“We first knew of each other in high school. She was the scorekeeper for the New Paltz baseball team and I played for Highland,” said John.
They started dating in college. He attended Cornell University and Syracuse University, earning undergraduate and law degrees. She attended SUNY Cortland, “but I wasn’t very successful at college. It’s a good lesson for kids who flunk out of school: that it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on,” said Vivian. She went back to school -- to Ulster County Community College and Marist College -- and co-founded Weisz, Wadlin & Associates, a marketing, advertising and graphic design firm, with close friend Liz Weisz. With Elena Erber and Karen Thompson, they founded About Town, a quarterly publication promoting Southern Ulster County events, attractions and businesses. In 1988, Vivian became sole proprietress and publisher.
“I love interviewing people and I love researching the history of the area. That’s my favorite part. After that, I love distributing About Town because I get to go around and talk to everybody and see how business is. There aren’t very many parts I don’t like,” said Vivian.
John became a partner at law firm Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, of Kingston and Marlboro, where he now serves as a semi-retired “of counsel” attorney. Estate planning and estate administration are his areas of expertise. Conservation easements are a passion.
“I like the idea of both preservation of farms and open space, as well as the private property rights of a landowner,” said John. He is a past vice president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, and continues to work for varied New York land trusts, including the Catskill Landowners Association. He also served on the Highland Public Library Board of Trustees; and the Ulster County Community College Board of Trustees, for 17 years.
John is a lifelong resident of the Town of Lloyd. Vivian could be, too, on a technicality: “The farmhouse where my family lived is in Esopus, but part of the farm was in the Town of Lloyd, the mailing address was Highland and we went to school in New Paltz. I always felt that I was in New Paltz. I didn’t know that there was that town line dividing things,” said Vivian.
Nevertheless, the two are united in a desire to see Highland revitalized. Vivian is an active member of the Town of Lloyd Historic Preservation Society, Lloyd Ethics Board and the Main Street Revitalization Committee.
“Anything to do with the Town of Lloyd, to try to get people to come downtown and see the opportunities that are there. [The town has] money to lend in our revolving loan fund at very reasonable rates -- but it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ thing. If there aren’t a lot of people down there, nobody wants to start a business; nobody wants to come down there if there are no businesses. Right now [the Historical Society has] a self-guided walking tour, just to try to get people down there and walk around and look would be wonderful,” she said.
John remembers growing up in a hustling, bustling hamlet. “I grew up in town, so we had a movie theater, two drugstores, fish market -- Gadaleto’s was in Highland -- there was a five-and-ten, a shoe store and of course the post office; grocery store, bus station, savings and loan; and the entire school system was in town. So many of us walked. I never ever was on a school bus to go to school,” said John.
They see potential for the hamlet to be rebuilt, with the addition of a few key components.
“Money and vision,” said Vivian.
“The first thing we need is a very good bakery,” said John.
Spare time is spent on pursuits that unanimously celebrate the outdoors. For eleven years, John has been a Metropolitan Golf Association committeeman, responsible for rating the golf courses of six counties. He is a trained hiking guide, licensed through the New York State Forest Rangers, who often takes friends on hikes through the Catskills.
“The best view in the Catskills is from Wittenberg [Mountain], but it’s a tough hike. Who you’re with, how much time you have, what different things you would like to see [are all factors in choosing the best hike],” he said. In winter, he recommends snowshoeing at Highland’s own Franny Reese State Park.
Vivian’s favorite hike is to Slabsides, the West Park cabin of naturalist, conservationist and essayist John Burroughs, where the couple helped build new trails in spring 2011. She enjoys tending her copse of American Chestnut trees and boxes of Mason bees, at their home overlooking the Hudson River.
“It’s always changing. You never get tired of the view through the seasons,” said John.
“We’re surrounded by beauty, and everything you could need: train, bus, hospitals, recreation and lots of nice people. It’s hard to complain,” said Vivian.