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Berkshire Profile: Kathy PoirotBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Sunday, March 12, 2006
Welcome to Berkshire Profile, an iberkshires weekly feature appearing on Sunday. Each week, iberkshires will highlight a Berkshires resident whose actions contribute to the Berkshires way of life.
Adams- Scores of people know that Kathy Poirot works as an administrative assistant to Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin and the town's Selectmen. Dozens more may know that Poirot was appointed to a seven-year term as a justice of the peace in November, after her appointment as Williamstown's assistant town clerk in July. There are folks who probably remember Poirot's 19 years of employment at North Adams Regional Hospital, and some might even recall her years working for Dr. Ronald Durning Jr..
And Now, Live From the Tiki Hut...
And those who really, really, know Poirot will remember her as Kathy Tovani, a guitar-toting fifth-grade East School Annex student who perched on the school's fire escape and strummed the tunes of the day during recess.
"I can remember playing my guitar and singing 'Leaving On A Jet Plane,' and some of the other popular songs," Poirot said during a March 8 interview.
Poirot said that she remembers when her father, Joseph Tovani, arrived at the family home with a guitar.
"He only knew how to play three chords and he played them over and over," she said. "I loved it. I knew I wanted to play and I talked my parents into letting me take guitar lessons."
The lessons lasted about a year but Poirot's music-making enjoyment has lasted throughout her life.
"I played all the time when I was younger," she said. "I played and I accompanied myself [when singing]. I still sing; when I go to Florida to visit my dad, it is mandatory that we go sing karaoke at the 'Tiki Hut.'"
Poirot doesn't take the easy road when belting out tunes for 'Tiki Hut' patrons. Her favorite karaoke song is the vocally-challenging "Crazy," first recorded by country music singing legend Patsy Cline.
As Poirot approached her junior high school years, she moved with her mother and two sisters from North Adams to Adams. Leaving her classmates behind to begin as a "new kid" enrolled at a new school was very difficult, she said.
"I went from being one of the popular kids to being the kid picked last for any team thing," she said. "It was tough. I even wrote a paper about later on for a composition class when I was at BCC [Berkshire Community College]."
Poirot took positive steps to make friends.
"By the time I got to [Hoosac Valley] high school, I had joined every club I could think of to meet people," she said.
A popular spot for town youth was the Crest on Park Street.
"We'd all go to the Crest and sit in the booths and have vanilla sodas," she said. "We begged our parents to take us to the movies [to the Mohawk Theater in North Adams]. We crashed the St. Joe [St. Joseph's parochial school] dances, and we went to the Valley Park [bowling] Lanes to play pool."
Poirot enrolled at a Charles H. McCann Technical High School post-secondary medical assisting program immediately after her 1976 HVHS graduation.
"I knew that I wanted to have some kind of a career," Poirot said."I was one of the people who had a job before graduation [from the program] because I was willing to travel to Pittsfield."
She worked for a chiropractor in Pittsfield for about two years and in 1979, Poirot moved to Clearwater, Florida. About 12 months later, she'd returned to the Berkshire mountains.
"The rents were high and the pay was low," she said of Florida. "It was hard for a single person to make ends meet. I liked it there, but there's no place like home."
She found work at the NARH medical records department upon her return and joined Durning when he opened a Northern Berkshire practice about a year later. She spent about two years at the practice, then returned to NARH. Poirot worked within various departments and ultimately spent 13 years employed at the hospital's Greylock Pavilion unit.
Her strong work ethic is the result of her upbringing, she said.
"My parents had the philosophy that if you want something, you earn it," she said. "I was baby-sitting when I was 14 years old, and when I was in high school, I was working at Mammoth Mart and Angelina's [submarine sandwich shop]."
Her labors permitted her to buy a first car and her paternal grandfather rewarded her industriousness by paying for the vehicle's insurance, she said.
"I worked hard and I was very independent," Poirot said. "I think it made me who I am today. I'm pretty self-sufficient."
She began her current job in January 2000.
"I Love the People Contact"
"There had been a lot of manager turnover at Greylock Pavilion, and a lot of changes were going on," she said. "I just got burned out, and I needed a change."
The day that she inquired about the job was the day of her initial interview.
"One day I pulled out the job advertisements and I said 'I'm going to call,'" she said. "I was asked to come in for an interview that day, so I didn't have time to worry about the first interview."
The job agrees with her, she said.
"[Fohlin] really brought out the best in me," Poirot said. "He really helped me sharpen my skills. I love the job. I'm glad that my office is on the first floor. When people come in looking for the various departments, I like talking with them. I enjoy the 'people contact.'"
As a justice of the peace, Poirot may perform civil wedding ceremonies. Inclusion in such a momentous occasion gives her a happy feeling, she said.
"People can bring in their own vows if they like or I have a book that they can look through," she said. "And there is a standard set of vows."
All About Comfy
Poirot's 14-year-old son Mark is an eighth-grade Adams Memorial Middle School student. Several animals share the family's Crotteau Street home; "Bailee," a golden retriever dog, and felines "Cassie" and "Fuzzy" enjoy pet status, as does "Peggy," a cockatiel, and three hermit crabs.
"The hermit crabs are Mark's," Poirot said. "He bought two of them at the mall and he talked my sister into buying him one. They live in a five-gallon fish tank that has sand in it and 'hide-outs' for the crabs."
Mark is a basketball player with the police athletic league and also plays the trumpet.
When Poirot is at home, she enjoys gardening, reading, and spending time with her "significant other," Michael "Mick" Yannone.
"I like to mow the lawn," she said. "I like being outside. I have a nice little swing that I sit on and read."
The outdoors has always appealed to Poirot. She was an avid skier, hiker, and dirt-bike rider during her younger years, she said.
"Now I don't have time," she said.
Her home is a favorite haunt for Mark and his friends, she said.
"I'm the mom who always has the kids at the house," she said. "I'm all about comfy."
The Scent of Home
Poirot said that she travels Florida twice a year to visit her sister Karen Tovani-Ward. Her mother Verlie [Rose] Mirke and her father live at opposite ends of the Florida coast, and her sister Sue Tovani lives in Hawaii. Her brother Eric Mirke lives in the Berkshires.
One of Poirot's Florida junkets occurs in the spring, and her return home includes a driving ritual, she said.
"One of the things I really like about living here is the smell of pine," she said. "When I come home from Florida, I deliberately drive from Bradley [airport] over Route 9. Once I get into Windsor, I open the windows, and I smell the pine."
"Then I know I'm home."
Anyone who is interested in speaking to Poirot about justice of the peace services may contact her at 413-458-3500.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.