By Buffy Calvert
Drive far, far up Upper Dingle Hill Road, turn into a lane. Pass a pond with an inviting diving board; park beside a picket fence. Swing the gate open and enter a lush garden with roses in full bloom centered by a grand log cabin, its wrap-around porch designed to catch the views out over the valley.
Carol and Dave Johnson greet you with welcoming smiles; a handsome couple who seem much too young to have just celebrated their 50th Anniversary.
They were born on opposite coasts, he in Vallejo, California; she in Manhattan. Carol grew up in Astoria, Queens and Long Island, daughter of Helena and Charlie Linek, a close-knit family with relatives on nearby blocks. They went crabbing every Saturday and held a feast at night, spreading the dining table with newspapers to catch the drips. Carol and her sister were sent to fetch a pail of beer from the neighborhood saloon.
Carol and her friends played jacks, punch ball, and jump rope. They competed for their local D.A. Sokal, (a Czech social club) against nearby Sokals. Carol’s sport: gymnastics. Her father worked for U.P.S., her mother, Pan Am, which meant they often traveled.
Dave, across the continent, was the son of Desmond and Eve Johnson. His father, an electrical engineer, worked for a company that contracted with Navy yards up and down the coast. Result: Dave attended 12 schools in 12 years! For a period in his early teens, they lived in the Bay Area. He had a paper route, cycling up those steep Berkeley hills. Through his customers he picked up lawn-mowing and house-sitting jobs.
Shortly after Dave got his driver’s license, his father was assigned to the East Coast. Dave drove his own dark-green, custom, 1956 Ford Victoria across country behind his father’s 1957 Thunderbird. The beginning of a life-long romance with cars.
At New Hyde Park High School on Long Island, he was instantly smitten with an exceptionally pretty girl with long brown hair. (Whether in class or the cafeteria is a matter of marital dispute.) She felt the same. They have been sweethearts ever since.
Dave was a bit of a rebel, drag racing and, to her mother’s dismay, appearing at Carol’s house with sideburns, corduroys and bare feet.
Dave went to New England College, majoring in civil engineering, fraternity, and partying. One summer a friend’s father got them summer jobs at TWA. Dave stayed on for 35 years. For the first 25, he worked in the office but when, during a flight personnel strike, he was assigned to the flight crew, he discovered he loved it and stayed aloft, as it were, until he retired.
Meanwhile, Carol majored in Early Childhood Education at SUNY New Paltz. She directed a cooperative nursery for 5 years and then, for 25 years, taught pre-K at the Portledge School, beautifully located in an old mansion.
The couple has two children: David, who runs a medical supply business in Sarasota, Florida, and Jennifer, a big game hunter, who grows medical marijuana in Montana.
But how, you will ask, did they get to Dingle Hill? Friends had a cabin on Gladstone Hollow. Carol and Dave and kids came up to ski Bob Cat, bought these beautiful acres, built a snug, winterized cabin and joined the ski patrol at Bob Cat. In sunnier weather, Dave ran 26 marathons, from the Pepacton Paleface to Berlin. Carol ran 2: the Pepacton and New York City. In fact, Dave and Carol helped organize the runners group which created the Paleface as well as many other local races including one from Delhi to Andes in mid-winter.
From Andes, Dave built up a business driving snowbirds all over the country. At its peak, he had 100 customers. But after 22 years he retired. Carol followed suit. In 2005, they enlarged their log cabin into the comfortable, elegant house that accommodates themselves, guests, and 5 dogs, with a fenced-in yard that gives free range to 17 chickens.
Both have invested themselves in the community they love. Carol, as a faithful volunteer at the Heart of the Catskills Thrift Shop and eager Saturday library sitter, “It’s fun!” She was active in the lively, intergenerational Story Telling Troupe, which prepared dramatic programs to take on the road. She is a constant and comforting Hospice volunteer, giving respite and end-of-life care.
Dave, still car crazy, has collected about 30 classic cars, mostly Fords, some very rare, and all over 60 years old. He is an active member of the Catskill Mountain Classic Car Club. He joined the Andes Fire Department as a driver for the Emergency Medical Squad. This year he combined two loves and ran the benefit Car Show at the Fire Hall.
Oh, and they have each just bought kayaks for cruising the reservoir.
With typical infectious enthusiasm they confess: “We have been all over the world and our favorite place is…Andes!” They just spent 10 days in tropical Hawaii and couldn’t wait to get back. Welcome home, Carol and Dave! ~