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Island Profile: Adam Bundy, a life well framed

Adam Bundy works for IBM as a specialist in cloud computing inside the home on Cobbetts Lane he shares with his husband, James Marshall, a lighting designer.

But the work outside the house is where the real Adam Bundy is revealed. A gifted nature photographer, his images of Shelter Island surprise even seasoned Island sunset-observers, and his gift for gardening has turned his yard into a bower.

Like the Adam in the garden of Eden, he moves through the acre of plantings naming every plant he touches, “These are paw-paws. Here are the flowers — very orchid-like. Here’s ginger, not the edible kind. This is the cobra lily, and here is the fruit. Here are the figs.” 

This garden is no wild, overgrown jungle. James and Adam designed it as a series of “rooms” where they can observe plants as they bloom, and form fruit; places to admire the structure of limbs and branches underneath the profusion of green.

In this way, the garden reflects Adam’s personality, his urge to organize, to build and to quantify. He organized a tour of their garden last fall to benefit the Shelter Island Historical Society, and is now the newest member of the board.

Looking for direction

Born and raised in Kane, Penn., a town with a population of 3,500, about 100 miles from a big city, in a beautiful part of the Allegheny Mountains, his parents worked hard and as the youngest of three kids, “I got away with a lot,” he said. 

When he graduated from high school in 1989, he was 17 and not ready for college. He asked his mother to sign a form for him, without informing her that it was the permission he needed to go into the military.

“I needed some direction,” Adam said. “She thought it was the wrong decision, but a year in she saw it was the right thing for me.”

Adam enlisted in the Marine Corps and became a combat engineer. His five years of service took him to Okinawa, the Middle East and South Korea, where he worked with controlled detonation of bridges, and defusing land mines.

Trained as a sharpshooter, he was a natural. “I think one thing the Marine Corps liked about me was that I’m a good orienteer and range coach,” he said. I see things and frame things all the time. To really look at something a half-mile out, to find your target, it helps to frame things.”


His experience in the Marines left him with the belief that service has value for the individual as well as the community. “I think every kid coming out of school should do some service. Maybe not in the military, but a mission. I wanted a mission and I got one.”

After the Marine Corps, Adam got a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Kentucky, and worked and lived in Lexington for the next 18 years. He met a man with two kids from a marriage with a woman, and when they became partners, Adam helped raise the two boys, while keeping their mother, who had moved to South Carolina, an active part of their lives.

“I never came out,” he said. “It’s just a part of who I am.”

Adam is still close to the children, who were four and six when he came into their lives, and are now 28 and 30. His relationship with their father ended years ago, not long before he accepted a dinner invitation from James Marshall, a New York-based lighting designer on a business trip to Lexington. They quickly fell in love.

Coming home

In 2019, Adam and James, a Shelter Island summer resident for over a decade, got married in a waterside ceremony at Hay Beach. James had introduced Adam to his beloved Island in the most effective way possible — by ferry. “I loved the fact that when you cross the ferry you lose all your troubles and here is paradise,” Adam said.

He was also pleasantly surprised by the ease with which second homeowners and year-round residents cooperated. “I expected community, but I didn’t expect the continuity. There are issues, but truly people are safe and secure here. You don’t have to lock your doors or your car. The dry cleaner comes and puts the clothes right in your closet,” he said. “Neighbors are looking out for you. Here people work together.”

The COVID pandemic struck very close to home for Adam. First his mother, still living in rural Pennsylvania, contracted it, and a few days later, his stepfather fell ill and eventually died. Adam worked the phones night and day trying to manage their medical crises from Shelter Island, when they were both incapacitated.

“There was no closure,” he said. “My mom drove him to the hospital, he walked in, and that was the last time she saw him.  She had COVID, and they would not let her visit him.”

Adam’s mother, who was also hospitalized, still struggles to recover her own health.

Although Adam’s and Jame’s shared enthusiasm for competing in marathons and triathlons has taken them to Europe, Asia and all over the United States, they’ve endured their own health scares. Recently, at a competition in Iceland, James and Adam learned they both had developed a previously-undiagnosed meat allergy, caused by a tick bite, when Marshall ate a hot dog after the race and ended up in the emergency room.

“Now we both have EpiPens,” Adam said.

He’s best known on Shelter Island through his nature photography  —  which appears regularly in the Reporter — and his posts to the Shelter Island Local/Neighborhood Facebook group. His photos of nature’s light, form and texture are the visual highlight of many an Islander’s day, and part of his current mission, to make the world a more beautiful and harmonious place.

“I like to bring groups of people together,” Adam said. “I can talk to anybody in New York and anybody in Kentucky and I can cross boundaries. It doesn’t matter as long as they are a good person.” 

Lightning Round

Favorite place on Shelter Island? Watching the sun rise at Majors Landing looking at Cedar Point. 

Favorite place not on Shelter Island? Iceland.

When was the last time you were elated? The last, full Harvest Moon.

What exasperates you? The city people coming out with the bikes for the first time.

When was the last time you were afraid? When we were out of the country, James was having an allergic reaction, and we did not know where to go to find an emergency room.

What is the best day of the year on Shelter Island? Halloween.

Favorite movie or book? ‘Born to Run,’ by Christopher McDougall.

Favorite food? Adam’s burrito bowl at Maria’s Kitchen.

Favorite person, living or dead, who is not a member of the family? Rich Surozenski Sr., for his small acts of oversized joy such as the Christmas tree in Chase Creek every year.