Friendships endure the flow of time

The Press Republican, a daily newspaper in upstate New York, reported recently that Scott Avery of Wilmington, N.Y., donated a large parcel of land to the Lake Placid Land Conservancy. This will enable it to create a connector between the hamlet of Wilmington and the existing public lands and trails on the Beaver Brook tract.

The property is in the southern portion of the Black Brook Forest, which is classified by the New York Natural Heritage Program as a rare, sandy pine forest. So, the donation will therefore conserve rare habitat.

“We are incredibly grateful for Scott’s donation of land to the conservancy,” Jeff Graff, executive director of the organization, said. “His donation will not only ensure that the land is permanently protected, but will also allow for the creation of a wonderful community forest preserve with trails that connect to nearby state lands.”

Reading the report opened the floodgates to decades memories.

More than 50 years ago, after my wife and I settled in Lake Placid, we became close friends with Faye and Mildred Howard. They were two young women raising Faye’s two children, Steve and Leslie. Faye was divorced from her husband, who happened to be Mildred’s brother.

We soon learned and realized the women were a lesbian couple. It didn’t change our relationship a bit and we remained close friends for decades. Subsequently, we moved to Williamsburg and learned that Faye and Mildred split up. Each went her own way. To our surprise, Mildred married a man, and Faye had a sex-reassignement and became Scott Avery.

Afterward, Scott married Nancy, a high-powered New York City lawyer and Yale Law School graduate. Nancy gave up her lucrative law practice in the city and they moved to the Adirondacks, where she became a well-known poverty and public defense lawyer.

A few years ago, while spending the summer in Lake Placid, the local newspaper reported the death of Mildred, and the date of her burial in the nearby cemetery. To pay our respects, my wife and I decided to attend the funeral.

A distinguished looking gentleman welcomed us at the cemetery. He said, “You may not recognize me. I am Scott Avery, who used to be Faye Howard. I would like to introduce you to my wife, Nancy.” Steve and Leslie, now in their 50s, joined us. There was much hugging and back slapping.

Scott and Nancy invited us to their place, an almost 100-acre spread consisting of pastures and forest land. They lived in a 5,000-square-foot rambling house, heated by a high-tech outdoor, wood-burning furnace. Their three Arabian riding horses roamed the grounds, following you around, begging for apples. Dogs, cats and other domestic animals — as well as some wild ones — populated the property.

When we sat down to talk, the flow of conversation seemed to have resumed at the point where we left it decades ago.

Later, we learned that the Methodist pastor, a young woman who presided over Mildred’s burial rites, was a College of William and Mary graduate, who majored in foreign relations and used to live in the Reves Center’s dormitories.

Nancy, passed away last year. But her legacy lives on. The property she co-owned with Scott is now part of the project that, according to the Land Conservancy, “Will support ecotourism for the Town of Wilmington by significantly enhancing mountain-biking opportunities between the Beaver Brook tract, the hamlet of Wilmington and the Whiteface/Marble Mountain tract.”

Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at the Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com

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