Emily Cheney Neville
The Cheney family made an eight-hour drive from Connecticut to Keene Valley every summer. The family owned a large house there with a splendid view of the high peaks. Though it seemed to Emily to be an interminable trip, she enjoyed being with her parents and spending the days hiking, swimming and picnicking.
At Bryn Mawr College, Emily studied economics and history. After graduation, she got a job as one of the first “copygirls” at the Daily News in New York City. After a year, she quit and went to work for the competing Daily Mirror.
While she was working at the Mirror, she met the smart, witty and handsome Glenn Neville, the editor of the paper. Emily and Glenn were married and Emily stayed at home to raise their five children. She started writing again, including an article about a lonely, rebellious boy and his cat. After it was published in the Sunday Mirror, an editor at Harper and Row asked Emily if she could turn the story into a young adult book. It’s Like This, Cat, published in 1961, won the Newberry Award for Children’s Literature.
Emily wrote several other books for young adults. Then, after her husband died, she decided to go to Albany Law School. At the age of 57, she was the oldest person in her graduating class.
Emily moved back to Keene Valley to begin a new chapter in her life. She had her own private practice, but it was never the bulk of her work. She founded the Essex County Domestic Violence program, acted as treasurer, and helped them raise funds and get incorporated. She represented organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the Essex County Democratic Committee, the A.R.C. and the Keene Valley Congregational Church. She was often remembered to have said about any problem, “It’s no big deal.”
She looked at situations pragmatically, found solutions quickly and spent no time worrying about what was proper. Clients and organizations were often given no bill. She was once audited because the IRS couldn’t believe that a lawyer could make so little money.
Emily loved to be outdoors, have her hands in the soil of her garden, and enjoy the trails of the high peaks. She also loved to travel. She went to China and wrote a book about her experience in 1985. She traveled with others from the Keene Valley Habitat for Humanity organization to Honduras. As Emily was carrying cement blocks uphill to the building site, the people of the pueblo dubbed her “la mujer fuerte,” the strong woman.