Rich and Cathy Kraft stand beaming in the entrance of their newly built, mostly finished home on state Route 30 near the south end of Upper Saranac Lake.
The decision of the moment is whether to tour the house, enjoying the open floor plan and admiring the fine workmanship, or head down to the lake to enjoy a refreshing swim in the waters of the now quiet lake. With the late summer heat wave still in full swing (remember that heat wave everyone), we decide to swim first and tour later - and the decision does not disappoint.
Such is the state of the state for the Krafts these days. They work hard, with Rich employing his talents to build a spectrum of stuff from furniture to houses and Cathy working as a physical therapist for Adirondack Arc.
Cathy and Rich Kraft
(Photo — Michael Williams)
They enjoy their downtime with any number of active activities: water sports on the lake (ask Rich about his air chair and be ready for a blast of passion), running up mountains in the warmer weather and skiing down them during the winter months and whenever called upon, helping friends out in any number of ways.
To round out the life-lived-to-its-fullest list, the Krafts add cooking wonderful dishes for friends and family, fine photography of Adirondack scenes and volunteering for various community endeavors.
Rich and Cathy began their Adirondack stories some years ago with Rich coming to Paul Smiths after a stint in the Navy and Cathy settling in the Tri-Lakes region to take a job at the then Saranac Lake General Hospital.
As things tend to happen up here in the mountains, folks of like minds and interests usually cross paths before long. Such was the case here, and before long, Rich and Cathy found themselves married, buying their first home and expecting a baby.
Life took off from there, "like an express train" Rich states, and producing and providing for two daughters and still trying to partake of the mountains and lakes around them became the guiding force of the next number of years.
Within these early years of this Kraft Family came a seminal moment. Rich, while working on a project at a camp for kids called Forestcraft, met the owner, Dr. Ted Blackmar, and after only a few interactions, a connection was made and Dr. Blackmar invited Rich to become the jack-of-all-trades caretaker of the camp properties.
With this position came the use of one of the homes within the boundaries of camp, and upon accepting the offer, the Krafts picked up their life and settled in this spot.
The decision proved right and the setting of Forestcraft finds its way into a whole pile of stories that life produced during these years. The Krafts continue a relationship with Dr. Blackmar to this day, and in addition, name many more folks who came into their life during these years as friends to this day.
With the years rolling on by, their children growing up, Rich continuing his business while overseeing the camp and Kathy working in various venues as a physical therapist, the notion of life after Forestcraft began to germinate.
A piece of land was purchased and Rich and Kathy began the process of designing the house that would provide context for the years to come. With a plan in hand and the arrangement at Forestcraft winding down, Rich and Cathy set about to make a home. What followed was a three-year journey, full of all the twists and turns building one's own home can bring, to get to the place they are now.
Adding to the fact that the house is a great example of good design and fine workmanship, is the arrangement that Rich and Kathy have with the New York State Energy Research and Development Association. Through a friend, they were approached by the organization and asked to be part of a program that considers a home's envelope (types of insulation and techniques for installation) and the efficiency therein to provide valuable information to the public and other builders. The Krafts decided this was a worthwhile cause and agreed to add their house to the project. With a few tweaks to the design, monitors installed to track progress and state of the art materials replacing traditional ones, the Krafts produced a home that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible.
Beyond expressing their appreciation for the new digs and the absolute joy of having "finished," Rich and Cathy share their volunteer activities that keep them connected to the larger community of the Tri-Lakes. Cathy lists a number of endeavors that she has enjoyed and helped forward with volunteer hours. Examples include leading an antiques show that helped raise much-needed funds for the hospital and participation in a Habitat for Humanity project. Ask her about using Rich's tools, unbeknownst to him. Cathy's enthusiasm shows most when she describes her part in the Saranac Lake Voluntary Health Association.
She promotes this group that has been in existence in the area for decades (began as the TB Society) as it provides funding for numerous health workers that exist to help folks who need it most.
As to Rich's pro-bono work in the area, Cathy points out, with enthusiasm, the work that he has done with the Adirondack Carousel project. Rich explains that he has been a member of the board since its inception some nine-plus years ago: attending meetings, providing designs and practical feedback, consulting with the artisans involved and even finishing off one of the carvings that will eventually become a part of the carousel. It's clear that this endeavor, while consuming time and energy, is also a source of great pride for both Rich and Cathy.
As the interview/social moment winds to its inevitable conclusion (after a bit of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, of course), Rich and Cathy attempt to answer my final query what next? Cathy offers that she is completely content in her vocational role, the continued volunteer work and the further evolution of their home's interior space.
Rich allows that along with continuing to work with his hands (building more pieces of custom furniture if he had his way), he'd love to revisit his passion for photographing those Adirondack scenes that his eye deems worthy.
As their answers wrap up, they both close with an expression of looking forward to their daughters' next steps in life as they move through their own "dream-chasing" phases.
All in all, this abridged version of the Kraft story has the feel of life lived well: honest, productive and useful hard work, community activism and to wrap it up nicely, a full and active appreciation for the natural world we all call home.