By Natalie Taylor
To call either Bill or Howard normal is an oxymoron. But then, being outside the norm is considered a compliment by most of us who live here, because we appreciate diversity and uniqueness. It is part of the attraction of San Miguel, its magnet, its je ne se qua. Howard Hayes and Bill Harris are partners in life and have been together for 48 years. Howard loves to talk, he doesn’t mince words, and intersperses his conversation with witty remarks and self-effacing comments. Bill is just as charming but more reserved. They are both kind and generous hosts.
Howard comes from a prominent Kansas City family with roots that go back several centuries. He grew up on a large estate surrounded by horses and horse people; and learned to ride when he was only five years old. Starting at the age of 12 he participated in fox hunts in the area—the colorful red jacket and boots are on display at his home. Laughingly he’ll tell you that it no longer fits him. He graduated from Baker University with a degree in Economics but ended up working as a fund raiser for many organizations.
Bill’s youth and upbringing were light years away. Bill was born and raised in the unremarkable, small town of Mexico, Missouri where his father was a barber and a sometime horse trader. Bill served in the Airforce during the Vietnam War, and is a decorated combat veteran. While stationed in Manila, he became a frequent escort to Imelda Marcos, who told him she never bought any of her shoes—they were given to her by designers who wanted her to showcase them.
They both married and had children, but in 1990, when they met, both were divorced. They found commonality on so many levels—including their backgrounds with horses, that they moved in together shortly after. They renovated a magnificent home in Riss Lake, a suburban community near Kansas City but hated living there. The residents, according to them, “didn’t understand us and we didn’t understand them.”
Then they heard about a Colonial town in central Mexico with ideal weather, beautiful art and architecture, and a community that welcomes artists and unusual creatures of all sorts. Once they came here, they knew this was where they belonged.
Bill and Howard have lived here for 25 years and they know (and are known by) anyone of consequence. Their home in Atascadero sits on an acre surrounded by a garden filled with water features and objets d’art. Bill has an art studio where he creates exquisite jewelry. Their home is a veritable museum with art collections that Howard inherited from his family, art works that they have collected over the years, and an incredible religious art collection that surpasses private collection anywhere. Both have been involved in the community on many levels; hosting numerous fund-raisers in their home, and contribute generously to various non-profits around town. They are a wonderful addition and asset to our city.
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