Whatever Happened To ... Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton

Whatever Happened To
Barbara Kenny, left, and Tibby Middleton (Copyright Rebecca Emily Drobis)
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By Michelle Boorstein
Sunday, November 15, 2009

A 2005 Magazine article titled "Paradise Lost" featured Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton, a lesbian couple together 40 years who were bitterly moving from downtown Fredericksburg, Va., where they had a rich community life of work, church and friends, to a suburban part of Frederick, Md., where they knew no one. Their move was prompted by a Virginia law restricting the rights of same-sex couples; the women feared possible interference with their medical directives and wills. Being together at the end was increasingly on their minds, because Kenny had learned she has a brain aneurysm.

Both women suffered depression after leaving Fredericksburg, where they'd lived for nearly two decades, where they'd finally come out, where Kenny, 70, practiced social work and Middleton, 71, served on the church board and called bingo at the firehouse.

Despite new connections, they longed so much for their former home that they considered returning.

"I'd like to crank back to 2004 and make different decisions," Kenny said recently.

The women hadn't lost their anger about the Virginia law. But they weighed it against losing their community.

"I said, 'I'm not going to live in misery so I can die with Tibby by my side,' " Kenny said. "That equation started to not make sense."

The housing market changed their minds, however. They can't afford to move back to the downtown lifestyle they cherished. Plus, they need the extra space they have for Kenny's art. A hobbyist before, she began to work seriously in Frederick, where she felt too down to reenter social work. She has been in several shows and has an exhibit at LibertyTown Arts Workshop in Fredericksburg through Nov. 29.

Kenny's plunge into her art has been gratifying, as has Middleton's position on the board of the local Unitarian Universalist church. But although both women are trying to make the best of their new situation, it doesn't feel like home.

"Not to say we haven't met wonderful people here; we have full, rich lives," Middleton says. "But ... Fredericksburg is just the right place for us."

Read the original story here.

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