Lynn and Tony Waickman open the door to their lovely home overlooking the rambling Ray Brook, and there is an immediate sense of warmth and comfort. After priming the pumps with a delicious Apple Betty and some around-the-table word play, complete with the dictionary to check definitions and/or word origins, it is clear that this interview will be an enjoyable affair.
Sitting in the sun room with extended views of horse paddocks, cow pastures and Scarface Mountain, we begin unraveling the Waickmans' way to the Adirondacks. As with so many other stories of people now living here, this one begins some other part of the country.
For Lynn and Tony, this consisted of formative years spent in the heart of the midwestern U.S., Tony attending and finishing his schooling to become a cardiologist at the University of Iowa and Lynn growing up in Nebraska and eventually making her way to Iowa City to work in the medical industry.
Tony and Lynn Waickman
(Photo — Michael Williams)
After some seven years of working in the same hospital and never once crossing paths (think a 1,200-bed teaching hospital), it was a chance meeting outside the workplace that brought Tony and Lynn together. Lynn had begun exploring her early musical self and found herself as the only female in an Irish band that played at local venues in Iowa City. As luck would have it, Tony was in attendance, and while enjoying the music, mentioned to a friend that he would love to meet "the girl in the band." Lo' and behold, this wish came true, and as stories such as these often do, this meeting led to many more and effectively set the first stone on the path toward a life commitment.
A year-long trip to Thailand began the adventure, Tony providing medical services to the many groups of refugees "housed" in an eastern province and Lynn teaching English and generally providing TLC-type support to these displaced people. Lynn recounts the challenges of the experience but ultimately finds the valuable lessons that she learned during their time there.
"The experience gave me a great respect for the idea of family, how people took care of one another even in such challenging circumstances," Lynn recalls.
Upon return to Iowa City and following some time working and living, there arrived a moment of decision as to where to settle permanently, raise a family and make as good a life as possible. A series of circumstances, easily explainable but still, to this author, somewhat cosmically driven, began the Waickmans' surge toward these parts.
As Tony recounts, a friend from his undergraduate days introduced Tony to a friend who had attended Camp Forestcraft (a summer camp located on Upper Saranac Lake) as a young man. Tony and this fellow (then a housemate in Iowa City) made a few visits to the camp, and before long a solid regard for the area took seed inside Tony. When the time came to choose that place to work and raise a family, these memories and the person-to-person connections developed during those visits returned, and Tony, with a little help from his friends, sought and received a position at Medical Associates of Saranac Lake.
Thus, he and his then-pregnant wife Lynn pulled up stakes and moved from the plains of Iowa to the mountains of upstate New York. They settled in quickly and before long life brought along wee Waickman No. 1, to be followed in rapid succession by numbers 2 to 4, (The kids do have names, which will be revealed In due time). With Tony building his career as a most competent and caring internist and cardiologist, Lynn (along with Tony, of course) made the decision to home-school their brood. She tapped into the solid and supportive local homeschooling network and the decision became a 20-plus-year reality.
Lynn recalls a number of stories from this era and they come through with such enthusiasm from the otherwise soft-spoken woman. One could easily surmise that this career as homemaker, teacher, arranger of field trips, etc. has been a mostly joyful experience for her.
Tony, for his part, has capably and contentedly played the role of breadwinner for these 25-plus years with an obvious passion for his work and a complimentary desire to spend quality time with his children whenever his busy schedule allows.
Lynn takes a moment to recite their children's current status, noting where their home, schooling career has led each of them.
"Adam is 25, married and getting his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins; Bethany is 23, lives in Brookline and is a professional musician; Kellen is 21 and at Fredonia, studying environmental sciences; and Nicholas is 19 and at FIT in Manhattan," Lynn rattles off with just the right amount of motherly pride.
She follows this info up with a quick review of the musical instruments that each offspring has played or is currently playing. From this list, it is clear that this particular skill set runs strong through this clan.
Tony chimes in with a subtle but sure, proud-papa voice, providing personal affirmations of the highlights within his children's growing up here in the North Country.
As we see the Waickmans today, they project much satisfaction with their decision to come and stay in the Tri-Lakes region.
With all the children taking their talents into the world, Lynn and Tony are in a transition stage.
They note the activities that currently fill their time. For Lynn, walking with pace daily (regardless of weather and/or bug intensity this author can confirm) and fine-tuning her musical talents are time fillers.
Tony professes his desire to continue working a job he so obviously enjoys and is good at. Upon a bit of journalistic pressure, he does divulge a series of endeavors he would partake of when given the time skiing, hiking and becoming an amateur botanist around their property, make the list. He also admits to a desire to improve his own modest musical abilities in order to better fit into the harmony of the house (even though Lynn has already dismissed him from the family band on two occasions).
As the interview winds down, we visit the Waickmans' music/memorabilia/social gathering room.
Upon entering this room, one gets an immediate sense what the Tony and Lynn deem important in their life. It is a warm space dotted with various musical instruments positioned as functional furniture, walls liberally seasoned with photos of past and present adventures (with plenty of room for future references as well) and a lovely fireplace around which one could easily imagine a high level jam session (or two, or three) taking place.
After spending these hours cataloguing all the intriguing anecdotes and viewing the fascinating "stuff" that plays an active role in the Waickmans' active lives, it is surprising to hear Lynn offer her humble caveat that she and Tony are so "boring" in their own eyes and thus how interested she is in the process of bringing out the compelling aspects that tend to hide within the humble assessments of our own existences. The response: Everyone has a story, and even if the interesting stuff is but a short tale, we can always make the photo as big as it needs to be to fill the space (thinking like a newspaper man already).
Of course, as you can read, it has been anything but difficult to tease the "very interesting" out of the Waickmans' time here in the Adirondacks region, and it is a safe bet that they will write more chapters in this story for years to come.
Michael Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.