A Millerton love story

Mary Howard and Louise R. Black at their home in Millerton.

Natalia Zukerman

A Millerton love story

As we celebrate Pride Month, the love story of Mary Howard and Louise R. Black stands as a testament to the power of love at any age. The couple found each other later in life through the unlikeliest of places: Match.com.

Louise R. Black was born in Astoria in 1939 and raised in Elmhurst, Queens. “It was a great place to grow up,” she recalled. “A lot of people from foreign countries. We just had so many friends from all over.” Mary Howard was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1942 and spent her formative years in Endicott, NY. Her life has taken her through Washington, D.C., Eugene, OR, and Mount Vernon, NY, where she lived for 31 years and ultimately met Louise.

In 2002, they both joined Match.com, a platform that neither initially embraced with enthusiasm. “I met a lot of females that I just thought were not interesting at all,” said Louise. But upon reading each other’s profiles, something clicked. Mary shared, “I wrote an ad that said I don’t care whether they’re tall or short, fat or skinny. I’m looking for somebody who has some genuine interests of their own that they’re pursuing.” Louise added, “And I said pretty much the same thing.” Their connection was immediate, leading to a memorable first date at an Indian restaurant, an establishment they frequented during the years they lived together in Louise’s apartment in White Plains.

Before meeting Louise, Mary had been married to a man for 30 years. “And happily married,” she added, noting that she had always harbored feelings for women. “I had had feelings for women from a very young age,” Mary explained, “and the marriage was, frankly, over and done with.” Mary and her ex-husband, whom she met as a doctoral student at the University of Oregon, had a daughter together and are still very good friends. Their daughter, who lives in Brooklyn, married a woman and Robert, her ex, conducted the ceremony.

Of her daughter’s sexuality, Mary shared, “My husband and I both just understood that that’s what was happening from a fairly young age for my daughter. She never, you know, made a declaration about it. That’s how it was. It all seemed very natural.” She added, “And the gal that she’s married to now is really very delightful.”

“I love her ex-husband,” Louise added. “We all get along so fabulously well.”

Mary and Louise’s affinity for the Hudson Valley runs deep. Mary, who spent 30 years as a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, conducted extensive research in the area. “The Hudson Valley was kind of the cradle of civilization in many ways,” she noted. Louise’s family owns an island above Saratoga Springs in Fort Edward and the family would spend time up there in the summers when she was little. “It’s 7 1/2 acres and it has a house on it and now my nephew lives across the river.” The couple still go visit from time to time even though the nephew has really “made it his man cave,” laughed Louise. Though she spoke of the house fondly, her memory is scarred by the significant environmental degradation from GE’s pollution. Beginning in 1947 and continuing until 1977, GE intentionally dumped approximately 1.3 million pounds of highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River from Fort Edwards and the neighboring plant in Hudson Falls (now closed). GE also polluted the soil and groundwater under its plants and in the surrounding communities. Louise recalled, “I was about 7 or 8 years old, and I walked out the door of the old house and the river was pink. I screamed for my father, and he explained that it was pink because ‘those are all dead fish belly up.’” GE didn’t close the plant for several years and Louise experienced the “pink” water phenomenon several more times. “It was really sad because we swam in the river, we’d bathe in the river, wash our hair in the river. It was all so wonderful.”

This impactful experience has led Louise to be particularly mindful of the environment as she tends to the gardens at their home in Millerton. The couple have planted numerous trees, native plants, and butterfly bushes and would never dream of using pesticides. About their move from White Plains, Louise shared, “I had always been in apartments, and I decided I wanted to live in a house. So, we came up and we had a lot of fun riding around up here.” The couple knew they wanted to be near the river but weren’t yet set on a town. Every time they came up to look at properties, however, they ended up at Irving Farm in Millerton to regroup.

“We’d have coffee, and we’d cross things off our list,” Mary said.

Louise added, “I finally said to Mary, ‘You know, we keep coming back to this town every time, maybe we should go look at that house again.’” The couple purchased their house in Millerton in 2007.

Their life in Millerton is full of creativity and community. Louise paints, while Mary crafts handmade birdhouses. In her professional life, Louise was a gym teacher and athletic director at Scarsdale High. “I was the first woman straight out of college that they ever hired,” she shared. But her passions have always extended beyond sports to painting, dancing, singing, and acting. The couple now participate in local art shows and open studios and take care of the upkeep of their home themselves. “This horseshoe neighborhood is just incredible,” said Louise, describing the welcoming community they’ve found on their street and in the village. As of now, their plan is to stay in their house and if need be, hire caregivers to come in and help. “Right now, we still do all the work out here with a young man who comes every Thursday. He does the stuff that’s impossible,” said Louise. “He spends four hours and he’s tall,” Mary laughed.

The couple had a commitment ceremony in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 2009 but they haven’t legally married. Louise shared, “I would like to have done that because I haven’t been married, but Mary wasn’t for it.”

“As a sociologist, I know that signing all those legal papers has an effect on people,” Mary laughed. “Things are not the same after and if you are like we are, you know, we’re reasonable, we discuss with each other what we want or don’t want and that kind of stuff. And then there’s no need, it seems to me.”

The couple have joint and separate accounts and a will delineating the legal rights for their shared property. Said Louise, “We are in a situation where we can provide adequately for ourselves, and we don’t require assistance.”

Independence has always been important to both Mary and Louise but as they age, they find they need one another in new ways that deepens their bond. For years, people have called them “The Divas” including their friend, the singer, Suede. “She called us that first,” said Louise. “We have it on our license plate! And then we also have…” Louise paused and turned to Mary for help remembering. “What do we have on our other license plate?”

“MaLou,” said Mary with a smile. “You know. Mary and Louise.”

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