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Stand By Your Woman: The good guys behind Vermont's leading ladies 

We’ve all heard the proverb alleging that “behind every great man is a great woman.” For centuries, women have settled for that role — and its attendant faint praise — without ever considering the reverse. Does the über-spouse theory also apply to high-profile females? Might there be more dynamic dames running around if they had supportive husbands at home?

We set out to find the “great men” behind Vermont’s “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 Burlington’s 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, hasn’t left a whole lot of time for hanging out with the husband. In the middle of last week’s jazz festival, Hall recalls, “I saw her just for a moment. If I hadn’t gone to that show last night, I wouldn’t 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 doesn’t really mind being out of the limelight, even if it means getting ignored on occasion. “Sometimes she’ll forget to introduce me,” Hall laments. “People who really know her in the context of the Flynn don’t necessarily know me.”

Another thing they don’t know: Hall did extensive work on the downtown theater before he phased out Northern Engineering Associates. This couple’s pillow talk must range from blower systems to personnel management. “I ran a company. I had lots of employees. I know what it’s like,” he says.

Now Hall keeps himself busy restoring antique autos — he’s 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, he’s 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 Vermont’s 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 hasn’t 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, didn’t 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, you’re perfect for it; the guy who’s in there isn’t doing a good job.’”

With his wife now completing her second term in office, Paul sees himself as her “groundwire,” he says. “There’s 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. “We’re geared to think that the guy’s 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, ‘It’s 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, “Aren’t you the secretary of state’s husband?” he has a ready answer: “Yeah, and I’m also Aviva Markowitz’s dad… I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for the world,” he adds. “I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to work part-time and be with my children.”


It would be hard to name many living children’s 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 wife’s success with more grace than the Reverend John Paterson.

The key, he suggests, is “to cultivate modestly one’s own self-esteem… If you don’t have modest self-esteem, you’re 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 wasn’t the most helpful father,” John concedes.

These days, the Patersons split household chores and John ministers to Katherine’s 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 didn’t tell him what. And after 40 years of marriage, John knew not to ask. “Some writers love to share what they’re 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 John’s theological and Katherine’s literary expertise. Blueberries for the Queen, their forthcoming picture book, tells a story from John’s 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 didn’t want to be a traveling curiosity.”

This degree of consideration has been a model for the next generation. The couple’s son David, a playwright, stays home with his young sons while his wife lawyers at a high-powered New York City firm.


It’s no coincidence that Rick Moulton is helping engineer Rail Day in Bennington next week: His wife, Burlington “redeveloper” Melinda Moulton, is one of the state’s most outspoken proponents of rail service. After all, she built the Queen City’s 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. “She’s 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 I’m 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 O’s, Rick is more likely to be taking in a cocktail party. When she jumps out of airplanes or off cliffs, he’s content to watch. “She courageously faces the world, and yet I see the other side of her,” he adds.

Rick’s 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 you’re 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 isn’t exactly an unknown quantity in Vermont, but neither is he a household name. That’s why he’s clear on one of the perks of his marriage: “If somebody doesn’t know me, I can say I’m Melinda Moulton’s husband.”


For Norris “Norrie” Hoyt, playing a supporting role to his wife’s lead is simply a matter of the shoe being on the other foot. Though Kathy Hoyt is well known in this state as Howard Dean’s 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 couple’s two sons. To political insiders she was well respected, but among the general public, Norrie relates, “I was the one people knew about.”

Kathy’s 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 she’d 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, we’ve both been talking over politics,” he remarks. “It’s fun for me to see her in the thick of things and to talk things over and know what’s 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 Kathy’s 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. Dean’s tags read “1.” Racine’s say “2.” The Hoyts rank “23.”

“Some people may need that to boost their self-esteem,” Norrie comments. “I’m sort of indifferent to it.”

Maybe it helps that he’s been there and done that himself. But when asked for his advice to other men who might find themselves partnered with public women, Norrie’s 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 don’t. 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 o’clock. “Otherwise people always say, ‘Is this. . . ? Is this. . . ?’” remarks the husband of Vermont’s most popular visual artist. “We make it as easy as we can for the customer.”

Since his wife’s landscape prints started selling like pints of maple syrup, customer service has been Spencer’s chief concern. A former watercolorist, he gave up his art to become her business manager. “I do just about everything Sabra doesn’t,” 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. She’s out on the deck now writing a book.”

Of course Spencer’s 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.

“There’s 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 don’t know which one,” Spencer says. His advice to other supporting artists? “Don’t try to fight the situation. Don’t feel jealous. We enjoy each other’s company. Our business wouldn’t be what it is if we were at odds all the time.”

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About The Authors

Ruth Horowitz

Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston

Pamela Polston is the cofounder, coeditor and associate publisher of Seven Days.
Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Paula Routly is the cofounder, publisher and coeditor of Seven Days.


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