Bittersweet Time as Couple Prepares for New Home, a Thousand Miles Away

September 12, 2023
After many years as active members of the Bedford community, Nancy and Rich Daugherty are moving to Indiana, where housing is a lot more affordable. Courtesy photo

Nancy and Rich Daugherty could see the handwriting on the wall more than 15 years ago: they wanted to sell their big historic house and remain in Bedford, downsized. But there were very few options.

They tried some novel approaches, proposing zoning changes that would enable construction of cottage-style houses on their one-acre lot in the center of town. Nothing got much beyond the concepts.

So, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Daugherty family is scheduled to embark on a journey of almost 1,000 miles – to a 900-square-foot apartment in an independent senior living community located in Bloomington, IN. The city, home of Indiana University, is “the only island of hope in the reddest of red states,” Rich Daugherty said. He ought to know – he grew up about 40 miles away.

Their destination is Meadowood, a retirement community founded by former university President Herman Wells after “he and a lot of his staff said, ‘We love this place and we don’t want to leave,’” Rich Daugherty related. “It still has that atmosphere of an academic retirement community.” 

His daughter is a nurse at a Bloomington hospital and several of his brothers live nearby.

It’s bittersweet. Rich Daugherty said, “We can afford to live in a great place in a blue town in a red state with family there for under $5,000 a month, including great meals and a park-like setting with trails and sycamore trees. But it’s not Bedford. We will dearly miss not just the people, but the town that we helped to build.” 

He said he and others in his generation “made the place so great that old people can’t afford to live here.”

Now, both 82, they are at the point where “Nancy and I want to be in independent living. The places I have found most affordable are religious based. But they are not in places we want to live,” he said, adding some advice for the town: “Do what is necessary to help people who have made this town enjoy the last years of their lives here.”

Nancy and Rich Daugherty were honored at the First Parish Church on Saturday night. Courtesy photo

Indeed, Nancy Daugherty said, “I tell my friends that we are going out to help our kid with child care as she is working on a degree. And I tell my friends I want to be back because this is home.” A zoning change, opening the door to smaller homes, would be a game-changer, she said.

Rich Daugherty, who still personifies his rural Indiana upbringing while his personality fills any room, went to a small engineering college – Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, in Terre Haute, IN. The reason? “We were putting up hay on a Sunday afternoon because it was going to rain, and I didn’t have time to get to Purdue. So, my parents dropped me off at Rose.” 

Nancy came to Bedford in 1962 with her first husband; Rich in 1976 after living in Marblehead. 

“I loved it here, I loved the culture, the view of life that was so much more genteel. And it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me to end up in Bedford,” she said.

A big reason was the First Parish, Unitarian Universalist, “one of the most active church communities, which I loved.”  

When his first wife died at age 38, leaving him with a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, “this community saved my life, Bedford and the UU. They pitched in and I kept going.” 

He described how he met Nancy: “I happened to be standing around and she showed up.” 

He continued, seriously, “The center of the life Nancy and I had was our church. We were both people who worked for economic and social justice. That’s what we do.” 

They served together on the search committee that recommended hiring the Rev. Jack Mendelsohn in 1988. He ultimately was named minister emeritus.

Master of ceremonies Ron Cordes presented a resolution of congratulations to Nancy and Rich Daugherty from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth Gordon. Courtesy photo

“One of the great assets of independent living is someone cooks your meals,” Daugherty explained. So, he and Nancy can look forward to “getting out of bed, getting the computer out, and working on the next project that has to do with economic and social justice. And we’re pretty good at it. We think we have helped the world become a better place, and don’t want to be distracted by having to cook or clean.”

Thirty-something years ago, Rich Daugherty was working 16-hour days as a consultant for Lotus. (“I never was smart; I just learned to say smart things,” he explained.)  Then he had an epiphany about the quality of life and transitioned to substitute teaching in area colleges and high schools (“I’m tall and I’m loud. That gets you some respect.”)

Over the years, Rich Daugherty has become a frequent, colorful voice of entertaining reason at Town Meeting. “I hardly ever asked a question that I didn’t know the answer to. I thought others needed to know the same things,” he explained. “During my 50 years, I was asked to run for selectman or serve on the Finance Committee. I didn’t want to be ‘up there.’ I wanted to be ‘down there’ with the people.”

He did serve on the Capital Expenditure Committee and what is now the Volunteer Coordinating Committee, and took the credit for recruiting two eventual Select Board members: Cathy Cordes and Shelly Moll, into volunteer service.

Friends gathered Saturday night at the church to wish Rich and Nancy Daugherty well at an appreciation party.  Master of ceremonies Ron Cordes presented a resolution of congratulations from the House of Representatives, sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth Gordon. The certificate, signed by House Speaker Ronald Mariano, recognizes a “combined 62 years of tireless volunteer service to the Town of Bedford.”

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James S Bergin
September 14, 2023 9:30 pm

Delightful story about a delightful couple – you will be missed!

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