Spotlight on Paul and Nichole Pichon
Paul and Nichole Pichon have been together since they were 16 and married for over a decade, which means they’ve been a couple for 17 years.
“We’ve been together over half of our lives,” said Nichole.
According to Paul, there were clear intentions of a future marriage from the time they began dating, although they established a relationship as best friends, he said, very quickly.
Nichole added that the plan was to marry just after she completed her college education. In an attempt to think outside the box, Paul said he had planned to take Nichole’s last name (Canada), but a gifted pair of airline tickets, naming them both Pichon, changed that, as you must match the identity on your ticket in order to travel. With that, Nichole changed her name instead, and they stuck with tradition.
Nichole had been coming out to the island since she was very little, and the couple came together a number of times, but the decision to make Pine Island their home happened two years after she began teaching at an Indiana high school and raising money for the theatre program.
“We were a school in the middle of Indianapolis,” said Nichole, “so I had a lot of students from very low income families. I put on a show with a madrigal dinner, and I had several kids handing out tickets to sell, which I didn’t want to do in the first place — I always do things for free, but they forced me to sell tickets and then some of the kids let their parents come who hadn’t bought tickets and I said it was fine, so I was held responsible for those funds not collected from the families of kids who wanted to have dinner and watch their kids in a show.”
This all happened just before Christmas break, and the couple had already been planning to come to Pine Island for the holiday. While here, the couple explained what had happened at Nichole’s school, and her father suggested they simply move down and start their own theatre, now known as Pine Island Playhouse.
“I always felt like I belonged on the island, even when I was just visiting,” said Nichole.
The two agree that even if living here had not worked out as beautifully as it has, neither could imagine living on an island ever being something they would regret, as they both tend to embrace change.
“We both had a familial safety net,” said Paul, admitting that made having adventures through life more possible.
Pine Island Leaders of Tomorrow (PILOT) takes a great deal of time for the Pichons. While Nichole works with middle school and high school aged kids, Paul works with elementary aged children, although they co-coordinate. With the Pine Island Playhouse, Nichole is the president and Paul is the secretary. Having a number of projects for both organizations simultaneously requires a degree of togetherness many couples might find exasperating.
“To make that kind of relationship work, you have to have a dedicated morning person and a dedicated night person, so you get a few hours to yourself,” said Paul.
Nichole admits it’s necessary and sometimes difficult to draw lines when it’s time to put work away. Paul, she said, is very good at knowing when to stop talking about work and move on to something else.
One thing Paul enjoys, mostly on his own, is his work on video art.
“I programmed a video synthesizer at the beginning of this year that allows me to draw and paint with a very inexpensive device on screens,” said Paul. “My favorite aspect is being able to create digital paintings in real time and it’s all moving.”
According to Nichole, Paul’s compassion for the kids he works with, along with his natural inclination to be playful, makes him an asset to the island, and specifically to both the Playhouse and PILOT program.
“Getting that kind of role model in an adult male figure is really important and special,” said Nichole. “He has the ability to be fun and childlike, mixed with creativity.”
Paul feels that Nichole’s brand of working with the kids is fitting for both her personality and the ages of the kids she generally works with.
“I think Nichole has a way of connecting with kids individually that’s really positive,” said Paul. “Being a teacher, she commands a room, which is really cool to see. She’s providing structure and learning in a way that would have spoken to me at that age, too.”
As far as their future as islanders, Nichole says both PILOT and the Playhouse are reasons for being here, and Paul agrees he has a small frame of what’s become most important.
“If there were not youth on the island, I would have little reason to be here,” Paul said. “This is the skill we offer to the island — organization, community, being with kids in a real way. It’s not just babysitting.”