Vive le Kevin: Quilty talks Europe, the community and living well locally

Kevin Quilty.

Kevin Quilty.

You don’t know you are going to laugh as hard as you do when you first sit down with Kevin Quilty. When you first sit down with him, you notice a well-put together, intelligent, polite, organized, cultured, polished and very professional man. Soon, you’re bubbling over chatting about late Baroque tapestries and Parisian flatware, and quietly giggling over an incorrigibly bad food server. Quilty communicates with an easy, playful and slightly unvarnished candor. After hearing he has 12 brothers and sisters, you know there are even far more interesting tidbits to know about him. So you finally suggest he invite you to dinner one night to hear more stories and check out his china pattern, because you just know it’s going to be exquisite!

Carrie Jones Ross: Where were you born and raised?

Kevin Quilty: Born at Benedictine Hospital and raised in Kingston.

CJR: Did you come from a large family?

KQ: That depends upon your definition of “large.” I have 12 brothers and sisters.


CJR: Where are you in the birth order?

KQ: Fourth from the top, so the upper third.

CJR: What was it like growing up in such a large family? How did your parents manage it? What were meals like?

KQ: Since my only experiences were growing up in a large family I found it to be quite normal. Our household was always the place to be for getting together either outside or in, since there was already a crowd there. We had a large backyard and a large lower level finished basement that opened out on the yard. As for my parents managing it, once you hit a certain number of children you have built-in babysitters and protectors. We all had duties and tasks and were expected to pull along with everyone else. We lived in a kind of “enlightened monarchy” — you had freedoms but also understood the limits and there were consequences! Meals were generally feed the kids first then my parents would eat. There was also our housekeeper, Gen, whom everyone knew. She was a second mother and strictly adhered to the party line as set down by Mom and Dad.

CJR: School? College?

KQ: St. Joseph’s School and Kingston High for grammar and high school. For college I attended St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and graduated with a bachelor’s in history in 1973. It’s always a pleasure to visit that campus, especially as it has grown so much since I graduated.

CJR: What did you do after you graduated college? What were some interesting jobs you had?

KQ: Initially after college I traveled extensively in Europe with a college friend. We managed to pick grapes in Bordeaux and work as crew on a vessel from Paris to Marseilles, among other jobs, which helped supplement our income and allowed us to stay for several months. We visited Britain, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy before returning to the States. It was very inexpensive since we hitchhiked and stayed at youth hostels much of the time. I recommend it for anyone who can delay entering the work force if only for a short time to see and experience life outside the U.S.A. I actually returned and lived and worked in Paris for a year teaching English. I am still very connected to the many friendships established there.

CJR: What is it about traveling that calls you?

KQ: I don’t know if it “calls me” but I have always enjoyed the opportunity to experience a new culture. I have been lucky enough to visit many places but there are always new ones to discover. Every trip teaches me more about myself and those we share the planet with. Really, nothing makes you appreciate what you have unless you get away and experience something different.

CJR: Favorite country?  Least favorite country?

KQ: Having spent the most time there, I would have to say France is my favorite country with so many varied regions to experience. The French call it “the garden of Europe” and I would agree. Since my first visits there many years ago I have noticed a marked improvement in their awareness of visitors to their country and a pride and pleasure in providing the best possible experience to travelers. Paris is certainly my favorite city because it is beautifully maintained and continues to charm no matter the weather or the season. I actually just returned from Paris and it still works its magic! A strong second would be Italy for many of the same reasons. I guess I’m Euro-centric. I have no least favorite country but could say with some assurance that I will probably not spend any more time in Mexico. ‘Nuff said.

CJR: Do you speak any different languages?

KQ: I speak French and German, both poorly but enough to get around.

CJR: What do you do for a living?

KQ: I am vice president, Ulster, for the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.