Other Voices


Inga Boudreau — From the Hilltowns to publishing

Inga Boudreau grew up on a farm in Westerlo, the daughter of German artisans. Her mother, a sculptress, could recreate a Chanel outfit by looking at a picture and she told stories that came from the heart. Her father heeded Will Rogers’ words — “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore — and in 1932, sight unseen, bought a 200-acre farm in Westerlo for about $300. Inga and her sister attended the grade school in Westerlo and then went on to graduate from Berne-Knox High School. Boudreau fondly remembers two of her English teachers: in eighth grade, John O’Leary taught her respect for the English language; in high school, Nancy Hayden told her, “Never stop writing because you gave me chills.” Boudreau never did stop. With master’s degrees from New York University and Columbia, she launched a career in children’s book publishing. In this week’s podcast, she talks about some of the authors she worked with whom she grew to know and love: Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Madeleine L’Engle, and Tomie dePaola. She describes her author friends as kind, egalitarian, and nonjudgmental and treasures their cards and letters. She has always liked the ending of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web.” Wilbur, the pig rescued at the start of the book by 8-year-old Fern, is missing his friend, the spider Charlotte, and he thinks, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

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Marcy Forti — Union College student on diversity and acceptance

Marcy Forti, in her 2018 Berne-Knox-Westerlo valedictory address, used a phrase from Southern African philosophy, Ubuntu, often translated as “I am because we are,” which she felt spoke to the way she was raised in the close-knit, rural Hilltown community. The BKW superintendent, Timothy Mundell, has modified the phrase to “They are because we are” to use as the school district’s motto. “I was really touched that my little 18-year-old musings had an impact,” says Forti in this week’s podcast. She wishes, as well, that students would learn about the South African culture that produced that philosophy. Forti is now a junior at Union College in Schenectady where she is majoring in biology while also pursuing minors in chemistry and Spanish. She liked learning about the intersection of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish cultures when she studied in Cordova, Spain — her first time crossing the Atlantic. Forti has long loved animals — from her family’s pet dog to a fledgling pigeon she rescued to hens she raised in 4-H — and would like to become a veterinarian. She is currently rooming with friends, who are like family, and, in the midst of the pandemic, is learning mostly remotely except for going to the laboratory. She did a project at Union where she chalked the anonymous stories of students who had been sexually assaulted or made to feel powerless, writing their words on a walkway. “I wanted to interrupt the daily routine,” she said. “It shook me to read those stories.” Forti advises: It’s OK to learn you were wrong and change. Diversity and acceptance is a work in progress, moving toward something better.

Timothy Rau — "Nothing more honest than a timber frame"

Timothy Rau, mallet in hand, stands in front of the post-and-beam barn he built for his wedding. He learned how to make mortise-and-tenon joints from his grandfather, the late Everett Rau, to create a timber frame for a sign that announces the name of their Guilderland farm. He’s hardly stopped since, and now owns the New World Barn Company, which both restores ancient structures and builds new ones in traditional ways. He says in this week’s podcast, that he was inspired by the words of John Ruskin, the Victorian English art critic and philosopher: “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us.’” Rau is saddened that the 1833 house that Altamont’s first doctor, Frederick Crounse, lived in and practiced from is to be demolished. The town of Guilderland and the village of Altamont together purchased it for $40,000 in back taxes in 2006 and then let it languish. The municipalities have each set aside $50,000 to demolish it. Rau would like to work with the demolition crew to save at least the post-and-beam frame with the idea it could be rebuilt elsewhere, perhaps at the Altamont fairgrounds where the public could appreciate it and learn from it. "There's nothing more honest than a timber frame," he says. "Everything is there for you to see — the marvel and the awe."