NEWPORT CENTER - Tom Emrich is a very well known photographer here in the Kingdom. For many years, his photos of schoolchildren, with their bright smiles, combed hair, and new clothes, were sent around the world at Christmas to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. These photos today sit in cherished albums for the children's children to enjoy.
Tom also became very well known for his amazing scenic photography that captured the ever-changing beauty of his adopted home, Vermont.
But, after nearly 50 years and a small stroke in 2007, Tom has decided it is time to retire.
Born Ottomar Emrich in 1934, in the Black Forest area of southern Germany, Tom spent his formative years in Bad Homburg near Frankfurt. Tom had a brother and sister who have both died. His father, Dietmar, a German Officer, died in Russia during World War II. His mother, Kläre died in 1998.
Tom's parents were in the hotel/restaurant business in Bad Homburg, and his mother continued with the business after her husband died, until she retired. Tom noted that she was very good at it and had a successful life.
Tom's life has taken him to many places around the world. In 1956, he gave up his German life and emigrated to Canada, working various jobs for nearly four years. He traveled around to Edmonton, Vancouver, and Montreal. While in Montreal, he joined a group that went skiing in Jay Peak, Vermont, U.S.A.
While at Jay, he learned the skiing style "Natur Teknik," which was the lifelong craft of ski pro and Jay Peak promoter Walter Foeger. Tom was hired by Foeger to be an instructor.
With only a work permit, Tom had to return to either Canada or Germany for the summer months. It was this requirement that forced his decision to emigrate to the United States. He would spend his summer months in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania as a photographer. When he decided to make his living as a photographer, he moved to Vermont permanently, worked at Jay Peak, took stills and made movies. He also opened a small studio in Newport.
He married a young lady from Montgomery and built a home Jay. In due time, they were blessed with a daughter, Marie. Tom and Juna would have three other children: Laura in 1972, Matthew in 1985, and Andrew in 1988.
Jay Foto was located in various spots in Newport. In 1978, Tom rented part of the old M. H. Fishman store on Main Street. Village Pizza was to have the other half of the building but, just before the studio opened, around Christmas, the building burned to the ground one evening. The Emrich family was sleeping in the back of the studio and escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
In 2002, Tom and his family moved to Newport Center where they bought a home and converted the ground floor to a studio. This worked fine until 2007, when Tom suffered a stroke, which landed him in Fanny Allen Hospital for seven weeks. Recovery was slow and unfortunately not complete. Among other things, he can no longer drive. This means he can no longer travel to assignments.
With business steadily declining, Tom decided that it was time to retire and care for his health. His wife cares for him as well when she is not working at the school.
In August, Tom removed the sign from his front lawn, closed his studio, and packed up the contents.
One thing Tom is very proud of is the fact that in the mid-70s he was elected President of the Vermont Professional Photographers Association.
Tom now spends his time mowing his lawn (over two acres), caring for his four cats, one turtle, and his dog Bentley. That, his wife, children, and grandchildren are more than enough to take up his time.
Tom has had a remarkable career and we wish him well in his retirement, with all the happiness in the world.