The town of Barton, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, was chartered in 1789. Patricia May's ancestors were among its founders.
Through the generations her forebears were, like many Vermonters, dairy farmers. The family farms all lie right next to one another. One is designated a "century farm" because it has been operated by the May family for more than 100 years.
Pat's father, though he lived on a dairy farm, departed from tradition and raised poultry. Later in his career he became a supervisor for the Farmers Home Adminis-tration, which granted loans to farmers.
Pat's mother ran away when the daughter was 15. She worked in a bobbin factory in New Hampshire, then moved down to New York City, where she worked as a nanny. In her 20s she returned home, and married. An enterprising woman, she engaged in such diverse activities as professional cooking, running a bakery out of her home, secretly training for her pilot's license and apprenticing to a taxidermist.
Pat was born in Barton on Aug. 13, 1935. She is the eldest of three children. Most of her relatives, including her siblings, still live in Barton.
No one in her generation became a farmer. Her sister was a math teacher; her brother is an attorney.
Not only have people changed their life's work - much of the land itself has changed. What Pat calls "our hill," the common view of the family farms, has been transformed from hayfields to a golf course. Pat owns the seventh hole.
AS A CHILD Pat had severe, recurring ear infections. Tubes to drain the middle ear had not yet been invented. At the age of 4 she had double mastoid surgery, in which the mastoid bones behind both ears were removed. Because at the time there were no antibiotics, she ran a high risk of death or disability. She was fortunate to elude them both, but she continued to have ear infections. This gave her a self-concept, reinforced by how she was treated, that she was a sick child who needed to be protected.
She was seen as a "follower" until she was about 10, when a discerning schoolteacher suggested Pat might have poor eyesight. That teacher was right. Pat followed people because she couldn't see well. After she got glasses, things began to change.
About that time, Pat joined 4H, which furthered her growth outward. Through demonstrations and public speaking, she learned leadership skills.
Pat attended the University of Vermont in Burlington. She changed majors several times, settled on psychology and grad-uated Phi Beta Kappa in 1957.
While she was in college she lived summers at a Quaker commune, where she was the dietician. One summer she worked as a state hospital aide; another, she worked in a shoe bow factory.
She pursued her graduate studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. When she arrived in Illinois, a second cousin who lived in Chicago invited her to dinner. His name was and is Bion Barger (hard g). He had been prompted to look her up by his mother, who wrote, "Your little country cousin is in town" (he is 12 years older than Pat). That dinner led to many others, and eventually the two married in 1958.
Bion was a research chemical engineer who worked for Standard Oil of Indiana most of his career. "We complement each other well," says Pat. "Bion is analytical; I am more of a people person."
Pat became a psychologist. After earning her master's degree at Northwestern, she co-authored a training manual for therapists, "The Therapeutic Dialogue." She earned her Ph.D. in 1963.
For the first several years of her career she was both a practicing psychologist and a professor. She began as a staff psychologist at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at Northwestern Medical School.
In 1965 she became an assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, as well as supervisor of Loyola's Child Guidance Center. She marched up through the ranks, eventually becoming a full professor and director of the Center.
She founded an arm of the Center, a day school for psychotic 3- to 9-year-olds.
In 1977 she became a bureaucrat, working for the Illinois Department of Mental Health & Development Disabilities. The job required both fiscal and legislative acumen; lots of political lobbying was involved.
Eventually she became Associate Director for Mental Illness and then the Regional Administrator for the Chicago metropolitan area, managing a $650-million budget that funded the mental health care of 7 million people.
"I'm gratified that I have been able to combine a successful career with a successful relationship," she says. "I'm very lucky, but so is Bion. So there!"
Pat retired in 1987 (Bion was already retired). They had three choices: stay in Illinois, return to Vermont to be near her family or be near his family in Seattle. Perhaps because they had honeymooned here, they chose the last.
"I knew exactly what view I wanted," says Pat. The couple live on Queen Anne's south slope.
Though retired, Pat doesn't feel old. Her one acquiescense to age has been to stop dyeing her hair red.
Now Pat is on to her third career, that of a full-time volunteer. Her first career was the academic one, up to age 40. Because of her frail health as a child, she believed that she wouldn't live past 40, and conducted her life accordingly. "Everything had to be done by the time I was 40," she says. And it was.
"After 40," she continues, "it was icing on the cake - free time." That was her second, bureaucartic career.
In her third, she serves as President of the Advisory Council of the Queen Anne Community and Aquatic Centers. Mondays she cooks lunch at the senior center; Tuesdays she facilitates meetings of HUGS, a weight-management program; Wednesdays and Fridays she teaches water exercise classes. Thursdays she joins the Crafty Ladies at the senior center; they make hats for chemo patients, and baby blankets for the Baby Boutique, a store for low-income families.
Pat belongs to the book club at the senior center. At home, "Bion is my reader service," she says. He reads voraciously and lays out reading material for her that he thinks she might find of interest.
On the occasion of their wedding 46 years ago, Bion bought her a lifetime subscription to Gourmet for $60. She reads that every month, though it is less useful now that she has become a vegan.
Pat's fetish is cows. She may not have kept the family tradition of dairy farming, but she honors it, albeit humorously.
The Barkers' first-floor bathroom is a "Cow Palace." Over the toilet is an ink cartoon of a cow joking about psychology; over a towelrack is a charming framed needlepoint farm scene; the handtowel has a cow on it, so do the toilet brush and paper towel holders, and stuffed cows perch on the windowsill.
In the pantry, the backsplash is made of cow tiles painted by friends and family members. "The bad ones are behind the microwave," laughs Pat.
At age 69, Pat has had three active careers. One wonders what the fourth will be.