The unpredictable couple may have saved their best surprise for last. Everyone knew that Angela and Pat Haggerty experienced a lifetime of adventure while serving others. The closest thing Norton had to celebrities, they were always full of surprises. At a going away party for the ages, among a gathering of hundreds of friends and acquaintances, the pair told an incredible love story, offered lasting contributions to their home town, and to the shock and delight of everyone, they revealed one of Norton's great unsolved mysteries.
The event was held at Ann’s Place on the shore of Lake Winnecunnet, one of the only places that could accommodate all of those who wanted to take part in the sendoff. For Angela and Pat it had to be at Ann’s Place for nostalgic reasons.
Pat was leaving his professorship at the local college, beloved by every student who ever sat across from his desk. The college administration, forever challenged by the independent thinker, had no choice but to marvel at the track record of accomplishments that followed him and his journeys around the world.
Angela was moving on also, having earned the reputation as the most tenacious nurse the community had ever seen. She would be leaving many other posts as well, advocate, organizer, volunteer, and activist, among others. She would fight any battle for the sick or the needy. She would take on doctors, hospital administration, insurance companies, local, state, or federal government, whatever it took to make people well or be treated with dignity.
The enigmatic power couple, always guided by their collective conscience, had methodically sold all of their belongings. They were leaving Norton and building a school and clinic in an impoverished village in West Africa from the ground up. Unlike any of their prior missions, this one came only with one way tickets. There would be no returning home. This was their final adventure.
Norton had been their “base camp” ever since the two met spending summers on the Norton Reservoir. They met when Pat would play stickball with Angela's older brother Michael.
Much to Angela’s delight, the stickball games blossomed into a romance in the late fifties. They attended different colleges but kept in contact as they began their careers. They got swept up in the peace movement and have been together ever since.
They were spontaneously and famously married in August, 1969 by a white robed Justice of the Peace in front of 250,000 people on center stage between acts at Woodstock. Their wedding kiss was immortalized in an iconic full page black and white photograph in Life Magazine. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin were on hand to witness the event. Angela’s heartbroken parents were not.
In the years since, Pat had written eleven books on a variety of topics. Eight lightly read academic texts secured his status in the academic community. Three bestselling works of fiction funded the couple's humanitarian endeavors. Angela had influenced at least nine pieces of health care legislation and directly influenced hundreds, if not thousands of lives, with her compassionate health related endeavors. Internationally the two had intervened in periods of crisis from Central America to Chernobyl. Whenever they saw a critical need and could free up a few days or weeks they were on the first plane that would get them there. Their employers learned to be tolerant of their unpredictable scheduling.
After a hearty New England dinner the formal farewell ceremony began. It started with a sentimental presentation from the college and both local hospitals. This was followed by moving testimonials from a former student of Pat's and a patient of Angela's. Then it was time for the big goodbye. There was something almost playful about Pat and Angela’s demeanor as they took their place at the podium, side by side. They were good looking, vibrant, and had charisma in abundance. Everyone loved to hear them tell their stories. Everyone loved their spirit of adventure and their resolve to leave things better than how they found them. It was showtime.
They warmed up slowly making sure they acknowledged everyone that had helped them along the way and for making the night so special. This took awhile. They moved on to sharing the universal truths they learned from some of their global adventures. They focused on themes of family, tradition, and compassion. Everyone could relate, everyone was entranced.
Next they explained how they wanted to leave something behind that would leave a lasting memory of their time in Norton. Pat had created a fund for the renovation and upkeep of the Town Common, his favorite place in town. Stealing Pat's thunder, Angela directed everyone's attention out of the large windows facing the lake. A shiny red watercraft danced in the water under a spotlight like something from a James Bond movie. It was a gift to the Norton Fire Department to help save lives on Winnecunnet, the Reservoir, or any of the town’s many small ponds.
When the ovation subsided Pat and Angela were very careful to frame their intentions. These were not gifts of thanks to the Town of Norton. They were a form of restitution. Restitution for a crime they committed almost forty years before. Pat and Angela Haggerty were about to reveal that they were the notorious Bonnie and Clyde of Winnecunnet.
To be continued.