One Perfect Summer

Pamela Kline loved her husband, Tom, so much that she made sure his final wish came true—to build a dream house where their extended family could vacation together.

By Lise Funderburg

Country Living
July 2009

Pamela Kline has a talent for knowing a good thing when she sees it. By third grade, she had already pegged her next-door neighbor Tom Kline as “the one.” (“He lagged a little behind,” Pamela says. “It took him until sixth.”) And those spot-on instincts also came into play 15 years later when she and Tom went looking for a home where they could spend summers with their kids and grandchildren on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.

Tom had always been seized with the urge to buy real estate when he and Pamela traveled. Over the years, he made offers on an Argentinean estancia accessible only by horseback, a French farmhouse outside Biarritz, and an island sheep ranch (no electricity or running water) off the coast of Portugal. “You name it, he tried to buy it,” Pamela remembers.

So, true to form, on the way to a wedding on Prince Edward Island I0 years ago, they stopped to look at a property for sale with a great view of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Only this time, it was Pamela who turned to Tom halfway through the ceremony and said, “I have to have that house.”

“Okay,” he answered. They stopped at the real estate agent’s office en route to the reception, made an offer, and sealed the deal.

The couple spent six happy summers in that house on the island’s north shore with their grown children, Travis and Elizabeth, who would drive up from New York with their families for weeks at a time. But Tom, who’d grown up fishing and swimming in still mountain lakes, wanted to move to the edge of a quiet lagoon on the south shore, where his three grandsons could canoe and kayak in the safe, dune-protected waters.

In August of 2005, after some initial trawling for real estate, the Klines stopped to talk with a man who was mowing his field. His property was not for sale at the start of the conversation, but by the end, they’d shaken hands on a price. The Klines sold the north shore property and set about designing Tom’s dream house immediately.

Foot-dragging was not an option. Tom, who retired from running his family’s oil company in 2004, had been fighting ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, for three years, but his illness was terminal and progressing. Since his diagnosis, the Klines had made a huge dent in Tom’s bucket list, fulfilling wishes from fly-fishing in Patagonia to ranching in Montana, with plenty of golf in between. But his desire to build a family home from scratch would require more than plane tickets and sporting gear. They entrusted the project to Martin Cheverie, a local lobsterman and close friend who builds houses during the off-season. Pamela asked for barn-size doors, view-capturing windows, a cedar-shake exterior, and an “old-house feel.”

“Martin got it,” Pamela says. “He understood exactly what we wanted.” The Klines trusted him so much, in fact, that they didn’t go up to Canada once during the five-month process. “But Martin e- mailed us photos every night,” she adds.

Cheverie finished the house on March I—just in time for the start of lobster season. When the Klines walked through the door for the first time, they found wine and lobsters waiting for them in the fridge.

The resulting three-story home has views of the water from nearly every window and all three porches. A great room was designed not to leave anyone out; here, the whole family cooks, dines, lounges, and plays cards. Shells—framed, piled, and stacked in jars—show up on shelves and side tables, and seascapes painted by Pamela’s mother hang on the walls. Most of the fabric—gingham curtains, toile coverlets, ticking pillowcases and sheets—came from Traditions, the company Pamela founded in 1974. And each room combines the handcrafted antiques she and Tom collected with piles of nap-friendly pillows, for a sophisticated yet kid- and pet-friendly effect. “You could say the decorating style is ‘anything that made Tom happy’ and ‘everything that would be comfortable for our family,’” Pamela says.

That first summer was the only one Tom got to spend in the house. He could not speak or swallow, but he could still hold a grandchild in his lap, play bridge on the screened porch in the evening, and bring shells and sea urchins back from the beach to hose down on the deck. Friends came up for weekends, and in August the family had its annual lobster boil, a potluck affair that spilled out of the house and onto its porches.

The meal included four-dozen lobsters (Martin lent his commercial-size pot to the cause); corn on the cob; red peppers; and small potatoes, grilled and heaped onto platters; and an abundance of local Prince Edward Island mussels, which cost just a dollar per pound.

Tom lived only three more months. Summers since have been marked by his absence, but also filled with fly-fishing, board games, and treks across the dunes. The oldest grandsons, Gavin and Tait, have even learned to jump off the seawall, plunging 15 feet into the ocean. “They inherited their grandfather’s fearlessness,” Pamela says. “You could almost hear him cheering them on.” She feels her husband’s presence everywhere. “It’s in his fishing gear out on the porch, the furniture and antiques that we picked out together, and in the hooked rug he had made especially for me.” And it’s in every hinge and beam of the house they dreamed up, together, and were able to share with their children and grandchildren, if only for one last, perfect summer.