Vows: Two Men Gone Country and Their Dreamgirls

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Vows

By LINDA MARX

Cooper Boone is a study in contrasts. He has square-danced for nuns and saw fit to croon the theme song for Powdermilk Biscuits from “A Prairie Home Companion” at his father’s funeral in Minnesota.

Dr. Boone, now 52, also holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate in clinical psychology. He’s had a psychology practice in Manhattan, where he had an apartment. And he’s traveled the United States performing and producing country songs.

But as for socializing, Dr. Boone, who had been known to prefer the solitude offered by his 1886 farmhouse on the upper part of the Delaware River, said, “I was successful with work,” but struggled in his personal life, which was marked by a difficult childhood in a Midwestern town in which he said he never quite fit in. “I preferred to surround myself with Great Danes.”

Nevertheless, his friend Lynne O’Neill tried to introduce him to Mark Veeder, a successful event producer who had a loft in SoHo and a weekend home upstate, in Forestburgh, N.Y. But Dr. Boone demurred.

“I asked her not to bring him to meet me,” said Dr. Boone, recalling the rainy August day in 2001 when Mr. Veeder and Ms. O’Neill, a producer of fashion events, popped over to Dr. Boone’s farmhouse in Shohola, Pa.

He was laying a bluestone patio and was covered in sludge. “I looked like a chapter out of ‘Deliverance,’” he said. “I ran into the house and brushed my teeth. It is very important to have good breath.”

Mr. Veeder, now 53, was ending a long relationship and was skittish about meeting someone new. He thought Dr. Boone exuded great style with good looks, but mistook his uneasiness for arrogance.

“I thought he was cocky, aloof and full of himself,” said Mr. Veeder, who spent much of his boyhood in Greene County, in upstate New York, chopping wood, clearing fields and helping his father build their mountaintop home.

Ms. O’Neill, who was renting the guesthouse on Mr. Veeder’s property in Forestburgh, said she thought the men would click, “each being a creative, get-things-done kind of guy.” So she arranged to have them join her at the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, N.Y. later that month, where the men walked around talking and flirting, as Mr. Veeder spoke about tending to cows and horses as a member of the local 4-H Club. “I knew they could make real magic as a couple because the energy was there,” she added.

Mr. Veeder, who is now chief executive of VP & C Marketing & Events in Manhattan, regaled Dr. Boone with tales of how he won the state’s 1979 apple pie baking championship. Dr. Boone confessed that he didn’t fit into his small Minnesota town, located near the fictional Lake Wobegon. He had casually dated but was a constant student and workaholic who hid from a personal life.

After awhile, sparks flew. “In front of the corn-dog stand, Mark’s forearm grazed my arm, and I got a tingle that went up my spine,” Dr. Boone said. “I thought, ‘I like this guy.’”

The next day, Dr. Boone sent Mr. Veeder a white orchid. This gesture began daily telephone chats while both men tried to keep the romance on a slow boil. “I liked Mark’s urban fanciness together with his country rootedness,” Dr. Boone said. “I was slowly starting to let go.”

After their second date, on Sept. 10, 2001, they agreed to meet again the next night, which was Dr. Boone’s birthday. But Dr. Boone spent his birthday in a car fleeing the attack on the World Trade Center. “After the bombing, I was driving one of the first cars out of Manhattan, worrying about Mark because we couldn’t reach each other,” Dr. Boone said. “It wasn’t until the next day that we connected to learn the other was O.K.”

On Sept. 19, they walked hand in hand around Manhattan, viewing a makeshift memorial to 9/11 victims, and recognizing the names of some of Dr. Boone’s patients and some of his friends. “We were both vulnerable and raw, and bonded over this tragedy,” Mr. Veeder said.

“Something transformative happened amid the devastation,” Dr. Boone said. “It took the horrific Sept. 11 to break down my wall and see love being born.”

Soon after, Dr. Boone enjoyed his first home-cooked meal (steak and pasta) prepared by Mr. Veeder, who also is a founder of Farmacy, which produces a line of direct-from-the-farm skin products featuring something he calls Echinacea GreenEnvy. “No one in my life had ever prepared me a meal, it was so sexy,” Dr. Boone said. “ I was in love and told him.”

Mr. Veeder shared the sentiment: “Cooper was his own person, a peer with a career who did not rely on me like my ex had. I wanted a partner who challenged me, and I found that in Cooper.”

By December, the romance was so hot that Dr. Boone asked Mr. Veeder if he could leave his toothbrush at his SoHo place. Mr. Veeder responded by asking Dr. Boone if he would like to move into his loft. “I had to leap, I couldn’t run,” said Dr. Boone, who had never lived with anyone. “I didn’t think it through, I said yes.”

The next morning, Mr. Veeder left for work leaving two toothbrushes spooning together with a note: “Thank-you for leaping with me. I’ll see you real ‘spoon.’”

This was the beginning of their toothbrush narrative, which continues today. “Toothbrushes have always been our way to connect,” Mr. Veeder said.

Dr. Boone soon experienced more of Mr. Veeder’s warmth, sensitivity and generosity while renovating his Pennsylvania farmhouse. One day he appeared with candles, a blanket and a fully prepared meal. “Mark does amazing things like that,” Dr. Boone said.

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Later that month, during a trip to Paris, Mr. Veeder was buying promise rings at Cartier when one got stuck on Dr. Boone’s finger, causing him to suffer a panic attack. “The panic attack only helped strengthen the relationship,” Mr. Veeder said, laughing.

But problems began when, only four months after becoming a couple, the men leapt into a side business of renovating old buildings. Between 2001 and 2003, while working full time in their other careers, they bought and renovated a building on the Delaware River in hopes of reviving the small town of Barryville, N.Y.

Being together so many hours each day gave them no down time to unwind. They had power struggles over who does what and began to fight. So they tried therapy, hoping it would help them develop into a happy couple.

“Cooper had never been in a relationship, and I had never been in one with someone who was so vocal about his feelings,” Mr. Veeder said. “ Therapy was good for us because I was open to more communication. I just had to learn how to cope with it.”

Being a psychologist himself, Dr. Boone was not only comfortable with couples’ therapy, but also very forthcoming. Together, they learned to clearly define roles and respect each other’s talents.

“Mark is a dreamer and gets uncomfortable, but to his credit, introspection made him grow exponentially,” Dr. Boone said. “I learned I don’t always have to say something. He can speak for himself, and now he has insights that blow me away.”

Esther Perman, Mr. Veeder’s longtime friend and partner at VP & C Marketing & Events, described what makes their relationship extraordinary: “They accept each other without restrictions or limits. They give each other the freedom to excel at what each does best.”

In 2013, while grieving over the death of his father, Mr. Veeder believed he needed more meaning in his life. He pushed Dr. Boone to start a family, despite his partner’s fears that they were too old and too busy.

“I wanted children, and we had discussed this many times, but I was slower to agree,” Dr. Boone said.

After finding a surrogate, who had two embryos implanted, they suffered a setback when the woman returned to her native Costa Rica over her husband’s visa issues, ran out of hormone medications and aborted their twins.

The men were devastated. “It was a huge loss and constant challenge for two guys to have children,” Dr. Boone said.

But this time, it was Dr. Boone who persuaded Mr. Veeder not to give up. “They re-evaluated and just did it,” said Jonel Langeneld, Dr. Boone’s close friend. “Through constant struggle, joy set in.”

Their second surrogate brought them twin girls, CeliaRose Boone Veeder and Crosby Boone Veeder, now 23 months old. They are raised during the week in the country by Dr. Boone, who sings and dances and is introducing them to the soundtrack from “Dreamgirls.” When Mr. Veeder arrives from Manhattan for long weekends, he takes them outdoors to enjoy nature.

On June 26, 2015, the day the United States Supreme Court ruled that gay couples nationwide had the right to marry, Dr. Boone came into the city and met Mr. Veeder at their loft. While riding the elevator, Mr. Veeder, who had created a bouquet, got down on one knee, and asked, “Will you?” Dr. Boone, unsure if this was really happening, since they already had promise rings and weren’t actively contemplating marriage, replied, “I’ll think about it.’”

Three days later, Dr. Boone awoke to a toothbrush message from Mr. Veeder: “Pickles (Mr. Boone’s nickname), will you marry me?” Ecstatic, Dr. Boone wrote back on his toothbrush: ”Yes!”

The couple chose to wed on June 25 this year, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decision.

Their ceremony was in the tranquil back garden of the house on seven acres in Forestburgh, where 140 guests gathered for the ceremony officiated by the couple’s friends, Angela Kaset, who became a Universal Life minister for the occasion, and was the legal officiant, and Lindy Morgan, another friend, who also became a Universal Life minister.

In his vows, Mr. Veeder said, “I vow to believe, nurture and support all of your inspiring dreams but ponder together the consequences before diving in head first.”

Dr. Boone followed: “My entire life I searched for a place to belong. But I never found it, so I gave up. Then you showed up, showing me a place at the table where I could be my uninterrupted self.”

After the teary-eyed couple embraced and kissed, each grabbed a daughter, held her close, then exited to the song “Stand By You.” At the reception, in a clearing beyond the vintage barn, guests gathered around handmade welded-metal and wood tables which Dr. Boone had arranged for a buffet.

Before dining, Dr. Boone surprised Mr. Veeder with a song that he had written for this day. He sang the chorus once, then asked guests, who were given the lyrics, to join him for the refrain:

“You can live by yourself

You can gather friends around

You can choose one special one

And the only measure of your words and your deeds

Will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.”

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