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ARLINGTON — The childhood of author Stephen T. Haggerty, in which he spent summers in the West Arlington village where Norman Rockwell lived and painted, steeped him in the artist’s legacy — and that of his models.

Haggerty brings that personal knowledge of the area and over two dozen interviews to his new book, “Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and Out of the Studio.” He will be speaking at several local venues, first on May 7 at 2 p.m. at Rockwell’s Retreat, Rockwell’s former home in West Arlington.

Haggerty hayed the field of Floyd Bentley, the model for the father in the iconic “Breaking Home Ties.” A local man, Don Trachte, Sr. bought the painting in 1962 for $900. It was thought to be on display at the Rockwell Museum years later when an expert determined it to be a fake.

Trachte, who had commissioned the replica, had died, so his son, Don Trachte, Jr. searched the house for the original. Ultimately, he found it — behind a bookcase and false wall. He sold the painting in 2006 for $15.4 million. Trachte, Jr., in turn, has been generous in supporting Arlington, Haggerty says, most notably with funding for the recently built Town Commons.

By the way, Haggerty adds, Bentley (the painting’s model) was a horse trainer. Suspicious of machinery — ” he didn’t like gasoline engines,” Haggerty says — Bentley mowed the sides of roads in Arlington and Sandgate until the 1970s using teams of horses.

Carl Hess, the central model for “Freedom of Speech,” owned a gas station and cow barn. “I worked there as a kid,” Haggerty says. “He fixed tires and inner tubes,” for kids tubing on the river.

Haggerty says that most of the models for paintings from Rockwell’s Arlington years were friends and neighbors, from within two miles either side of his home on River Road. Kids and grown-ups alike called him Norman, not Mr. Rockwell, even after he had become famous.

“He wanted to be on the same plane with everyone,” Haggerty said.

For the book, Haggerty especially was pleased to have the cooperation of Rockwell’s sons, Tom and Jarvis. Jarvis, now 91, even contributed photos never seen by the public before.

The two sons were the most interesting for Haggerty to interview, as well as James “Buddy” Edgerton, whom he interviewed before Edgerton’s death last June.

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“Buddy and Ardis [his sister] lived next door [to Rockwell] for ten years,” Haggerty said. Four generations of Edgertons, including Buddy’s children, posed for Rockwell.

Rockwell lived the high life in the early years, even hanging out with F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, after his marriage ended, he sought a different lifestyle. In Arlington, for example, he loved to square dance at the local grange and to swim in water flowing under the covered bridge nearby.

Haggerty’s book, recently published, has garnered praise.

A reviewer from Publisher’s Weekly writes, “This peek into the workshop of an icon of Americana will delight Rockwell’s fans.”

“Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and Out of the Studio” is available at Northshire Bookstore, Bennington Bookshop, and Battenkill Books.

Haggerty’s upcoming appearances include:

• May 10, 6 p.m.: Battenkill Books, The Vault, 31 East Main St., Cambridge, N.Y.

• May 21, 3 p.m.: Salem Community Courthouse, 58 East Broadway, Salem, N.Y.

• June 4, 2 p.m.: Barnes and Noble, 1999 East Main St., Mohegan Lake, N.Y.


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