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Love on the Rock: Cultivating love and adventure

Tech executive, classical musician, Ironman triathlete, Marine Corps veteran, nature photographer, environmental advocate, marathon runner, lighting designer, spin instructor, master gardener, loving grandfather.

You might think these words describe 11 passengers on a flight to Austin. But on Shelter Island, one couple — Adam Bundy and James Marshall — embodies them all.

Adam hails from a small town in the Allegheny Mountains — Kane, Penn. — a Civil War-era borough with approximately the same year-round population as Shelter Island.

Inspired by the stories of his grandfather who served in the Navy, Adam enlisted in the Marine Corps two weeks after graduating from high school.  “I wanted an opportunity to see the world,” Adam recalls. “I worked as a combat engineer. We built and blew things up.”

He was stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, and later served in Europe, Africa and Asia. “The 3rd Marine Division served in Okinawa for 18 months, and I returned there for the first time this year with James, on the way to the Tokyo Marathon,” he recalls. After serving in the Marines for five years, Adam studied computer science at the University of Kentucky. He now works as an executive in cloud computing.

If you’ve met Adam and detect a Southern lilt in his voice, you’re right: it comes from having lived in Lexington, Ky. for 17 years, where he helped raise his two sons, Austin and Alex, who live with their families in the Carolinas.

James grew up on a horse farm in Jackson, Mich., nearly 400 miles from Adam’s home town. He made his way to New York after high school, having been accepted to The Juilliard School in Manhattan to study the bassoon. Later motivated by the issue of climate change, James earned his Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia with a focus on environmental science and climate change policy.

Adam and James randomly met at a tech conference in 2011. Seven years would pass before their paths would cross again.

In 2018, a series of bad storms in North Carolina led James to travel from visiting his parents’ home in Michigan to the property he owned in Lake Lure to assess the damage.

He remembered that Adam lived in Kentucky, the halfway point, so he reached out to him on social media. The two reconnected for dinner, and Adam ended up following James the next day “in his Ford F150, wearing waders and wielding his chainsaw, to clear debris from the waterfall,” he remembers with a smile.

And so their love story began.

“To me, Adam is a unicorn. There are very few people as intriguing, with such a unique backstory and such diverse interests,” James said. “He has a special ability to connect with people, an infectious warmth. He’s a lovable bear that people are naturally drawn to, especially women over 50,” he added with a wink.

Adam marvels at James’s intelligence and willingness to take on new adventures and fitness challenges. “Plus, he has the best and brightest smile and those grayish-blue eyes,” Adam said.

One of the ways that Adam connects with people on the Island is through his photography of flora, fauna and Island landscapes. “It started with the pandemic. My stepfather passed away from COVID in May 2020, and I posted a picture a day. Someone from the Facebook Local group asked me to start posting there, and so it began,” he remembered.

James’s artistic passion is music. He is the principal bassoon in the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony in Manhattan, and he substitutes in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. “Seeing James play is one of the great joys of my life,” Adam said.

What is the couple’s ideal date? “We don’t do dates, we do adventures,” Adam said with a gleam in his eye. Over the course of their relationship, the couple has traveled to Iceland, the Caribbean, Norway, Hawaii and Japan, to name a few places, to compete in Ironman triathlons and take in the local culture.

Among their favorites is Iceland, which they travel to every year. “We love the natural hot springs, soaking in a geothermal river at 2 a.m. with the sun rising,” James said. The couple’s next adventure will be to Sweden this summer.

In 2009, James bought the Shelter Island house the couple now call home. Adam moved to the Island in 2018, and a year later, the two were married at an intimate gathering on Menhaden Lane Beach. The ceremony was officiated by the Honorable Bernard Graham, aka “our dear friend Bernie of Rosemary and Bernie,” James added.

They held a party for local friends on the Island “with tarot card readings under the beech tree.” They took the party on the road to celebrate with friends and family in Kentucky and Michigan, and ended at the Elks Club in Kane, Penn.

James and Adam share many common interests, including the love of their spectacular garden, the design of which led James to a career in landscape lighting design. Together, they tend the garden from spring to fall.

“We have something blooming every month of the year. We love opening up the garden to Islanders and then the tradition of putting it to bed every winter,” James said.

Other Island traditions that Adam and James relish include Thanksgiving at Trish Anzalone’s, Diwali at the Island home of Vidur Kapur, book club at Rosemary and Bernie Graham’s‚  “even when we haven’t finished the book” — and dinners with their “amazing circle of friends,” Adam said.

The two also love sharing Shelter Island with Adam’s four grandchildren. Granddaughter Sawyer Jayne, age 6, visited to attend the Historical Society’s Brooklyn Acting Lab camp.

“While she was here, we bought her a pair of sequined ruby slippers at the pharmacy, then shared in her first time watching The Wizard of Oz,” James recalled. “We later brought her to see ‘Wicked’ on Broadway, which was amazing,” Adam added.

James and Adam’s advice for other couples? Push the boundaries, grow together, and listen to what is being said and not being said.

The couple’s dreams for the future? “We want to continue to share the Island with our grandkids and leave a legacy of photography, music and our garden,” Adam said.

James and Adam, your legacy is well underway.