The Haley home is a stop on the Martinsville-Henry County Garden Day Tour, which takes place on April 27 in Bassett.
Robert Haley is an attorney. Cricket Haley manages his law practice.
The two live in “Ithaca,” a white-columned, red-brick Classical Revival house built during the 1930s for Reed Lewis Stone, one of the founders of Bassett Furniture and a major builder of the town of Bassett.
Between them, the Haleys have four children. There used to be two dogs, too, but the Pomeranians have gone to the great dog park in the sky.
The couple share more: a passion for books, although it shows in each in a different way.
“My home overflows with books. I collect books, read books. I have new books, old books, rare books.
“Some books are beautiful, tooled tomes – perfect – and some are in drastic need of care and attention. I take them all. Each needs its own appreciation, and all still have a story to tell.”
Cricket wrote those words. She goes on to say a book’s story isn’t just the one on its pages. The book itself is another.
Cricket became familiar with those stories during her days as a bookbinder.
She learned how to take books broken by age, adverse conditions, hard use and even too much love, and restore them to health. She can conserve and preserve them.
She learned the ancient craft from Don Etherington and Monique Lallier.
Don studied and trained in London and Florence. A highlight of his resume: While training in London, he worked on commissions from the Royal Family. He also established a conservation program for works of art on paper for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He worked as a restorer at the Library of Congress. He was head of Etherington Conservation Services in North Carolina.
“He’s a rock star,” Cricket said.
“He has worked on probably every major piece of paper in the world from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. When Venice flooded (during the 1960s), that’s who they called.”
Don has been married to Monique for more than 40 years. She is a bookbinder and a book artist.
Monique studied in Canada, France and Switzerland. Her works can be found in Montreal’s McGill University and St. Peter Oratory for the Pope John-Paul II. She also has worked for the University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University and Guilford College. She has done work for private collections in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan.
Cricket said that while she was studying with Monique and Don, it wasn’t unusual to walk into their studio and find work being done on an item such as a book from George Washington’s library.
Cricket later established her own practice, Parchment & Prose Rare Books and Bindery in Bassett.
“I had clients from all over the world,” she said. Their valued possessions would find their way to a former factory house, one for supervisors, on Fairystone Park Highway where Cricket did her work.
She got to work on some first editions, including several by Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“To me, they’re just nuggets of history,” she said. It was a privilege just to hold them.
Cricket would repair bindings and restore paper, such as dust jackets or pages. And she would restore the artwork on them.
Books also came to her from this area. Most were family Bibles. Often the binding had gone, especially if papers, pins and other place-savers had been heavily used.
Cookbooks were also frequently brought to her, usually ones that had belonged to family members. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a valuable book in the usual sense. “They wanted that one, with Mama’s handwriting in it,” she said.
Sometimes people wanted children’s books brought back to life after being “loved to death” by little owners, she said.
“I had fun being a bookbinder,” Cricket said.
But she gave it up when she took on management of her husband’s law practice.
Although her bookstore and bindery has closed, a book press stands in the Haley home, a reminder of her artistic craft. Her father built it for her, basing it on Monique’s book press, which itself was based on one that was several hundred years old.
(When Cricket isn’t at the law offices, she teaches fencing, trains to teach yoga or rides her Triumph motorcycle. She also has been a competitive bodybuilder.)
Her husband’s law practice, the Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, has been growing. In addition to an office in Bassett, he has one in Danville.
Robert is one of fewer than 20 certified elder law attorneys in Virginia, and the only one west of Charlottesville. A couple of years ago, he was nominated by his peers and selected to join the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
The criteria for selection are based on commitment and contribution to clients and ethical, high-quality practice of the law specialty. Only 75 or so people in the country have been selected for the council.
After earning his undergraduate degree while in the U.S. Air Force in Europe, the Bassett native earned a law degree and a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Virginia.
And after staying on to work in Charlottesville, with much of his work related to real estate, he began to contemplate moving back home. He was urged on by the late Ben Gardner, a well-known lawyer from Martinsville.
It was at a seminar of the American Bar Association in 1998 that Robert first heard about the then-relatively new field of elder law. It intrigued him, so he began studying elder law and estate planning. He found his niche.
Despite the degrees and certifications under his belt – and a sparse amount of spare time -- Robert is now working on a Ph.D. It will be a doctorate in humanities through Faulkner University’s honor college.
The work is done through study of the great books.
His doctorate concentration is on the Scottish enlightenment, so he reads works by greats who include Adam Smith and David Hume. He also reads works by other greats; a recent one was by Albert Einstein.
Robert is working on his doctorate simply because he wants to. “It’s a ton of work,” Robert said, but fulfilling.
He manages to fit it in because the classes and coursework are all online. He can do it from home.
And home for Robert is “Ithaca,” the name the Stones gave the house that Robert and Cricket now own.
That Robert ended up living in “Ithaca” could be seen as another way in which the returned native has come full circle.
He went to Campbell Court Elementary School. As a child, he could see the house from the school grounds. It was a fine home and property on top of a hill; it even had horses, which appealed to the child he was.
Years later after he moved back, he did work for the then-owners, Mr. and Mrs. Claude Stone. After their deaths, he approached their children about buying the property.
“Once I saw the house and went in, that was all it took,” Robert Haley said.
council of advanced practice national academy of elder law
Lunch: Historic J.D. Bassett Event Center/EMI dining room, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; $12 per person. Reservations required by April 25. Contact Eliza Severt, 276-632-2447, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lynne Beeler, 276-638-1030, email@example.com.
Getting around: Park and catch a shuttle at Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church, 120 Bassett Heights Road. Although parking will be available at most sites, it will be limited. Two sites, Hamlet Vineyards and the Haley House, will be accessible only by shuttle. Shuttles will also go to Fairy Stone State Park.
Sponsors/Supporters:American National Bank, Bassett Furniture Industries, Bassett Mirror Co., Stifel Nicolaus, Stanleytown Health & Rehabilitation Center, Kiwanis Club of Bassett, Everything Outdoors LLC, Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma Inc., Ace Hardware/Dan and Beth Cahill, Clarke and Jim Beckner, Cunningham Tire of Bassett/David Cunningham, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Norris Funeral Services Inc., Beverly Coleman/Rives S. Brown, and Sunnyside Communities/Kings Grant.
More info: Contact Lizz Stanley, tour chairman, 276-252-3009, or Cindy Edgerton, tour co-chairman, 276-732-2784. Reach either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org