Carl and Marilyn Faulkner unwrap a retirement gift at a reception at the Williams Inn on Tuesday night. See more photos here.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Carl and Marilyn Faulkner have been hosting parties and events for 35 years at the Williams Inn.
On Tuesday evening, the tables were turned as more than 100 members of the community lined up past the back doors to express their appreciation to the retiring innkeepers.
"We're not used to doing a party for us," quipped Carl Faulkner. "We're used to overseeing your parties."
The Faulkners have played host to those important transitional moments in life over the decades, from bar mitzvahs, to proms, to weddings, to funeral receptions.
And each year, they have celebrated the birthday of Williams College founder Ephraim Williams.
James Kolesar, vice president for public affairs, said if Woody Allen's claim that 80 percent of life is just showing up, "then for Carl and Marilyn, 100 percent of your life is showing up ... because they've always, always, always been here as far as I can tell.
"No matter what hour of the day, the day of the week, which week of the month, month of the year, they're always here."
He wondered if they would still be standing here if he snuck over in the middle of the night, and had the crowd laughing when he came to the conclusion they were really a set of quintuplets who had pulled the wool over everyone's eyes.
The Faulkners were lauded for their community service in providing a space for countless meetings and dinners and get-togethers.
"They've done yeoman service for community organizations," said Anne Skinner, president of the League of Women Voters. "The Faulkners have been not just caterers, not just hosts, but partners in making each event something special.
"They will be remembered as instrumental in making a community out of our town, and our thanks and best wishes to both of them."
The couple had created an "in crowd," said Kolesar, that lacked exclusivity and instead made everyone welcome.
"They treated you the absolutely same no matter who you were," he said. "If we owned a beat-up old jalopy or we owned the New York Yankees, they treated us exactly the same way. And that's an important part of building community as well."
Town Manager Peter Fohlin proceeded to strip off his jacket and tie before speaking because he wanted speak as a neighbor, not an official.
The Faulkners and the town had shared snowplowing, a driveway, a lawn, friendship and a "fondness" for the eastern part of the state, he said. "There can be no greater love between neighbors than those who synchronize their emergency generators so as not to disturb each other."
But, he pointed out, "Sometimes I've had to be in my role as town manager kind of tough and critical of the Williams Inn. Mostly I've had to tell Carl you don't charge often enough and you don't charge enough."
The inn's new owner, Williams College, hosted the public reception for the couple. The inn is built on college land but the Faulkners have operated the business since 1979. The college acquired the inn's mortgage nearly two years ago and discussions began about the future of the 128-room inn.
The couple was presented with a framed image of the inn and a notice describing them as "Innkeepers Superieurs" from grateful guests and residents.
Carl said the attendees wouldn't be seeing it again.
"If it has our names on it, we're taking it home ... if it says 'Williams Inn,' we're leaving it," he said to laughter.
Marilyn said they always felt it important to be present at events, since they were in the hospitality business.
"We've met some wonderful people and visitors from afar and all of you who are basically local," she said. "It's just wonderful and we're so pleased that you came and thank you very much.
"We look forward to our retirement but we'll be staying in town so we'll see you around."
Carl said he given Kolesar a copy of The Berkshire Eagle from 1979 with an article about their taking over the inn.
"We had said that we would be community-minded, so I'm hoping that we lived up to your expectations. "
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