot of time for hanging out with the husband. In the middle of last weeks jazz festival, Hall recalls, I saw her just for a moment. If I hadnt gone to that show last night, I wouldnt have seen her all day except briefly at breakfast. In June, even their late-night dinners are hit and miss.
But the retired mechanical engineer doesnt really mind being out of the limelight, even if it means getting ignored on occasion. Sometimes shell forget to introduce me, Hall laments. People who really know her in the context of the Flynn dont necessarily know me.
Another thing they dont know: Hall did extensive work on the downtown theater before he phased out Northern Engineering Associates. This couples pillow talk must range from blower systems to personnel management. I ran a company. I had lots of employees. I know what its like, he says.
Now Hall keeps himself busy restoring antique autos hes a Packard rat and organizing classic-car events. Rogers occasionally lends a hand. But for the most part, both parties enjoy their independence. I need a lot of space to do the things I want to do, Hall says. And he means that literally. At home on South Union Street, hes got two garages with a total of five stalls, one of which he cleared out for Rogers. Perhaps in appreciation, she keeps her Passat parked outside.
Fourteen years ago, when Paul Markowitz married the woman who would later become Vermonts secretary of state, he kept his maiden name, and so did she. Both were enrolled at the University of Vermont Paul was a grad student in resource economics, Deb an undergraduate philosophy major. Friends introduced them because they were the only two Markowitzes in Vermont.
Today their surname is a household name here, and the family hasnt lost its egalitarian outlook. When the three Markowitz offspring were born, The boy took my last name and the girls took hers, Paul quips. Caring for the kids has also been a shared responsibility. Both agreed, early on, that one parent would work full-time and the other part-time, to be home when school let out. First Deb took the kid shift. When Ari, their youngest child, was 2, Paul said he wanted his turn. She was very resistant to that, didnt really want to give it up, he reports. I said fair is fair.
The upshot: Paul scaled back his hours at the Institute for Sustainable Communities and took over the cooking, cleaning, housework and childcare, while Deb began the process that culminated in her election. When Deb was talking about doing this, I totally supported her, Paul reports. I told her, You would do a great job, youre perfect for it; the guy whos in there isnt doing a good job.
With his wife now completing her second term in office, Paul sees himself as her groundwire, he says. Theres a certain non-reality to politics. I see myself as her linkage to the other world out there, helping her keep things in perspective.
Mr. Markowitz stays grounded himself by keeping clear about his own identity. Were geared to think that the guys supposed to be the breadwinner, the king of the castle. To overcome this mindset when your partner hits the big time, Paul suggests, You have to come into it saying, Its okay that my wife is better known than me. You have to have your own life and feel comfortable with who you are.
When people ask him, Arent you the secretary of states husband? he has a ready answer: Yeah, and Im also Aviva Markowitzs dad I wouldnt trade what Im doing for the world, he adds. I feel so lucky that Ive been able to work part-time and be with my children.
It would be hard to name many living childrens writers with the stature of Katherine Paterson. The author of Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins and a couple dozen other works has won a multitude of international laurels, including two Newbery Awards and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal. It would also be difficult to find another man who glories in his wifes success with more grace than the Reverend John Paterson.
The key, he suggests, is to cultivate modestly ones own self-esteem If you dont have modest self-esteem, youre not likely to be a good partner for someone else.
The Presbyterian minister practices what he preaches. Back in 1962, when the Patersons married, he promised his wife she would not be just an appendage to a pastor, but her own person. Katherine started writing early, scribbling on stray slips of paper in stolen moments while caring for the children two home-grown, two adopted, all under the age of 5. I wasnt the most helpful father, John concedes.
These days, the Patersons split household chores and John ministers to Katherines work in a variety of ways: sorting mail, assisting at book-signings and serving as her first reader though not until the first draft is complete. When she began working on The Same Stuff as Stars, due out this fall, John watched his wife buy a telescope, set it up in the backyard and start using it. I knew it had something to do with stars, he says. But she didnt tell him what. And after 40 years of marriage, John knew not to ask. Some writers love to share what theyre doing with family and friends, but Katherine has never done that.
Notable exceptions are the three books on which the Patersons have collaborated. Consider the Lilies and Images of God marry Johns theological and Katherines literary expertise. Blueberries for the Queen, their forthcoming picture book, tells a story from Johns childhood.
Katherine, who hates to hear her husband called Mr. Katherine Paterson, is careful not to let her success overshadow his work. In the seven years since he retired from the Barre Presbyterian Church, John has been filling in temporarily at a number of pulpits. Rather than accompany him on these out-of-town gigs, Katherine has continued to worship in Barre. John explains, She didnt want to be a traveling curiosity.
This degree of consideration has been a model for the next generation. The couples son David, a playwright, stays home with his young sons while his wife lawyers at a high-powered New York City firm.
Its no coincidence that Rick Moulton is helping engineer Rail Day in Bennington next week: His wife, Burlington redeveloper Melinda Moulton, is one of the states most outspoken proponents of rail service. After all, she built the Queen Citys train station and is still waiting for her ticket to ride Amtrak, with service to New York City. Rick, an independent documentary filmmaker who specializes in historical projects and has done numerous productions for Vermont Public Television, is cheering her on.
Melinda is one-half of the Main Street Landing Company, with Lisa Steele; together they own Union Station and have ambitious plans for a development at the corner of Lake and Battery that will include an inn, theater, restaurant and other public space. Melinda also sits on several boards, and she chairs the Burlington Business Association. Her profile is, quite simply, high. So is her energy level.
When she goes home at night to Huntington a stone house she and Rick built and raised two kids in Melinda can count on her calm and patient husband as a sounding board. Shes not one of those people who leaves her work at the office; her work is her life, Rick notes. We spend every night together when Im not traveling, he says. We do a lot of things together.
Not quite everything. When Melinda is indulging in Friday after-work pool at Franny Os, Rick is more likely to be taking in a cocktail party. When she jumps out of airplanes or off cliffs, hes content to watch. She courageously faces the world, and yet I see the other side of her, he adds.
Ricks secret to standing by his wife of 15 years and companion of 32 years is simply, Keep turning to each other. There never should be a moment when youre afraid of letting your spouse be in the spotlight, he adds. As long as they come back to face you, you give each other strength. Your greater sense of yourself can elevate what you have together.
Rick isnt exactly an unknown quantity in Vermont, but neither is he a household name. Thats why hes clear on one of the perks of his marriage: If somebody doesnt know me, I can say Im Melinda Moultons husband.
For Norris Norrie Hoyt, playing a supporting role to his wifes lead is simply a matter of the shoe being on the other foot. Though Kathy Hoyt is well known in this state as Howard Deans former chief of staff and current secretary of administration, Norrie was the public figure for the first 15 years of their marriage.
Back in the 1970s, while Norrie was pressing the flesh and getting press as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and legal counsel to Governor Tom Salmon, Kathy was either working at low-profile political jobs or staying home with the couples two sons. To political insiders she was well respected, but among the general public, Norrie relates, I was the one people knew about.
Kathys first big break came in 1989, when Madeleine Kunin appointed her chief of staff. When Kunin lost to Dick Snelling the next year, both the Democratic Hoyts found themselves out of work. When the Republican governor died in office, Howard Dean asked Kathy to do for him what shed done for Kunin, and Norrie became Mr. Kathy Hoyt.
For the 66-year-old lawyer, who retired in 1998, being the man behind the woman is no big deal. Ever since we met 30-odd years ago, weve both been talking over politics, he remarks. Its fun for me to see her in the thick of things and to talk things over and know whats going to happen ahead of time.
Does she come to him for advice? Yes, and I did the same thing with her when I was the public one.
Whatever drawbacks may come from having a wife in Kathys position are no different from those she put up with before they traded places: long work hours compounded by the 65-mile commute, each way, between the Hoyts Norwich home and Montpelier.
The perks? Norrie laughs. I drive around in a car with her low license plates. Popular wisdom is that the lower your license plates, the higher your prestige, he explains. Deans tags read 1. Racines say 2. The Hoyts rank 23.
Some people may need that to boost their self-esteem, Norrie comments. Im sort of indifferent to it.
Maybe it helps that hes been there and done that himself. But when asked for his advice to other men who might find themselves partnered with public women, Norries words are carefully chosen. From what I gather from reading popular works of sociology, a lot of men would have a problem with that. Obviously, I dont. If you have a problem it gives you a wonderful opportunity to sort out your priorities and think about your life.
Talk about politic.
Spencer Field acknowledges his wife every time he picks up the phone. Sabra Field he answers cheerfully on a Saturday morning and every other day of the week until five oclock. Otherwise people always say, Is this. . . ? Is this. . . ? remarks the husband of Vermonts most popular visual artist. We make it as easy as we can for the customer.
Since his wifes landscape prints started selling like pints of maple syrup, customer service has been Spencers chief concern. A former watercolorist, he gave up his art to become her business manager. I do just about everything Sabra doesnt, Spencer says, detailing all the logistics of selling art out of their 18-room home in East Barnard. She can virtually spend 100 percent of her time doing what she wants to do: being an artist. She works all the time. Shes out on the deck now writing a book.
Of course Spencers job means packing boxes and ordering ink. But it also involves chauffeuring Sabra on evening drives in their sportscar, dutifully steering their sailboat and going along on monthlong trips to Italy. Sabra is always watching out for lovely vistas.
Theres nothing hard about it, Spencer says of his domestic partnership. If I drive, she can look all over the place. At her urging, he recently submitted to a four-day stop on a Sicilian lemon ranch. She drew and drew. Kind of drove me crazy, he adds with a laugh.
From both perspectives, this marketable marriage looks to be perfectly composed. One of us is the boss, but we dont know which one, Spencer says. His advice to other supporting artists? Dont try to fight the situation. Dont feel jealous. We enjoy each others company. Our business wouldnt be what it is if we were at odds all the time.
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