couples who work together…and like it
Could you work with your spouse? I pondered this question in the months leading up to my wedding. My in-laws worked together for decades in a family business established by my fiancé’s grandfather. With my fiancé poised to take the reins, I wondered if I might be expected to participate. But I was working hard to establish myself in a very different field. So, at the risk of seeming outspoken (I’m sure I was), I admitted that reporting to my soon-to-be-husband in the family business just wasn’t for me.
But for many folks, including five Mt. Lebanon couples who work together, the experience can and often does enrich a marriage. Three of these couples have the same vocation (teachers, attorneys, reporters.) The other two couples became business partners after having careers in quite different fields. Whether these couples collaborate closely throughout the day, or rarely see each other at work, each has gained a better understanding of the demands and rewards of their spouse’s work life.
Stu Snodgrass and Maddie Tieman
Stu and Maddie both graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School and now work there. Maddie is a dance teacher; Stu is a special education teacher. They have two children: Miles, 7, and Lila, 10.
Maddie graduated from the College of Wooster. She has an M.F.A. in dance and choreography from Temple University, and an M.Ed. in health and physical education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She started in 1998 with the school district as an artist-in-residence, progressing to a part-time resource specialist, then a full-time dance teacher when she had completed her second graduate program.
Stu is a graduate of Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, with a degree in psychology, and an M.Ed. from Duquesne University. Before becoming a teacher, he worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Pittsburgh. He also did social work in Philadelphia with a program that served juvenile offenders and addicted mothers. Stu spent one year as a special ed teacher for the Woodland Hills School District. Thirteen years ago, he was hired by his alma mater. In the special education department, Stu is currently assigned to learning support. He previously was assigned to the emotional support team.
The couple knew each other in high school but didn’t date. In 1993, they bumped into each other at a Rusted Root concert in Pittsburgh. Stu was working at Make-A-Wish and Maddie was dancing in Pittsburgh. Stu and Maddie both admit that, “It never occurred to us that we might teach in the same school.”
He and Maddie see each other, but they work in different ends of the building. On hall duty, they have a chance to catch up because they have 47 minutes when they aren’t being interrupted by students. Nothing too intimate is usually exchanged… more likely, they ask “Did you take anything out of the freezer for dinner?” They do commute together most days.
After all this time working in the same place, not all of the students or staff knows they are married. Maddie uses her maiden name; consequently, people don’t make the connection.
Stu appreciates the perks of working at the same school as his wife. “We have the same schedule, and we have summers off to enjoy our children.” Maddie says that working at the same school as Stu means that “we understand each other’s jobs.”
Maddie adds, “We moved here for the schools, because we know them inside and out. I’m proud of our district.”
Linda and Michael Fuoco
Michael and Linda Wilson Fuoco have invested 66 (combined) years as reporters for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Linda has been there longer. They met at the paper, when Linda was a suburban editor and Michael was reporting for the east edition. They started having lunch together and began dating; they were married in 1989. There are 10 married couples at the Post-Gazette, so they don’t feel like they stand out. The Fuocos used to work in the same office. Now they are in different buildings so they don’t see each other at work.
Much of Michael’s work has been as a police reporter and public safety reporter. For six years, Michael was an enterprise/projects reporter covering in-depth stories requiring lengthy research. For example, his assignments included post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury in returning veterans. One memorable project was an occasional series in 2102 on heroin addiction called “Heroin Siren Song.” He wrote another difficult piece called “Suicide: When All That’s Left Is Why.” Michael derives a lot of satisfaction from high-profile projects like covering the Western Psych shooting, the Quecreek mine accident and rescue, and the fatal shooting of the three Pittsburgh police officers. He is President of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, a labor organization for journalists at the Post-Gazette and Valley Independent, and Point Park journalism professors.
Linda has worked as a court reporter, a suburban editor, and a general assignment reporter. Currently, she works for the west edition, which covers Crafton, Moon, Robinson and Scott. Her fondness for animals of all kinds has developed into a weekly column in the Saturday Home and Garden section called “Pet Tales.” Linda describes writing the column “as a dream assignment, so much fun. I get so many emails from readers of my column that I never seem to run out of ideas.” Not all of themes are light-hearted. Linda has written extensively on cases of animal neglect. She recently covered Rocco the police dog’s funeral.
The Fuocos share a passion for the people of Pittsburgh. That’s a good thing because their jobs at the Post-Gazette require being in touch with Pittsburghers every day. They have one son, Dante, who is 23 and a graduate of Swarthmore. Dante is currently working for Teach for America in New Orleans.
Christine and Jack Tumpson
Christine grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania. While attending Pitt, she had her own radio show called Spotlight. She also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, and for WPXI-11 and KDKA-2. Christine left the local media scene to attend George Washington University Law School. When she and Jack met, Christine was practicing child custody law as one of Allegheny county’s first mediators under a program started by judge Max Baer.
Jack grew up in Mt. Lebanon. He graduated from Miami University of Ohio. One of his first jobs after college was at Karma House in Oakland, where he counseled runaways and young people with drug problems. In his next job, Jack was a manufacturer’s representative in the kitchen cabinet industry.
Jack’s life changed when a friend got him involved in promoting concerts in southwestern Pennsylvania. His Next Big Thing and Elko Productions was at the epicenter of Pittsburgh’s music scene. He booked talent at the Graffiti in North Oakland. He and Christine met in 1993 at a Little Feat concert. They married, started a family, and moved to Nashville.
In Nashville, Christine and Jack came up with the idea to launch a magazine with the mission of promoting Pittsburgh in a positive light. So the Tumpsons moved back in 2000. They hit the ground running, because the first Whirl was published by the fall of the next year.
“Pittsburghers take our culture for granted,” says Jack. “Everything made possible by the industrial barons. But with the exception of maybe New York and Chicago, most cities don’t have the extraordinary museums, parks, zoos and concert halls that Pittsburgh has.”
“The city has only gotten better. The young people are staying. Other young professionals are attracted by our vibrant culture.
“Christine and I had a whole new perspective when we returned to Pittsburgh from Nashville. We had to live somewhere else to appreciate this great city.”
At Whirl, Christine is the editor-in-chief, responsible for story creation, layout and design. Jack is the publisher, responsible for marketing and business management. The Tumpsons work together practically 24-7. Whirl covers an average of 2,000 events a year. “It’s challenging but rewarding to do this with Christine. We love meeting Pittsburghers from all walks of life,” says Jack.
Mickey and Rex Gatto
Rex and Mickey Gatto led separate professional lives for 25 years. Mickey recently retired from being chair of the English as a Second Language Program at Point Park University and joined Rex in business at Gatto Associates, which offers executive coaching, training and development workshops and personalized business consulting, among other things. Rex is a licensed professional counselor, cognitive therapist, and psychologist.
Their work lives intersect when it comes to business writing. Rex, who has published several books, describes himself as the “big picture” author with a concept. But delivering the point with clarity is a challenge that requires Mickeiy’s unique command of language. She translates and transforms her husband’s ideas. She also oversees finances, taxes, and insurance.
They laugh about Mickey’s first week in the office. “We argued about how to do something, and I stormed out,” she recalls. But she came back. They appreciate each others’ strengths.
Outside the office, the Gattos have different interests. Rex is a member of eight professional organizations and stays very involved with his alma mater, Duquesne University. Mickey serves on the boards of Duquesne University and Outreach Teen & Family Services, and on Mt. Lebanon’s parking facilities advisory board.
Their personalities are about as different as you can get. Rex is outgoing; he thrives on being with people. Mickey, on the other hand, is the introvert. She loves to be alone. For relaxation, she reads in Spanish (she lived in Ecuador for two years) and does crossword puzzles. Rex’s favorite form of relaxation is practicing his trumpet an hour a day, which he does religiously. He played trumpet in the Army band during the Vietnam War.
Rex and Mickey have two grown children who both live in Mt. Lebanon. Their son, Shawn, married to Kate, has one daughter, 2-year-old Brooke. Mickey babysits her a few days each week, which is “more fun and gratifying than anything I’ve ever done.” Their daughter, Maura, and her husband, Jeff, also live here.
Amy and Jim Bentz
Amy and Jim Bentz work together at the law firm Amy opened in 1997. That wasn’t always the case. Jim formerly practiced with Reed Smith. He joined his wife in her Washington Road practice nine years ago. The Bentzes specialize in business law.
Both Amy and Jim went to University of Michigan for undergrad, but they didn’t know each other. They met at Pitt Law School.
Amy previously worked for Plowman & Spiegel for five years, which she says “made her the attorney she is today.”
Amy and Jim interact quite a bit during the day as their work overlaps. Amy is the managing partner and built the firm, which now has five attorneys and three support staff. Jim describes her as organized, proactive, and an excellent networker. He says she is a great trial lawyer, who is well respected by juries and judges alike.
“Jim’s intellect enables him to handle complex, high stress situations,” Amy says. “He stays calm, and keeps the clients calm.”
They truly seem to enjoy the experience of working together. And the Bentzes love the convenience of having their office in Mt. Lebanon. When renovating their offices, Amy and Jim were able to give up their gym membership downtown by building a small one in the basement of their office building.
At home, do they discuss work? “Not exclusively,” they answer. “But if something is bothering us, we consult each other.” They have three children: Victoria 21, Eric, 18, and Natalia, 12. What do their three kids think when they discuss work at home? “The kids demand a lot of attention, so they always win out,” Any and Jim agree.