WATERTOWN — This is a story of love going over the edge.
It’s also about how a leap of faith into a new relationship can swing beyond that bond to support the community.
It begins with an aspiring poet and ex-farmer literally finding Hope.
The roots of it all sprouted last spring at the Carthage Farmers Market.
Hope Irvin Marston, 83, a well-known children’s book author who lives in Black River, rented a booth to sell some of her books at the market. On the market’s first day held in late May, the market’s manager, Lori A. Borland, stopped by to see if Mrs. Marston had any questions about the setup.
A while later, Ms. Borland stopped by with a question for Mrs. Marston.
“She said her dad had written a poem that they thought was pretty good,” Mrs. Marston recalled.
The Borlands wondered how to go about getting it published, a topic that Mrs. Marston knows something about. She’s had several books published for young readers. She told Ms. Borland that she’d be willing to talk to her father about the particulars of getting published.
Gerald D. Borland’s poem is about ruffed grouse; those plump woodland birds that are a little larger than pigeons. He said several people urged him to seek a publisher.
“I found out that there was more to getting something published than just asking somebody,” Mr. Borland, 87, Carthage, said. “I didn’t know where to begin.”
So on the second week of last year’s Carthage Farmers Market, with poem in hand, he sought out the children’s book writer that his daughter told him about.
“On that particular day when I went to the farmers market, I was looking for Hope, and I found her,” Mr. Borland said.
When found, Mrs. Marston was reading the latest issue of Writer’s Digest magazine.
“I looked up, and there was this man going by,” Mrs. Marston said. “So I went, ‘Good morning. Do you like funny things?’ I had just read something that was cracking me up. I think he probably looked at me funny, but he walked over and was carrying a manila folder. I went, ‘Oh! You’re Mr. Borland!’”
They went to a nearby picnic table to talk and to look over the poem. The friendship grew and they soon found they were bonded by more than a love of words. In 2014, their spouses died within six months of each other.
Arthur W. Marston died at the age of 83 on Feb. 13, 2014. Norma P. Borland died at the age of 79 on Aug. 30, 2014.
“I must have been a miserable widow because I was very unhappy alone,” Mrs. Marston said. “I said, ‘Lord, please send me a friend.’ I didn’t say, ‘Bring me a husband.’ I don’t want a husband.”
What she did find revived her spirit.
“I’m blessed by him,” Mrs. Marston said. “He brought me back to life.”
“When my wife died, I decided that the first thing I had to do was to learn to live without her — to take care of myself,” Mr. Borland said.
He said he was in better shape emotionally than Mrs. Marston after their losses.
“I could tell from the moment I met her, that she was lost, and I just felt I was in a position to help her,” Mr. Borland, a Korean War veteran, said. “I had no ambitions beyond that, but thought I could make her feel better. To make a long story short, I guess I did. And she also made me feel better. It’s not a stretch to say we have a loving relationship.”
They both still live in their own homes and plan dates strategically since they both don’t drive at night.
“My mailing address has basically never changed,” Mr. Borland said. “I live about a half a mile from the farm where I grew up.”
They both share a love of the outdoors and have a farming background. Mrs. Marston, a retired junior high teacher and library media specialist, grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and often went camping with her husband. In addition to being a farmer, Mr. Borland was a self-employed finish carpenter, was a hunter and at one time made custom canoes.
“There are many things that I have done that she has not,” Mr. Borland said. “Her lifestyle didn’t include many of the things my lifestyle did. I’ve told her, if she stays with me, I’d take her where she’s never been.”
One of those places is Over the Edge.
United way benefit
The United Way of Northern New York is looking for 90 people to participate in its annual Over the Edge fundraiser. The Saturday, June 9 event involves pledge-seekers rappelling down Watertown Housing Authority’s Midtown Towers; a trip of 155 feet.
Each participant must meet a minimum fundraising goal in support of United Way of NNY programs that provide prevention, intervention and crisis care across Northern New York.
■ $750 for an individual
n $2,000 for a team of four.
■ $500 for high school students (must be at least 14, weight at least 100 lbs., and have a parent or guardian sign a waiver on event day).
Mr. Borland said it was his idea to take part in the benefit, and asked Mrs. Marston to jump in so they could help form a four-person team.
“We’re glad to help the United Way,” Mr. Borland said. “I know the United Way helps good causes.”
“I’m for helping the underdogs,” Mrs. Marston said.
Robert D. Gorman, president and CEO of the United Way of NNY, said the first two Over the Edge events raised a combined $40,000 which went into grants for this year.
“In 2017 we gave out $31,466 a month in grants to our partner agencies,” Mr. Gorman said. “In 2018, we are giving out a total of $35,833 a month. So, Over the Edge was the major reason we were able to increase our grant total.”
Mr. Gorman said the past two Over the Edge events have featured interesting side stories.
“Our first event featured a couple about to be married who took the plunge before taking the plunge,” he said.
Last year, the Blue Sharks swim team were plungers of note.
“This year, we are kicking it old school,” Mr. Gorman said.
‘a certain pleasure’
Mrs. Marston said she agreed to go “Over the Edge” with Mr. Borland because it’s what one does “when you are in love with somebody.”
“It doesn’t scare me, but then I don’t know exactly what I’m doing,” Mrs. Marston said.
The third member of their team may ease those fears.
“It’s perfectly safe,” said Sheila M. Corey, 79, a resident of Harbour Heights in Sackets Harbor. “The people who put it on are very good and well trained.”
This will be Mrs. Corey’s third time taking part in the event. For the past two years, she has took the plunge in support of the Volunteer Transportation Center, a United Way agency where she is a volunteer driver.
“I think it’s fun,” she said.
To put on the benefit, the United Way of NNY partners with Over the Edge, a nonprofit organization that specializes in rappelling events in cities throughout the country for fundraising purposes. It has raised more than $71 million since 2008.
Mrs. Corey was going to sit out this year’s event, but decided to step into her harness again when Mr. Gorman told her a team of senior citizens was being formed.
“I figured that’s a different twist — I’ll do it!” Mrs. Corey said. “Anything I can do to help, I’m glad to.”
A fourth senior citizen is sought for the team. If interested, contact the United Way of NNY at 315-788-5631 or go to its website at unitedway-nny.org.
“I’d love it if they were at least 75,” Mrs. Marston said.
“We’re going to have some fun and try to get people to participate,” Mr. Borland said. “I suppose because of our age and everything, people are somewhat shocked. I suppose we take a certain pleasure in that.”