by Cecil Hoge
It never occurred to me that it was possible for my friend, Freddy Havemeyer, to fall in love with my cousin, Cecile Hoge. Quite simply, I just never would have put the two together. I would have thought that the two were mutually exclusive.
Frederick Havemeyer the III came from an extremely wealthy and well-known family. His great grandfather and his grandfather had controlled 90% of the sugar coming into the United States. In the 1800s several Havemeyers had been mayors of New York City.
At the time I met Freddy he was not one of those Havemeyers concerned with wealth accumulation. His family’s wealth had been secured generations before Freddy and it was not thought to be necessary for anyone in his family to work. And in fact, no one in his family had worked for 2 generations. Freddy was not a playboy, but he certainly made a good imitation of one.
He drove around in a wonder sports car of the day, a little green Porsche, if I remember correctly. Although this car held just 2 passengers, it had an extremely large motor and sleek undulating lines. When you sat in the passenger seat, it seemed like the hood disappeared and a great expanse of the road was immediately in front of you. Usually, I was not the passenger. That pleasure was reserved for Helene Fagin, a tanned beauty whose lithe figure adorned alternately Freddy’s Porshe or the beach or the pool of the Southampton Bathing Corporation.
Freddy met Cecile in 1969. It was after Freddy and Helene had split up and I remember it was one of the years we were in the Zirinsky house. Our group of families (3 Hoges and 1 Obolensky) had been sharing house rentals in Southampton for over 20 years and Zirinsky house was the grandest one of them all. It had 13 or 14 bedrooms and was plopped down on 2 acres of Southampton’s finest non-beachfront real estate on First Neck Lane, about a half a mile from the Meadow Club.
With 4 families and rooms loaded with aunts, uncles and cousins, this arrangement was not quite legal except for the fact that we were all related. Needless to say, the Zirinsky house was full night and day. As my aunt Helene said, “Even the house guests have house guests.” This was because all members of our families would invite house guests for the weekend who in turn would extend invitations to other house guests.
To say that it was a busy house with odd comings and goings would understate the odd comings and odd goings. This was the end of the Sixties, that exuberant and odd period of time of micro mini skirts and alternative substances. A nice feature of the Zirinksy property was that it had a small cottage in the back where I and my alternative cousins would retire from time to time while the elder members of the family enjoyed the traditional pleasures of the cocktail hour. In short, it was a confused period and a wonderful summer.
If am right, the exact moment Freddy discovered that I had a cousin named Cecile was on the lawn of the Zirinsky house one early evening when we were engaged in our favorite before dinner activity, when several of us guys were sipping beers on the front lawn and throwing a Frisbee back and forth and Cecile came bouncing out of some boyfriend’s car that had just sped onto the nearby driveway. It was unusual that Freddy was there because Freddy was generally not fond of beer or Frisbee, but such were the strange aspects of fate.
Freddy turned to me and said, if I remember correctly, “Who is she?”
Those three simple words marked the nano second when I believe Freddy was smittten by Cecile. I explained she was my cousin. There was some conversation from Freddy asking where she had come from. In this case, I think she had just arrived from the city for a weekend in the country, bringing a boyfriend who was, you guessed it, a house guest. Freddy seemed awestruck that he had never noticed Cecile before, although he vaguely remembered her as that thin, gangly and giggly teenybopper who hung out with Hope Cromwell.
But Cecile, while still thin, was no longer gangly and giggly. She had filled out and had become, as happens with many a young girl, a beautiful young woman. And Freddy noticed.
It seemed like only week later Freddy showed up one day when Cecile happened to be without her boyfriend. And then it seemed like it was only a week after that they started to go out. And then, after yet another week, it seemed to me they became a couple. And after that, Cecile and Freddy were simply inseparable. And within a year they were man and wife.
Now Freddy, being the scion to a wealthy family where no one had worked in generations was somewhat bewildered as to what to do. He tried various things, none of which were designed to actually earn a living. The idea was to find something that was compatible with what he liked and did not break the cardinal rule of the family – Thou shalt not work. It was not easy being a Havemeyer.
For a while he was a captain of a charter boat, but that career waned when he recognized that it was considered part of the job to provide some entertainment for his clients. Entertainment on a fishing boat generally consisted of telling stories about fishing, providing sandwiches and ample quantities of beer. For Freddy, that was a little over the top. Catching giant Marlin way out to sea was fine, even catching smaller, less elegant fish was fine, but feeding and liquoring up his clientele was not what he had signed on for.
So that job ended and Freddy took up another idea. This time he would be a photographer. Freddy decided to do it right. He landed a job as one of Richard Avedon’s photography assistants. Not a bad place to start. So Freddy began working with one of the greatest living photographers in the country.
It so happened at this time I was working in my father’s business and had begun my career in trying to sell inflatable boats. One of our problems was that we did not have any catalog, only a few products and the leftover inventory of my father’s new partner, a Frenchman named Guy Rabion. Somehow it fell to me to write, design and get the new catalog photographed. Since Freddy was already in the photography business and now officially a relative, I asked him if he wanted to be our photographer.
Freddy thought this might be a good opportunity since he had mostly worked in studios and had not done a lot of outdoor photography. I had seen some of Freddy’s photography and I thought he already was a great photographer. So off we went.
I gathered up a gaggle of long-legged female cousins, some male cousins, some college buddies, some girlfriends of theirs and they became our models of the moment. This was a low budget affair. Models got beer or soda and sometime eats. We did pay Freddy some money for his time and film, but nothing up to Havemeyer standards. But considering the fact that it was almost forbidden for Freddy to work and he has interested in getting outdoor experience, this setup seemed to work for both of us.
At first we went to shoot at local bays and beach locations setting up mock camping shots of our family and friends frolicking by the water, in and out of our kayaks, sometimes even trying to ride them in the surf. Since no one was actually working and everybody was not in a rush, we just took our time and spent weeks getting shots other people might get in a day or two.
The pictures were beautiful. Freddy had a real sense of light, of setting up the shot and getting everybody to look like they were happy and not look like it was staged. Cecile acted as Freddy’s assistant, carrying film, cameras and other photography gear, coming over to bring makeup to my cousins who did not want it and adjusting their hair in ways they considered unnecessary.
Miraculously, it all worked. We decided to go on 2 more ambitious photography shoots – one to the Rappahanick River in Virginia and one to the Youghiogheny River, known as the “Yawk” to whitewater fans, in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburg. Our plan was to shoot yacht-tending pictures using our boats on the Rappahanick and whitewater shots of our kayaks running the mighty “Yawk”.
It was on these trips that I came to know Freddy and Ceal as a couple. Ceal was the nickname that Cecile preferred. Freddy and Ceal always stayed close to each other and would whisper little jokes and sweet nothings to each other. They were obviously completely in love.
Freddy and Ceal moved at their own pace and never rushing anything. Often they came after cousins and friends had inflated all the boats and gathered all the props and often Freddy and Ceil arrived after all the “models” had gotten ample warmup time. It was understood, love could not be rushed. And truly all my cousins, family and friends held them in awe because Freddy and Ceal seemed so obviously right for each other.
When we went down to Virginia to take pictures on the Rappahanick River, near the ocean. Mostly these were yacht tending shots, using my buddy Rich Miller’s parent’s sailboat. My cousins and college mates would row and motor around the 40′ sailboat, pretending they were yachting while Freddy snapped pictures and Ceal held props.
In the evening we would go back to Rich’s parents’ guest house, cook hamburgers or spaghetti and drink beer and play Yahtzee. Freddy and Ceal were not the beer and hamburger type. They would drink sparkling water and munch on various kinds of salads. Invariably, Freddy and Ceal would slink off just after dinner to be with themselves. Maybe, they would stick around long enough to make some remarks about the weather.
“Front’s moving in,” Ceal would say to Freddy.
Freddy would look deeply at an approaching cloud bank, “Yes, Ceal,” Freddy would say, “It won’t be long now before the wind shifts to out of the Northwest. It’s going to get cool tonight.”
“Your right Freddy, it’s going to be chilly”.
Those were the words they said, but I knew those words had a whole different meaning for Freddy and Cecile.
Here is what I think they really said to each other.
“Freddy, I love you more than any woman can love any man.”
“I know that Ceal, I will love you always and forever. I do not know what I would have done if I had not found you.”
“Well, it is good thing it going to be chilly tonight.”
“Because I am going to keep you warm tonight.”
And then they would smile blissfully at each other and their hands would find each other and in a few moments they would be gone for the evening.
Of course, I cannot say if my translation of their words is accurate, but I am pretty sure my interpretation captured the drift of their feelings.
So Freddy and Ceal would sneak off to be alone with love on their minds and we would play Yatzee raucously late into the evening deleting many a beer.
Freddy and Ceal accompanied us to Pennsylvania to film our efforts to go down the mighty Youghiogheny River. I had never actually paddled our inflatable kayaks on white water, but I figured it could be too different from the ocean surf I romped in every summer. That turned out to be partially right.
We had acquired a customer on the mighty Youghiogheny River, a white water rental company and the owner had convinced me that I had to come down and check out the river and get some pictures. So off we went, Freddy and Ceal, some college buddies with girlfriends, me and my wife Virginia. It was quite a crew, I, my wife and college buddies, their girlfriends, all in faded jeans and Freddy in the fine traditional of Hampton wear, red Lilly Pulitzer trousers, pink knit Alligator shirt and Gucci moccasins, Ceal in mauve summer blouse, white micro skirt and white high heels.
We checked into the local motel which might make a Super 8 proud and headed out for steak, fries and beer. Ceal and Freddy sipped club soda, nibbled on some kind of salad and discussed incoming weather fronts (not really).
The next day we went out to reconnoiter spots to shoot. The Youghiogheny River makes a loop through the little town we were staying in, so it was possible to walk from the put in on one side of the town to the take out about a half a mile away on the other side town. We checked out several spots, everything looked good and then we retired to beer and burgers, except for Freddy and Ceal who sipped club soda and tested the local salads available. I gathered from the expressions on their faces Freddy and Ceal did not think too highly of the available cuisine or frankly, of our enthusiasm for local dining and drinking.
I should have been a little sensitive to the possible pitfalls of this shoot when after lunch we decided to give the river a final look see before goofing off for the rest of day. We went down to river to see what we were subjecting ourselves to. Freddy and Ceal came along, cameras and exposure meters in hand. When we got down to riverside, Freddy took off his Guccis to stick his toe in the water and handed Ceal his camera and light meter. That proved to be a good move. This is where we discovered there are some differences between an ocean beach and a river’s edge.
I didn’t really see how it happened. Freddy was closer to the river and sticking toes into some obviously shallow water. I turned away and heard Freddy say,
“I wonder how deep it is?”
I turned around when I heard Ceal scream. It sounded as if someone had pushed her off the Empire State Building.
“Iiieeeeh!” screamed Ceal.
When I looked to see what the noise was for, I sensed something was wrong, but I was not sure what. And then it dawned on me. Where was Freddy? The only evidence of his presence was some small bubbles on water just out from where Freddy had been standing. Almost immediately Freddy emerged, soaking wet, his Lilly Pulitzer trousers a sad, soggy tale, his pink knit shirt now dripping gallons of water. At first Freddy was not able to get out because he had just come to realize he was in water way over his head – something not easy since Freddy was an easy 6′ 3″ in his bare feet. Then, to the relief of Ceal, he grabbed a nearby boulder and managed to pull himself out.
I was impressed. He had the foresight not to wear the Guccis and he had also handed off his camera and light meter to Ceal. Freddy was not so happy – he was wet, cold and embarrassed – this sort of thing does not happen to Havemeyers. Cecile was just happy that the love of her life was back on the planet.
I should have known that this might be some kind of hint of things to come. The next day started out perfectly. The weather was glorious and we were all ready for our first experience of white water as models. Fred and Ceal stopped by the put in point. Freddy was now showered, dry and looking fit and trim in a new pair bright green Lilly Pulitzer pants handsomely framed out with yellow shirt and, you guessed it, Gucci moccasins.
The plan was simple enough – Freddy and Ceal would walk around to the appointed shoot location which overlooked some pretty nasty white water rapids. We would paddle down the river about a half mile, wait 45 minutes and then shoot down that particular section, which was known to the locals as “the washing machine”.
Freddy and Ceal set off hand in hand, loads of photographic gear slung over their shoulders. We started down the river. The problem with rivers, as I soon found out, is that many spots look almost identical and while I had clear idea in my mind of what I thought was the proper starting point, as I went down the river I soon realized that many spots looked almost the same.
So problem number one was we did not actually know where we supposed to wait for Freddy and Ceal. No matter, we stopped somewhere we thought appropriate, waited 45 minutes, and then resumed our journey. Pretty soon we came upon the dread “Washing Machine”, charged through it, almost immediately flipping our fine inflatable kayaks. Before we knew it, we were in the town, by the take out.
All this would have been fine if Freddy and Ceal had been at the shoot location, ready to capture our haphazard efforts in glorious Kodachrome. Unfortunately, Freddy and Ceal were nowhere to be seen.
To this day, there is some dispute as to who should have been where, but I can only say for sure that Freddy and Ceal did what they thought they were supposed to do and we did what we thought we were supposed to do. I might suggest that Freddy and Ceal could have moved a little faster, but Freddy and Ceal were officially Havemeyers at that point and Havemeyers cannot be rushed.
But no matter, all’s well that ends well. The next day the weather was perfectly fine and we set out, wiser models, wiser white water paddlers and wiser photographer. We even did better going through “the washing machine”. I, myself, made it through at least once upright and 3 other times upright enough, for a few seconds, for Freddy to get a few shots in before I was wiped out. The result was some pretty spectacular white water shots, looking as if some of the paddlers actually knew what they were doing.
The trip to Pennsylvania and the trip to Virginia were times I got to know Freddy and Ceal best. It established in my mind not only when Freddy and Ceal met, but also what a truly loving relationship they enjoyed.
Now Freddy and Ceal enjoyed a long and successful marriage. Two beautiful children came from their marriage, Charlotte Havemeyer and Frederick Havemeyer, IV. Freddy the third, became a town supervisor and was well respected for his sensible and even-handed judgment in preserving the scenic beauty and environmental integrity the town’s waterways. Ceal went on to develop an unsuspected vocation of helping the needy, something you may not have guessed was at the forefront of her mind.
She became a longtime member of Southampton’s Town Anti-Bias Task Force initiating and pushing forward more fair hiring practices and Spanish-language signage and personnel at Southampton Hospital. She also promoted bus shelters for public transportation and the creation of playgrounds for children.
But that was only the beginning. She led drives to provide food and clothes for various disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and 9/11 in New York. She worked for the preservation of various Southampton landmarks such as the Halsey House and the Parish Art Museum. She helped get local high school students tuition for college. In short, in contrast to the life she could have led, she worked many hours and many years to help the needy and to preserve the character and historical legacy of Southampton.
About a year ago Cecile found out that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I should have known something was up because she gave me call while I was out having lunch. That was unusual because while often had conversation and contact at family gatherings, she rarely called me.
Cecile started the conversation very directly and simply. She wanted to know what kind of cancer my father had. That was curious I thought and then, without waiting for me to reply, she just blurted out the truth.
“Well, actually I am very sick and my doctor wants to know what history of cancer there is in our family.”
That of course came as a big shock. Cecile was not only beautiful girl and woman, she was a very beautiful and dignified lady. I knew she never was tinged with any of our family’s weaknesses. She almost never drank, she didn’t smoke, she ate health foods all her life.
I told Ceal that my father had Squamous Cell Skin Cancer for about 60 years and only late in life did it become serious and fatal.
“Well, that’s clear. There is no heredity connection to his cancer. I am dying. I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And there is nothing anyone can do about.”
It was a kind of brusque and brutal way to reveal her own condition, but it was totally honest and totally in keeping with the way she talked. Cecile was not a lady to mince words or to beat around the bush.
Of course, I was extremely saddened to hear about her cancer and I wished her what I wish all cancer patients – that the cancer was not terminal or as severe, that the doctors were wrong, that the doctors would find a cure.
Unfortunately, in Ceal’s case, the doctor’s were correct and Cecile was correct and the cancer did advance and, within a period six months the cancer became fatal.
Ceal persevered through the debilitating agonies of that disease and survived far longer than her doctors had predicted. At first they tried to give her chemotherapy. That almost killed her on the first application. Thereafter, Ceal refused all further medication and methodically went about setting her life in order, finishing her will, signing papers about what to do as death came near, planning her final journey to hospice where sphere could pass away in dignity outside of the constant observation of her family.
Cecile decided that she would not let her children know of her condition until her son Freddy had finished some course of business studies he was taking. She did not want to jeopardize his studies. She wanted it that way.
Cecile lived at home for the first several months of her disease and when the time came sho moved to the hospice she had chosen. She died at the age of 68, having lived a full life, dedicated to her husband, to her children and to the help and betterment of others.