One can tell, upon meeting Michael, Carla and Markus Navarra at their modest yet pleasing to the eye home in Ray Brook, that they are living a full life here in the Adirondacks. On this pleasant summer night, the scene at the Navarra home consists of Carla barbecuing dinner for the evening (while taking moments to toss the reappearing tennis ball to the dog), Michael trimming the edges of the yard and 5-year-old Markus standing in front of his "toybox" (in the form of a one-car garage) contemplating what apparatus will become the first accessory in today's play.
As the scene is observed, all thoughts of an interview in a calm and controlled environment are brushed aside (like an Adirondacker swiping deer flies aside) and this writer is in adapt and shift to Plan B mode (much like general living here in the North Country). So we sit, gathered around the front porch, the energy of life swirling about us; barbecuing, reminiscing, dog exercising, parenting, acknowledging the neighbors as they pass by all activities becoming one as the story of how the Navarras arrived to this point finds its voice.
The tale is both typical in many ways and uniquely different in others. It could be one of those boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl makes boy wait while she decides his worthiness, girl is finally worn down by boy's persistence and they live happily ever after-type of stories. And while it has these elements woven within, the entire story has many interesting details that make it unique to the Navarras.
(Photo — Michael Williams)
Carla is an Adirondack native, having grown up in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. She completed four years of coursework at SUNY?Plattsburgh, earning a degree in human services. She had chosen the field with an eye toward becoming a social worker here in the Tri-Lakes region. As with many young people intending to settle in this beautiful setting with a hard earned and useful degree in hand and an eye toward finding a good job helping out good people, Carla was quickly forced to adapt and shift to Plan B. She put her outgoing personality to work and earned life-living wages as a waitress at the Dancing Bears Lounge.
Michael's formative years were spent on the road as his family worked in various capacities at various thoroughbred tracks up and down the east coast. At some point, Michael's Mom made her way to Lake Placid and decided that this was the place she wanted to settle. By this time, Michael was an independent young man, going to school at Rollins College in central Florida. With Mom settled here in the North Country he began making trips to the area to attend family reunions during the Christmas holidays.
It was during one of these visits that a chance (and eventually fortuitous) meeting took place between Michael and Carla. Initial attraction led to more time spent together during Michael's stay which led to a long distance relationship after he returned to the tropical climate of Florida. Carla continued to live and work in the Adirondacks but now was smitten and wondering how far she would go, geographically speaking, for this relationship. As things tend to go with a lot of married couples' stories, the relationship had to have some time to work out the kinks. Michael was finishing up his degree at university in Florida, sorting through his list of life potentials, still pondering his dream of becoming a professional volleyball player when he realized that Carla was his future. Carla, for her part, did move down to Florida and was making a go at living and working in this very different (from home) environment. She admits that though very committed to Michael, she struggled with her professional prospects and life in a more urban setting.
Eventually the prospects of coming back home to the Adirondacks won out and Michael and Carla moved to the area in the summer of 1999. They were married in 2001 on a point overlooking Upper Saranac Lake, and life together here in the High Peaks became official.
Carla found her professional self with a position at the Wilkins Insurance Agency, starting as an insurance neophyte and after much education and hard work and 12 years of service to the company, is the Production Manager, overseeing and encouraging the staff in the company's three offices.
Michael's professional path has a few more twists and turns as he worked to get his feet under him upon arriving in the North Country. Employment as store clerk, landscaper and clothes salesman provided early variety and experience and eventually led him to the door of the Candy Man on Main Street. This chance meeting (is there a theme here?) combined with Michael's ability to connect quickly with people he has just met, led to a four-year career helping manage the successful local enterprise. As this experience topped out, Michael met and connected with yet another "gateway" person and this relationship led to a second career at Upstate Biotech Industries. Michael essentially became a jack of all trades and notes today that he learned a great many things while working for this company. This vocation, however, was short-circuited when the company was sold and moved out of the area. Michael, while certainly disappointed, gathered himself and jumped into Carla's world, working as a sales associate for the Wilkins Agency. Once again, successful at the job but feeling as if there was more out there for him, Michael left the insurance industry and again tapping into his network of friends, found himself with a position at St. Joseph's Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake. It is yet another life enriching experience and after 10 months on the job, Michael is enthusiastic about this line of work.
Michael and Carla are quick to acknowledge all the great folks they have met along and through their professional paths. They note that many of these people are still counted as good friends and have been woven into their social support group.
Beyond this fact, the stories of how Michael and Carla make their living here in the North Country seem to have a common thread; working hard at whatever job is before you and being both courageous and humble enough to make a change and make it work.
Life these days for Michael and Carla is centered on making a good, solid life for themselves and son Markus, their "Adirondack Native" son. The family enjoys hiking, biking and skiing on the many trails that are located near their home. They spend time working on the house and grounds of their house in which they have lived for the last 11 years. They are quick to note the great neighborhood and neighbors they have and find the fact they live in this setting one of life's blessings.
Michael volunteers for various local sports events but especially brings to light his part in the Dreadhead soccer camp that has taken place for the last 12 years here in Lake Placid. It is a point of pride to recall how he and a lifelong friend from Florida started the camp with the hope that it would strike a chord with the soccer loving youth in the area and 12 years and much hard work later can say they've succeeded in bringing a week's worth of high level instruction and good fun to any child that wishes to participate.
Bringing this short version of the Navarra story to a close, one can only feel good to have friends and neighbors like Michael and Carla (and Markus too) who not only live here but work very hard to be able to stay.
This article based on an interview with Michael Williams who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.