By Timothy Hull
My parents, Richard and Josephine Hull, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sun., Sept. 20, 2020. I want to take this opportunity to view marriage as a journey through life with a companion and to muse upon my own parent’s very long time together. Married on that day in 1970, the couple had canceled their previous wedding date in June in order to travel through Africa. Upon arrival back in the United States, they were married in an informal outdoor ceremony by a pond at my mother’s family farm in Blooming Grove, NY.
The product of an ‘arranged’ marriage of sorts, the couple were introduced by their respective fathers, who had been classmates at Dartmouth and lived in Orange County. My grandfathers, Gordon Marvel, an architect based out of Newburgh and Washingtonville, and Donald B. Hull a prominent doctor and artist from Ridgewood, NJ and Warwick, decided that their globe-trotting and bohemian children needed to settle down and marry. Having introduced them at a cocktail party, Dick and Jo – as most people know them – immediately smelled a conspiracy and were skeptical of each other.
It wasn’t until a few months of casual dating in New York City and in Orange County, that the two realized they had a mutual appreciation of each other’s eccentricities and creative sides. Jo was initially turned off by Dick’s bookworm and academic background, thinking he was a stuffed-shirt, and Dick thought Jo was too bohemian, walking barefoot in Washington Square Park, smoking cigarettes and hanging out at jazz bars downtown. Jo recalled “…it wasn’t until Dick got rip-roaring drunk at a party that he showed his playful, wild side” and Jo realized that he was both serious and fun. They were engaged shortly thereafter.
Having made a plan to hold a June wedding, Jo’s parents had already agreed to host the party at their farm and had fancy invitations printed with an original lithograph of the pond created by her father. They had also planned a honeymoon to Africa, which would be Jo’s first trip. However, before Dick could truly commit, he needed to see if Jo was game for a lifetime of travel to Africa, as he was currently working on his doctorate on African history at Columbia University. Spending months at a time in Africa since the early 1960’s, Dick realized that travel there could be a difficult experience and not suited for everyone. Much of the continent was still in a state of development and could be dangerous and challenging. Both Jo and Dick decided they had better go to Africa first, before getting married, to really test the resolve of their bond and impending lifetime commitment.
When the young couple announced that they needed to postpone their wedding until after their Africa trip, Jo’s parents were distraught and her mother, Mat Marvel, burned all the invitations and melted the lithograph plate, convinced that the marriage would never happen and that the kids weren’t serious. When Dick gave the families a slide show presentation of the places he and Jo would be visiting in Africa, he showed them a slide of Victoria Falls and Jo’s mother exclaimed with a sob “…and that’s where he’s going to leave her!”
Well, he has never left her side in over 50 years, through dozens of trips to Africa and all over the world. Jo assimilated a love of African patterns and cookery into her professions and creative life and Dick taught African History and Civilization at New York University for 48 years. The couple soon left the urban sphere of New York City and settled in rural Sugar Loaf and then on the family apple farm in Warwick, raising two boys, me and my older brother Gordon. Taking the family to Africa and other points abroad became a part of how my parents raised us.
My father has often said “think globally and act locally” and community service and involvement has been a hallmark of their relationship. Jo has been active in the local Democratic committee, Sustainable Warwick and was integral to the adoption of PDR and and farm conservation efforts in Warwick. She is past president of the Orange and Dutchess Garden Club of America and a board member and key fundraiser of the Orange County Land Trust. Dick has served for many years as the official historian for the Town of Warwick, written numerous books and lectured widely on Warwick and local history, hosted a popular radio show on local issues and history and like Jo, has been a lifetime advocate of preserving open space in the Hudson Valley.
I was married just this year, and my father was the officiant for our ceremony. I couldn’t think of anyone else I knew who had such a clear and solid vision of what makes a successful marriage. My father has always reiterated that marriages are successful when each person can be flexible and compromise. My mother’s advice was “…never go to bed angry – stay up and fight and figure it out!” Although I hardly ever remember my parents fighting, I know there have been many sacrifices and compromises along the way – but here they are 50 years later – hale and hearty. I’ve learned from my parents that on the rocky trail of life, having a companion you can roll with helps make the journey a little smoother!
Josephine & Richard Hull