Copyright © 2017-2018 Art West. All Rights Reserved.
With everything planned out and ready for the builder, permits were pulled and work began on the office barn just two weeks into the new year. It was now 1968 and even in the beginning of this new year there was a feeling of not only were we (the whole gay group of us) achieving something of value to us and our communities, but little inroads in towns and cities across the country, and the world for that matter, were being made in the fight against homophobia.
Our family was ready for the start of classes when the first bell rang right after New Years. Kenny was prepared for kindergarten. We were lucky that we got to meet his teacher and her aide just after Christmas and Kenny liked them a lot. We walked him from our parking spot at the middle school to his classroom at the elementary school, a five-minute walk on a safe sidewalk away from the traffic in the adjoining parking lots. He was stoked about going to school like us big guys and Mike and Bobby were going to be picking him up at lunchtime and Kenny would eat with Brian and me for the first week or so until he had totally settled in at his school. It worked a charm and the older boys had a lot of fun with Kenny and his new friends at the elementary school and eventually volunteered to tutor those kids in the 5th and 6th grades that were struggling to get into the intermediate school. Their friends and classmates joined in and soon Mrs. Flynn (Deanna) had control of the tutoring sessions along with a teacher from the elementary school.
Brian and I had kept up with our workouts, using the school gym since we started there and had moved into our house. Bobby and Mike, after they had come to live with us, had spent their first few times waiting for us, by doing their homework, but eventually asked us to show them some of what we were doing, and eventually, some of their friends joined in for some basic instruction in self-defense. The school's coach, Sean Lockhart, began sitting in and then actively participating, forming a self-defense club and open to all students. Soon some of the teachers started sticking around and joined in. We were getting our workouts and staying fit, but we had no privacy and that took some of the fun out of our usual after workout activities, if you know what I mean. No more fun in the shower after working up a sweat. We had to wait until we got home, which I guess on reflection was a wise move on our part.
By the end of February, we had a pretty good idea of what the weather was going to be for March and it was going to be a warmer month than usual so we decided to hire a caterer for the wedding that was going to be held on April 7th. We included both Deanna and Ben in the food selection and had Ben and a small crew begin the corral and the dog run on opposite sides of the barn and knowing that the animals would be secure outdoors now we could transform the inside of the barn on our property into a casual wedding chapel for Deanna and Ben's ceremony. We worked with the priest at our church and he helped us with the layout and he got permission to use a pre-consecrated portable altar like he used for mass at nursing homes, so we would be in compliance and have a short ceremony blessed by the church. Jerry and Jeff, for all their hunkiness, were great singers and were to sing the couple to and from the altar. Jerry had begun to create the wedding cake and we at home had all benefited from his "test cakes" that he produced to make the final decision from.
Brian and I took the boys shopping with us when we went to get new suits for all of us and Kenny had a few rehearsals for his role as the ring bearer.
Our first full meeting with the trustees of our charitable foundation went very well. We were able to hold it in the almost finished and renovated office barn that was soon to become our company/foundation's offices. Ray opened the meeting by introducing Brian and me, which seemed redundant, because these people were all our friends and family, but apparently there is a structure to these meetings and as Ray explained to us before the meeting, "Robert's Rules" and handed us both a copy, as he had placed a copy at each trustee's place at the table, along with the agenda for today's meeting. Our foundation's goals were clearly stated in the cover letter Brian and I had worked on for a week before it got sent to the printer, and also included were the statements from Mr. Cleaver's company, giving the original funds we had provided, how they had been invested, and the projected monthly earnings of the investments for the next year. The bottom line was the amount the trust was expected to spend in the first quarter of this new year; one and a half million. If all projections were on target they would help us donate 6 million this year alone. We had set up a reserve fund of 20 million that we didn't expect to touch except in the case of a dire disaster, but the income from that fund's investments were helping to boost our spending fund.
Brian and I were not active members of the group of trustees, but we made ourselves available for answers to the questions the new group might have during their meeting, and during the lunch we had catered for them, and during the lunch break we had to tell the group that we aren't expecting them or us to completely fund any one program put before them for consideration as far as funding went, what we wanted to achieve was to give a boost to a deserving program that was restrained by their own lack of funding, to help give a start to a much needed charity that hadn't achieved full independence yet, and maybe pick a family or two out of the many applications we had received either from other social services or personally in our mail, for individual financial assistance and for the others received, to direct them to the charity or social service that would best be able to help them, and maybe give that service a monetary boost to be able to help that family individually.
By the end of the meeting they had approved the spending of all one and a half million and set goals for their next quarterly meeting, and earmarked certain applications for funding to be reviewed at the next meeting, with staff to let them know if any of those reached a critical stage, and then an emergency evaluation could be done, with Ray, Brian and myself, with 4 or more trustees voting would determine if emergency funds would be released to the deserving applicant.
The wedding at the beginning of April was a wonderful joining of two people who had spent half their lives apart, but had never stopped loving each other. The new Deanna was actually glowing as Brian and I walked her down the aisle, all of us watching Kenny marching ahead of us, toward Ben at the end of the aisle by the altar and kneelers waiting for us. Along the way Bobby and Mike and Jeff and Jeremy filed in behind us, the twins still singing. Everything went as planned for the whole ceremony until just after the pronouncement of "I now pronounce you man and wife, you may kiss your bride" by the priest and then one of the roosters could be heard crowing loud and clear through the wall of the barn. Ben said later it reflected exactly what he felt at that moment.
We were left with about 10 days of vacation time and other than a few chores around the farm that we could handle while Ben and Deanna were away on their honeymoon, we spent some of them with Ben at his new office on our floor of the office barn selecting and then interviewing applicants to fill our staff out. We had underestimated the research necessary in our review of applications for funding, and Bruce stepped up and helped us pick four researchers for those positions. He was offered the Office Manager position, but he thought that by the end of the Spring he might be offered the position of Assistant Library Director at the women's college in my hometown, so, for now, he passed on what he said was "an honor to be even asked" position with us. By the middle of June, he had been passed over for the college position and he resigned and came to work for us. He said he never had so much fun working before, but we had to keep asking him to speak up, he was still using a library voice.
A few weeks after our new office opened, the lower floor spaces opened to great reviews by all. Jeff received 4 new commissions the first week and he and his staff of three were kept busy from the day they opened their door. Jeremy had to add three trainers the first month he was open, and one of them was a young blond muscle stud whose main job was keeping the men's locker room clean and making sure no one was hurt in the gang shower, even if it meant the 25-year-old stud had to get wet 6 or 7 times a day to help a member get really clean, inside and out. Aaron became the employee of the month for about 7 months running, but he was so accommodating and friendly no one complained.
Brian and I had a humorous first encounter with him. We had just finished our workout with Dave and John and as we undressed to shower I guess John and David were getting very frisky in the deserted shower room and as we walked toward the shower room Aaron stopped us, saying he thought we were too young for the shower room right now. Jeremy was coming into the locker room and heard Aaron and took him aside and told him that we might not look old enough, but we had three kids, two of them 12 and one that was 5, and not only that, we owned the entire building, and the offices above. He was mortified, but we laughed it off and invited him to join us with David and John in the shower. He stripped in about two seconds, I mean how hard is it to get a skimpy tank top off and a pair of tiny running shorts down to your flip flops and kick them up to a bench?
We five had a fun time in the shower room which was situated where any noise from out in the locker room would alert us to anyone coming near. We all introduced ourselves as the warm water cascaded over our muscled and toned bodies, and many a crevice was caressed with soapy hands, sometimes more than two or three at a time, but in the end we two couples got ourselves off watching Aaron pleasure himself with no more help from us, if you didn't count someone from each couple taking turns with his partner to make sure Aaron's nipples got a thorough workout.
The next time we worked out Aaron was waiting in the shower room which now had an "Out of Order" sign on the entrance and because of it's configuration no one could see into it, so the fun got a little more carried away, but nothing that caused the couples any strain, we just played with his body and he showed his appreciation to us in a very, very warm way, sometimes orally and sometimes anally. We had been at it for about twenty minutes and Brian was sucking my tongue down his throat as John worked his nipples as David was sucking Aaron off and I was pounding Aaron's ass after Brian said he wanted to see someone take my thick nine incher besides him and he actually led me up to Aaron's ass and pushed me into him when we heard soft voices coming into the shower room and there were Jeff and Jeremy leading each other by their dicks into the gang shower to join the fun.
And it was fun, good orgasmic clean fun, with Aaron offering his muscular bubble butt to us for our use and a lot of licking, sucking and kissing that released a lot of tension in the other six of us. We also got to see the finest looking bods in the whole gym and soon after that day, Jeremy was pestering us to pose for a calendar promoting the gym. He assured us it would be with our training shorts on, but he wanted others to see what different body types looked like when fully developed. Many of us were leery of doing it only because of our jobs or work positions, but in our muscle shots Jeremy assured us our faces would not show, only in the group shot with us with our tops on would our faces show.
Needless to say, the calendar was a great success and it really was done very tastefully. Individual photos from the shoot were then blown up and used as posters throughout the gym and poster-sized copies were available for sale at the gyms front desk. Of course, as the gym took on more clients our fun with Aaron in the shower dropped off, but never stopped entirely, he told us once that the fun he had with the six of us were some of the best times he ever had.
Jerry became an indispensable member of our household. We relied on him to keep our home clean, our clothing washed, and our meals prepared. He had a household account and credit card and he took care of the grocery shopping and minor repairs around the house. Having him and Officer Ollie living in our house was wonderful for us and the boys, but the day came when Ollie came to us after the boys were in bed for the night and told us they were ready for their own family. He told Brian and me that as much as they had grown to love all of us, for their own sakes they had begun to realize how much they wanted their own family and that they were going to start looking for their own place.
Our own boys were now older (Bob and Mike were now 15 and Ken was 8) and they were so used to Jerry managing their lives, as were Brian and I, that we really agonized over them moving, until the evening Brian and I were coming home after a meeting at the foundation and realized that there were two acres across from our own home that would be the perfect setting for another house, one we could have built for Jerry and Ollie, thus keeping them close and hopefully keeping Jerry working for us.
So we broached the subject to them the next night at dinner and we told them we really wanted to have Jerry stay as our house manager, so we were willing to deed them the 2 acres of land currently not used right across from us on our lane, and we would have built whatever house they decided on, on that parcel of land. They would own the land and the house, Jerry could walk to work, and he could hire cleaners and or cooks, whatever it took, as long as he was managing our household and making our lives run smoothly, as he had been doing for the past three years. The guys were pleased to accept our offer and soon we had builders across the lane putting together a little smaller version of our own home and in six months Ollie and Jerry were moved across the street and taking fostering classes.
By the second week of July of 1971 we were a very happy household indeed, the boys were all adopted, legally, by us. We each had to adopt separately, with Brian adopting Mike and Ken, and I adopted Bob (we had to do it that way because of the laws back then). It was a grand party the day the judge granted all three adoptions. We cleared out the barn and threw a party for all our family and friends. Ollie and Jerry had to bring their two. They had each passed the fostering program's classes and had waited nearly three months, volunteering at the kid's shelter in Springfield, taking in several overnight placements (usually until a relative from another state could arrive to pick up the child), and volunteering at the schools to help in after-school activities or mentoring. When they got the call it was to see if they were compatible with two 8-year-olds who had been taken from their birth parents because of the parent's drug problems. The boys were cousins and acted like twins. They finished each other's sentences and could communicate without talking. They were great pals of Ken's and he even started that nonverbal communication with them. We ended up getting some ponies from the equine adoption center and all three boys had riding instructions from Ben and he claimed he only had to tell one of them once and all three knew what to do after.
At the foundation, we had about 15 researchers and staff working for us and with the addition of some of those new-fangled computers, we were able to track not only our investments that our foundation lived on, but some of the individuals and small services we supported. We did have a few cases where people fraudulently applied for funds, but those were few and far between and I had no regrets about turning our findings over to the county attorney and his fraud squad. There also were the cases that just tore your heart out and then stomped on it. We had about two a month where the individual applicant had such a gut-wrenching story you just wanted to get in your car and fill the trunk with money and take it to them. There was one case where social services had a child in their care that had been born with her heart on the outside of her chest. The mother had died during the birth and there was no father evident nor were any relatives of the child known. In that case, Brian and I drove to the hospital and paid for the surgery to put the heart into the chest cavity and for the private duty nurses, the little girl would need for weeks after the surgery. We even found a loving home for the girl and we soon had a new niece when my older sister Betty and her husband Tom, Bruce's younger brother, fell in love with her and since their graduation from college the year before they had been trying to start a family, but to no avail. They found out that one of them was sterile, but that would not stop them from having a house full of children.
The foundation was at a place where we were distributing 3 million a quarter now and maybe a half million in private donations, done anonymously in almost all those cases. Those cases were generally appeals for help in paying down utility bills at a home where there were children or elderly were in residence. Sometimes there were appeals for groceries and these were filled by either direct deliveries of food or referrals to food pantries operating in the immediate area of the applicant, with mention that a generous donation was being made in the recipient's name to that particular food pantry. We were not that publicly known, but the word does get around and we had three researchers who only handled the private requests, and we had to rotate them often as the requests were sometimes heart wrenching, yet we found some people who could handle them beautifully, and with a great deal of professional detachment. They usually had had a harder time growing up, in one way or another, than the applicant.
Brian and I, on one of our tours of duty at the foundation, were talking about all the progress we were making in our 7th and 8th-grade classes that year when we received a call from the Superintendent of the school system. It appeared that Mr. Masters, the intermediate school's principal, had been taken to hospital after a bad car crash on his way home from the school and had suffered a major stroke. Whether he would ever be able to return to work or not was not known at this point, but as there was no assistant principal at our school, and since we both held doctorates degrees he wondered if one of us would be willing to step in and cover for Mr. Masters, at least until it was known if he would be able to return to his duties.
We discussed it for about an hour and called him back, telling him we would both do it, as principal and vice principal, accepting only two dollars a year as payment (one for each of us), and that way the district wouldn't be out any money. Neither of us wanted to be in a boss position over the other, but as a team, we thought we could do a really good job of covering both positions. Another benefit was that we'd be able to assist the replacement teachers hired to fill our vacancies. Everything worked really well until it became apparent that Mr. Masters would not be able to return to the school at all. Brian and I were disappointed, as he had always been a champion of ours and had always treated us extremely well. We were asked to sit on the selection committee for his replacement, but no offer was made to us to keep our temporary placements.
Two months before the school year ended we were asked to appear before the monthly school board meeting, which normally was held publicly in the town hall meeting room which held about 100 people. Brian and I had been told that the main subject on the agenda was the search for Mr. Masters' replacement. We made sure we were totally in agreement about why we disliked almost all of the applicants and that we had justifiable reasons for doing so. We also had 2 possible candidates that we could recommend if push came to shove, but we hadn't been asked to submit applications personally.
We arrived at the meeting room in Town Hall and it was filled to more than capacity. The Fire Marshall informed the crowd and the school board that the space was too small for the expected crowd, and informed everybody that the auditorium on the first floor was available and was ready now for the meeting. We all adjourned to the auditorium where after the minutes were read from the last meeting the floor was opened for new business. We were surprised when Deanna stood and approached the board seated in the front of the room. She was pacing back and forth in front of them asking why they had not asked for Brian and my applications for the jobs we were currently doing, why were they wasting everybody's time with the totally unnecessary applications and interviews? How do they justify the insults they had given us by not asking us to keep doing the exemplary jobs we had been doing the last couple of months?
The chairman had been getting angrier by the minute, listening to her rail at them, and when he could finally get a word in he began to speak to the now full auditorium, close to five hundred parents and grandparents of students in the middle school and the elementary school. He spouted off about how he would never nominate a fag for the head position in any of his schools and he knew we were fags because we had three underage non-related boys living with us there at the farm and God only knew what we did with them there. He then went on to question our phony degree credentials and wondered how much we had paid for the phony documents. Brian and I were stunned, so mortified that for once we couldn't speak, but that didn't stop Deanna as she told the chairman that she knew what went on out at the farm, because she and her husband lived out there on our property. She had been to our house many times before she had moved out there with us, and she also was a member of the board of trustees for our foundation located in the office barn on the main route into town. In case anyone in town didn't know about that, it was a charitable foundation that provided help for the needy and indigent all over the country and provided millions in help every year. She then called up Ray who not only backed her up, but even went further.
He stated that in all his dealings with us he had always found us to be kind and considerate and caring and it had been him who got us involved in acquiring our children, after checking us out thoroughly. He stated that Amherst College had not been shy about out degrees and that photos of us receiving them had been in all the papers locally and most of the national ones. The fact that we had achieved them before we were even 18 just proved our dedication to learning and our determination. The fact was we ran a multi-million dollar foundation and not only that, we owned the building outright, we had been doing the assistant and principal's jobs for two dollars a year for the last six months and we were owed a huge apology from not only the chairman, but the entire board for not offering us the chance to do the jobs we had grown to love, in the town we had done our practice teaching in, the town we moved to and have heavily invested in.
All this was great, but we certainly were not prepared for what happened next. The police chief strode to the front of the room and asked the chairman if he had any proof we were "fags" and the chairman stuttered and then the chief asked him to stand down and prepare to be arrested for slander and public defamation. The crowd cheered and others began to speak, one at a time. Each had a child or grandchild in the school and attested how all the students seemed to be doing so much better since we had started teaching there, and children always said that they didn't want to disappoint Doc 1 and Doc2 whether it be in one of our classes, the after school peer tutoring groups, the self defense training, or any of the other after school activities we had started and financed by only living off one salary when we were teaching and using a lot of the other salary to help fund programs at the school.
The remaining members of the school committee gathered at one end of the stage and soon approached the meeting table and one of them approached the front of the stage and said they had reached a unanimous decision to impeach the chairman and strip him of his office in court if need be. He also announced that as far as the other members of the school board were concerned, if Brian and I still wanted to serve our community and our school, they would be pleased to appoint us as the permanent co-principals of the intermediate school. The room erupted in cheering and clapping, but that slowly dissipated as people realized that neither Brian, nor I, were participating. Brian looked at me and we came to an agreement, I hopped up on the stage and told the now quiet room,"Neither Brian nor I expected any of what has happened here tonight, we came here to give our opinions on who we thought might make a good choice for Mr. Master's permanent replacement. The fact we hadn't been asked to apply for the positions we had been filling for the past several months did hurt, but we just put it down to our ages and the fact we had only been teaching here in town for a few years. Never would we have suspected that it was the plan of a bigot to exclude us from being considered for the positions. We could leave the school and put our energies into running our foundation full time, but that would leave our legally adopted sons without our influence in guiding their educations, and those of the children of our adopted hometown, and because of the children, and the support of the families represented here tonight we would both be honored to accept the co-principal positions at the middle school."
Brian hopped up next to me and together we waved out to the cheering crowd and we accepted the handshakes of the remaining members of the board, who told us that all the mess had been the chairman's doing, that they had assumed he had issued us invitations to apply and he had told them that we didn't want the jobs. They then told us that even if we were gay they would still want us, as that was something they felt was a private matter and not something they would hold against any applicant or any other person. The four remaining board members only asked us to do one thing, to start one of the new "diversity" clubs at school so all the kids got to know about other lifestyles in a setting with their peers, not as something pounded into them at home by a bigoted parent or preacher. We told them that we could do that.
Brian and I left the stage and made our way to our seats, accepting handshakes and congratulations along the way, along with some hugs from both men and women, but none so welcome as the ones from Deanna. As we sat the spokesman for the school board announced to the crowd that they had to do a formal vote on the appointments and so each of the members were polled by the secretary and each board member responded with a resounding "YES" when asked if they approved of our appointments.
When we returned home some two hours later it was to a joyous house, with Jerry and Ollie with their boys and ours there and we were shocked to learn that they had all watched everything on the local cable channel. Ken told us he had seen us on TV, even if he didn't fully understand everything, he knew we had our jobs we loved and he was proud of us. Bob and Mike said they had been worried for us, and that they all cheered when the police chief had arrested the former chairman of the school board and that they too were very proud of their dads. The boys then hugged us tight and after them, Jerry and Ollie got theirs, as they too, told us how proud they were of us. The phone had been ringing off the hook they told us and every single call was one of congratulations, including ones from our families. Just then the phone rang again and this time it was David and John who had been told about our evening by my dad.
David told us they were each on an extension and so Brian went into the living room and I stayed on the kitchen extension so the four of us could talk. John spoke up and said,"I couldn't be prouder of you two if you were my own sons. You continue to handle yourselves with an advanced sense of maturity, much more than many of the older adults around you." David began to speak before Brian or I could say anything." You young men make me proud just to know you, and having known you as long as I have I can only say that you both inspire me. To have taken the abuse you had from that guy, and had friends stand up for you, and to act on their convictions was just awe inspiring. The feelings you bring out in other people, both gay and straight is amazing, I can't think of anyone, let alone a gay young couple, that has more than half a whole community behind them, even if they just think you are gay, but without even knowing or even caring if you are or not is just fantastic. You two have earned not only their trust, but you've earned their respect. I can't tell you how worried about you two I was when you both went out in the world to attend college, and I remember well about the advice we gave you to love in secret, and to keep that love a secret from others outside your lives, but I seriously think there is nothing that would stop you from doing whatever you wanted to do in life, short of murder or illicit sex. We love you guys, and we'll get together soon, I'm sure."
Through our tears we told them we loved them too, and then we hung up and each of us called our folks.
The folks told us how proud they all were of us and after our lengthy calls, we all promised to get together soon. There were more calls as the evening went on, but they were mostly from teachers who couldn't make it to the meeting earlier, or colleagues from the foundation. There was one great call that surprised us, it was from the Dean of Amherst College. He congratulated us and told us that his grandchildren had both had us for teachers and he couldn't be prouder of what we had been able to achieve already. He also told us that the chairman of the town's school board had been trying to get copies of our transcripts for the last couple of months, but he hadn't sent in a formal request and had been told on several occasions about the validity of our degrees. He had had a call from the police chief in town about an hour ago and this information had been passed on to the chief and it was him that had told the dean about today's meeting. He told us we had done ourselves, our parents, our town and the college proud. We thanked him for his gracious comments and the call ended a short time after.
We spent the summer on vacation with our boys. Lazing around the farm one day, and the next taking them to the foundation. Ken liked visiting with all the staff, and they, in turn, would endeavor to answer his hundreds of questions and if they were too busy to entertain him, he would come to the office, Brian and I shared and sit and color or go pester his older brothers, who were usually off with the researchers learning their jobs and the machines they used to do them. On their home computer they had already surpassed Brian on the usage of it, but apparently, I had the right kind of mind to be able to surpass all of them. I found it a useful tool at the foundation, at home, and especially at the school, where I had a "donated" computer in our office and I had already entered all the students' data and was preparing a program(with Brian's help) so grades could be printed out at the end of each marking period. He would read to me the information to be entered and I would enter it.
On the days we spent on the farm we rode our horses, swam in the big pool we had installed, entertained the twins (Ken was very attached to them and rarely did we leave the property without them in tow) and our group of adult friends and relatives. Deanna and Ben seemed to like the summer to take off for a few weeks and they always returned in time for our quarterly trustee's meetings. Deanna liked to have time before the meetings to do as much research on the applicants as she could before the whole group sat and many an afternoon saw her with one of the researchers exploring for what she could find out about the applicants. She has turned out to be one of our greatest assets, right up there with our sons.
Years later, as Brian and I cuddled in front of the living room fireplace, the boys all grown and off doing their own things, Brian mused out loud what we would have done differently, and I responded,
"There really isn't anything I can think of that makes me say I wish we had done this differently, or another way, I've loved you for what seems like my whole life. My only regret is that in public we cannot show our love, but apparently, others do see it, and accept it, and are very happy for us. That's my only regret, that we can't shout out our love for each other to the world". I looked down at our wedding bands, we had married in Massachusetts in 2004 after it became legal here, in fact, we had one of those mass weddings which we shared with Brian's dad and Carl, David and John, Ollie and Jerry, Ray and Bruce, and Jeff and Jeremy. We had all been older, with Brian and I being the youngest couple at 54 and 55, but we partied that night like we were teenagers. As we sat now, with the fire glowing, and the TV on low, telling us all the news of the day, we heard those magic words quoted from Justice Kennedy, "for equal dignity in the eyes of the law, the constitution grants them that right". Same-sex marriage had been legalized across the entire country. I looked up at Brian with tears in my eyes, and he asked me to marry him again. We were no longer a secret, we had nothing to hide from anyone ever again.