As she packs for France, Kohl-Laub reflects on a life of change

Bonnie Kohl-Laub


WESTERLO — “I tilt at windmills a lot,” says Bonnie Kohl-Laub.

When she and her husband, Leonard Laub, moved to Westerlo, they immersed themselves in local issues and made a difference.

Now they have sold their historic farmhouse and are packing to move to southern France.

“We saw a wonderful community with wonderful people,” says Kohl-Laub of their move to Westerlo. “In this community, basically, it doesn’t matter what you have as long as you’re good. If you’re good folk, they like you. And it’s been wonderful living here.”

Among other commitments, Kohl-Laub chaired the first Republican committee in town in modern times, founded in 2008. Now, for the first time in decades, Westerlo has a Republican-dominated town board.

Kohl-Laub was also instrumental in securing a doctor for the rural Heldeberg Hilltown after the legendary Dr. Anna Perkins died.

Leonard Laub, worried that the town wasn’t protected from a developer’s land grab, his wife said, chaired Westerlo’s planning board. Laub said in 2007, when 160 of Albany county’s 400 farms were in Westerlo, “We are agricultural here.”

Laub also said then that agriculture was the economic, cultural, and aesthetic base for the town and would be the “keystone” for Westerlo’s first comprehensive land-use plan. A plan was, after several twists and turns, finally adopted last year by the current town board.

More recently, Laub served on a committee that secured $1.7 million from the federal government to lay down fiber-optic cable and greatly expand broadband access in Westerlo. He had seen all the cars parked at night near the Westerlo library, his wife said, realizing parents were there so their children could use the library’s internet to do their schoolwork.

In this week’s Enterprise podcast, Kohl-Laub said some people had wanted her husband to run for supervisor. “We could make a mistake and not know it because our bones aren’t here,” she said.

So, she went on, “What we tried to do was bring forth people who would look out for the town.” She cited “people like Jack Milner — his family came here in 1822.” Milner, who died in 2019, was elected in 2008 on the Republican line to the Westerlo Town Board at a time when Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Westerlo, 3 to 1.

Bringing about change was not new to Bonnie Kohl-Laub and her husband.

The couple had previously lived in Westchester County and were unhappy that, although they lived in Bedford, they had a Mount Kisco mailing address. “We had a lovely, wonderful rural place,” said Kohl-Laub “except our ZIP code was from Mount Kisco.”

Because of the confusion caused by the differing place names, she said, the post office would send back everything from driver’s licenses to insurance papers. “Leonard used to get, in paper, 220 technical magazines a month, and so it was a disaster ….

“But then Leonard came up with: Can we have another town name?’ … and so Leonard came up with Bedford Corners.” The town board, in 1994, instantly approved the measure, she said, and a new ZIP code was assigned for Bedford Corners.

Leonard Laub is now tired of snow, his wife said, and so the couple is moving to the south of France — to “that little sweet spot, which is just under the Alps.” The Mediterranean is nearby.

The couple has spent time in the area and like the people living there. “They are interested, they are practical, they drive quickly,” she said. “Their whole lifestyle is how we live.”

Kohl-Laub revealed she likes to eat oysters and espresso for breakfast, which is no problem in southern France. “We are foodies,” she said. She, herself, has owned restaurants, but says her husband who has more recently learned to cook is now better than she.

Kohl-Laub grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. As a student at Coldwater Canyon Elementary School, she would sometimes ride a horse to school.

She loves horses. “I don’t think there’s anything prettier in the world than a black Shire horse,” she said of draught horses that are among the world’s largest. “I look at them and I can’t breathe.”

She credits her father and his family, particularly her grandmother — like a Mack Truck — with instilling in her a sense of fighting for what was right. As a boy, her father would ride a bus to the golf course to caddie for people, then go to school, and return to the course to caddie after school “so the money would go to the family,” she said.

Kohl-Laub’s first husband, Harvey, was an aerospace engineer who taught her to be a draftsman, she said. After working at that for four or five years, she happened to stop at a flea market, which led her into opening an antiques store.

“And Harvey ended up owning the largest movie prop house under one roof maybe in the world,” she said of his Los Angeles business, supplying movie props. “It was 140,000 square feet, 40-foot tall ceilings, and the sofas were stacked high. Even his lighting department was 10,000 square feet, and it was four levels up.”

Kohl-Laub, who describes herself as mechanical, said, “I have a love for shapes. It’s all mathematical. It’s how that shape and form work.”

She’s working now with Ray Carucci and his antiques store — Chipped, Tarnished, and Torn. As she sorts through a lifetime of treasures to pack for the move to France, Kohl-Laub divides possessions into three piles: yes, no, and maybe.

“‘Yes’ is really easy; ‘no’s are easy. ‘Maybe’s make you crazy,” she said. She consigns the ‘no’s to Carucci’s shop and takes her time to figure out the ‘maybe’s.

Asked what object held the fondest place in her heart, Kohl-Laub answered, “Leonard is my first number-one ‘yes’ item.”

The couple met in Los Angeles after a party when Laub took Kohl-Laub home. Kohl-Laub had a Russian wolfhound at home. “She was my son’s dog. She didn’t talk to anybody,” Kohl-Laub recalled. “Leonard comes in and sits down and my dog comes over and sits down and starts batting her eyelashes at him. So we always say my doggy chose Leonard for me.”

Summing up her life’s philosophy and why she advocates for people, Kohl-Laub said, “I’ve always felt I don’t care what two people do with each other; that’s their business. But you don’t hurt somebody older and weaker. You don’t hurt the kids.

“If you do that, I’m going to come after you because I just can’t stand it. You don’t have the right to push people around. You just don’t.”

She also said, “I’m a sixties girl. I am so sad the way our country is set up right now. Even in the sixties, when we were against the Vietnam War and all this stuff was going on, never have I seen such divisiveness.

“At first I thought it was just people were angry about the political correctness and they were tired of it … But now I see it’s just a license to be ugly. It’s a license to be bullies.”


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