Hardwick, Our Neighborhood

Kathleen and George Take Care of Each Other

HARDWICK – Kathleen Hayes, of Marshfield and George Philcox of Hardwick are a brother and sister with a special bond because Kathleen is George’s legal guardian. About 10 years ago while at a hearing to transfer guardianship from their mother, Gemma Philcox, to Kathleen, George was asked what he thought guardianship meant. He replied, “It means we have to take care of each other.” Everyone there agreed.

Their bond began when George was born on September 4, 1962. Kathleen was then 10 years old and recalls babysitting him. She commented that he was the cutest kid. They share three other brothers; Bill, Lyn and David. They all grew up in Spotswood, N.J., a small town that has grown and changed the way many small towns do. There was a general store, post office and a Black Angus farm, all on Main Street. Kathleen and George attended Appleby Elementary School.

Kathleen and the three older brothers’ parents had divorced and the kids split time between the two homes. Gemma then married George R. Philcox and they had George. George’s parents were very active in the local little theatre. George Sr. had been a professional war photographer and choreographer. George recalled acting in productions like the “Nutcracker” that his father had directed. He remembers trips with his father on the train to New York City to watch Broadway productions. George has an amazing knowledge of theater, old movies and especially musicals.

Kathleen graduated from high school and attended Rutgers College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Her college education spanned eight years, interspersed with working and being a single mother to her son, Josh. While in college Kathleen became interested in Celtic music and learned to play the harp. This may have influenced George’s love of anything Celtic.

After college Kathleen followed some friends who were migrating to Vermont. She first lived in Dummerston. She wanted to purchase a home and settled in Plainfield. Seeing a handwritten sign proclaiming “house for sale”, she purchased her first home for $8,200. She was quick to point out it wasn’t much more than a shack and had no power. Not many years later their mother, Gemma visited a few times and decided to move to Vermont. By this time Gemma and George Sr. had divorced but remained close friends. Gemma purchased a home in Plainfield and George Sr. moved to an apartment in town.

George had a job working in the kitchen at Goddard College. An example of the belief that George knows everyone occurred when he moved to Hardwick eight years ago. While he was visiting the Jeudevine Library the children’s librarian asked him if he was the George Philcox that had worked in the kitchen at Goddard. She realized she knew George because she had worked with him while she was a student there. George is a very kind and inclusive person. He always introduces himself and can convince anyone they know him. The best thing is that almost everyone he meets is happy to meet him and by the time their interaction is completed, they feel like they do know him.

George and Gemma were very active in Special Olympics for Washington County. George competed on the basketball team, in race walking, the softball throw and swimming. He has many medals that he won over the years. Gemma supported his participation and fundraising activities. George has a picture of himself receiving recognition from Governor Howard Dean for being the individual who raised the most money one year. George organized the students at Goddard to donate all their bottles and cans to benefit the Special Olympics. He would set up a decorated table each Friday at the Plainfield farmers’ market and folks would drop off cans and bottles. If they didn’t have any, George was happy to take cash. Kathleen recalled that their mother’s basement would be full of bags and the redemption center would set-up a special time for George to bring in the bags because he had collected so many.

Over the years Kathleen had a wide variety of jobs. She was very mechanically inclined and worked as a mechanic at Just Imports. After reading an advertisement for an Airline Avionics Technician at Rockaway Airlines, she applied. It became obvious to her during the interview that she had no qualifications for the position but while leaving she picked up an engine part. She was asked if she knew what it was and she promptly identified it. She landed a position working with ground equipment and worked her way up to becoming manager of aircraft spares. The company provided free flying lessons for employees. Kathleen became a professional pilot in 1987. She ultimately flew for American Airlines and retired after 20 years there.

photo by Mary Wheeler
Siblings, George Philcox of Hardwick and Kathleen Hayes of Marshfield celebrating George’s birthday in the kitchen at his Hardwick home.

Kathleen and George share a wonderful relationship reflecting George’s understanding that they need to take care of each other. George moved to Hardwick in 2016 and shares a home with Mary and Earl Braddee on West Church Street in Hardwick.

Mary Wheeler is a Community Journalist

Mary Wheeler, Community Journalist

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