A shared study is ‘the sign of a good marriage’

  • Both Vivienne Carey and her husband, Roger Webb, are originally from the United Kingdom. Webb “kept coming round, and we became more than friends,” she says. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carey uses her homegrown lemons to make traditional English lemon curd. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Photographs inside Carey’s family Bible. Her grandfather carried the book with him when he fought in World War I. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The inscription from Carey’s grandmother to her husband when he left for the war says, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ever your loving wife, Margery.” STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The couple built a sunny, single-story residence — this is their shared study — so they could age in place. “Let’s do it now, while it’s an adventure and not an ordeal,” they remember saying to each other. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • This year, the couple’s twenty-year-old potted lemon tree produced seven lemons the size of small grapefruits. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The couple sited the home and its porch to look out on a meadow. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The writing desk features a leather writing surface, minute drawers with tiny ivory pulls. Inside one, Carey discovered this small, porcelain doll. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Carey’s uncle found this portable writing desk “in a pile of rubbish in an old Liverpool office building,” she says. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • An accomplished needlewoman, Carey stitched this sampler in 1986, which includes a prayer in classical Greek. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Living room at the home of Vivienne Carey and Roger Webb in Amherst, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Fifteen years ago, the couple realized that they wanted to build a single-story residence that would allow them to age in place. “Let’s do it now, while it’s an adventure and not an ordeal,” they remember saying to each other. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A sampler made by Vivienne Webb. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “I don’t identify with America, but I’m at home here, more so than in England,” says Webb. Above, the couple’s dining room. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • This year, the couple’s twenty-year-old potted lemon tree produced seven lemons the size of small grapefruits. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 2/1/2019 11:23:30 AM

“I spent every penny of my alimony on Smith,” said Vivienne Carey, laughing. Through the college’s Ada Comstock program, which enables women of a non-traditional age to complete their bachelor’s degrees, she explained, she majored in Classics, having always loved Latin and Greek. “It was a long wish fulfilled, and it changed me completely.”

Both Carey and her husband, Roger Webb, are originally from the United Kingdom: Webb from near London, and Carey from Liverpool. They met when they were both part of a group of Brits who had landed in western Massachusetts. When her first marriage broke up, Carey says, Webb “kept coming round, and we became more than friends,” ultimately marrying in 1985 and settling in South Amherst.

Today, they live in a sunny house with an expansive view of a meadow with a small pond at one end; this is enthusiastically used by neighborhood kids for skating in the winter.

Webb majored in math at the University of Cambridge and had a one-year course in computer science, a very new field back in the ‘70s. He became a software engineer, at that time writing computer-aided software to design and manufacture cardboard boxes with lasers.

The small company for which he worked, he said, was “poached by a small German laser manufacturer to write software for their system and set up a subsidiary to sell it in America. I came [in 1979] for a few years, and haven’t got around to leaving yet.”

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude from Smith in 1990, Carey joined Webb and her son Andrew in their newly-established company: “insane hours and overworked employees,” she recalls. “Roger found out that the mouse he had married had evolved into a strong woman with opinions and confidence — a transformation that enriched rather than threatened our partnership.”

They are both US citizens now, but Webb had an interesting path to citizenship when he applied in 1990. There were questions, such as “Are you prepared to bear arms to defend this country?” As he is a third generation pacifist, he demurred on moral rather than religious grounds and was denied citizenship. He waited fifteen years before trying again, this time succeeding, aided by a Supreme Court ruling on the separation of church and state.

The couple visited England many times when their parents were still alive — less so now. Carey observed that she still feels British more than American; Webb said, “I don’t identify with America, but I’m at home here, more so than in England.”

Their house, of course, reflects who they are. They decided about fifteen years ago that with approaching old age they wanted a single-story residence. As they said to each other: “Let’s do it now, while it’s an adventure and not an ordeal.”

After buying the land they decided to work with a designer, not an architect, and were very happy with Tom O’Brien who had been a builder as well. As they lived in South Amherst already, Webb said that they could pop by as the house was being built. It has two bedrooms, two baths, one shared study (“the sign of a good marriage,” Carey observed), a walk-in closet, and a glassed-in porch.

They are surrounded by a small, cohesive community which provides much mutual support. It’s a good spot.

I asked them to show me items that were important in their house. One is their potted, twenty-year-old lemon tree, which this year produced seven lemons the size of small grapefruits; one of them contained 10 tablespoons of juice, which Carey converted into that most English of preserves: lemon curd.

Another item was a portable writing desk of curly walnut inlaid with brass and ebony, which Carey’s uncle found “in a pile of rubbish in an old Liverpool office building,” had refinished and presented to his niece when she was eight years old. Inside is a blue leather writing surface, with compartments underneath and at the ends, minute drawers with tiny ivory pulls; in one of them was a small, porcelain doll with astounding lace bloomers and bonnet.

The most poignant of her mementos is a tiny Bible, which her grandfather took with him when he fought in World War I. On Christmas Day of 1916, she described how he participated in a reenactment of the famous 1914 Christmas Day truce and soccer match between the German and the Allied forces. Later his leg was severely injured, and he lay in his trench for several days until the medics could reach him, but he made it home.

Inscribed within this Bible is a message from his wife:

“August 19th, 1916

The Lord bless thee and keep thee. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Ever your loving wife,

Margery”

Carey, who is an accomplished needlewoman, stitched a sampler in 1986, into which she incorporated Margery’s prayer – in red and in Classical Greek.

Many threads coming together.

Nina M. Scott is a Professor Emerita of Spanish from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a member of Five College Learning in Retirement. Originally from Germany, Scott will be profiling a series of foreign-born Valley residents for the Gazette.




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