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Charles Kuralt's other life Scandal: The late CBS newsman had a wife in New York and, secretly, a longtime companion in Montana. The two have now met, in court.

June 01, 1998|By Paige Williams | Paige Williams,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

beautiful secretary who used to run along the Grand Central catwalk with me."

They were married on June 1, 1962, and, "I suppose we haven't spent more than a week at a time together from that day to this," Charles wrote years later. "Petie has not minded this much. People ask, 'And what does your wife do while you're away?' I say, 'She reads and when I come home, she tells me things I don't know.' "

The park in Reno sounded like a good story for "On the Road." Kuralt and his camera crew headed west. By now it was July in the blood-hot summer of '68. Bobby Kennedy was dead, too.

Kuralt's camera rolled as 700 volunteers worked the weekend away. "Almost lost in this crowd is a slight, pretty woman named Pat Baker," he told his viewers. "The whole crazy idea of building a park in two days. ... Her idea became everybody's idea."

That night, Charles invited Pat to dinner. He arrived at her house with three dozen red roses. She introduced him to her children: Kathleen, 13, J.R., 11, and Shannon, 9. He met Pat's mother, too.

After dinner, Charles and Pat sat in the lobby of his hotel and talked all night about their lives.

She was 34, he 33. She was born in San Diego, he in Wilmington, N.C. Both graduated from college in 1955, she from the University of Nevada, he from UNC-Chapel Hill. She was the daughter of an auto body worker, he the son of a teacher and a social worker. She worked in public relations; he had never wanted to be anything but a journalist, and a traveler. She had been divorced for five years, and he had been remarried for six.

'Pick a place'

"Now did you, after that evening, continue a personal relationship with Mr. Kuralt?" asked the attorney.

"Yes. He began calling me frequently and he sent me a book. It's called 'The Gentle Wilderness.' It's on the Sierra Nevada, and in it he put a note and said, 'Pick a place and we'll go there.' And he came back in September and we went hiking in the Sierra."

Every few weeks, Charles visited Pat in Reno. Sometimes they went to San Francisco but usually they stayed with Pat's children and parents. They played the piano together, dyed Easter eggs, went to J.R.'s Pop Warner football games. Pat's family adored him.

In the fall of 1970, when Pat and the kids decided to move to San Francisco, Charles helped them move and paid the rent. She worked in public relations for the U.S. Department of Labor but soon found the job got in the way of time with Charles. She quit and started her own women's rights consulting firm, Pat Shannon Baker & Associates. The business wasn't enough to live on. Charles supported Pat and the kids.

"Did you talk about that with Charles Kuralt, the support, or was it kind of an unstated proposition?" the attorney asked.

"Well, when we talked about my quitting my job, we knew I didn't have any money. ... Charles always said -- his refrain through all of his life -- 'Don't worry, we're rich,' he would say. He was the breadwinner of the family."

Pat never went on the road with Charles but they traveled together in his off time.

In 1975, they found an ad in a fishing magazine: field house for rent at a ranch on the Big Hole River in southwestern Montana, near Twin Bridges.

They vacationed there almost every autumn, renting until 1981, when Charles decided to buy 20 acres and build a cabin on it.

Charles bought it for Pat, a gift.

"OK," the attorney continued. "One question that should be directly asked is that you knew that Mr. Kuralt was married during this period? And by this period, I'll define it as throughout the 1970s and 1980s."


"Were there specific discussions about ... him being married?"

"No. There were -- I went through bouts of despair, and there were arguments, but we never directly talked about, about his

life in New York. I knew it existed. Charles -- I read in some of this material that's coming out of Washington today how there's a tendency for men of power and, and fame, to sometimes compartmentalize their lives. And I think that's what Charles did. He had a life in New York. I did not inquire into it. And he did not discuss it with me."

A retirement home

In 1987, Charles decided to buy more land on the Big Hole River, 39 acres on one side of the cabin and a 50-acre bluff on the other.

Driving around Madison County, Charles and Pat often passed the Pageville schoolhouse, a derelict old thing given over to wayward cows.

In the steepled ruin, Charles and Pat envisioned a library where Charles could write after he retired from CBS.

He paid $15,000 for the schoolhouse, had it moved to the river bluff and hired a contractor to restore it, easily a $180,000 project.

Pat oversaw much of the restoration from San Francisco, where she was getting increasingly restless. They had been together 20 years now and still Charles refused to divorce his wife. Pat decided to move to London to study landscape architecture at the Inchbald School of Design. Charles paid for it. She returned home the next spring.

Taking care of the kids

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