by Marla Davis

The end of the 1980s in Weirton, WV put a spin on Bill Gearhart and Donna Marcotte’s future.

Donna’s arrival as a new hire for the Pittsburgh-based consulting company for which they both worked and occupant of the cubicle adjacent to Bill’s called for prompt acquaintance with the company’s coffee resource.

Bill pitched in and gave Donna the scoop on the coffee routine, as well as lending her his coffee mug. As Donna says, “We were both pretty smitten from the first handshake.”  Bill instantly responded,“… that I remember like yesterday.”

Within a year, they had established themselves as experienced technical communicators and discovered their common interests. Both enjoyed the outdoors, nature, and adventure. With those qualities in mind, they added “career opportunity” to their list and moved to Houston.

Opportunity calls
Although farther away from their families, Donna and Bill realized the value of relocating to a progressive city hosting Fortune 500 companies in the oil and gas (O&G) industry, and access to the water – Bill enjoyed boating and fishing.

The 1991 STC chapter was, according to Bill, “really strong  . . .  [and] . . . a great help in both of our careers.” Donna received an offer from Exxon, and Bill started as a contractor with Texaco Refining and Marketing. Then, nine months later, he joined Candle Corporation, where he gained several mentors, including De Murr, CJ Bibus, and Judy Glick-Smith.

Donna emphasizes the role of the Houston STC in their lives as “a huge professional and social contact,” and its strength and vitality through “very dedicated, very helpful people.”

Careers expand
Donna’s six years with Exxon on a software development team included “all the communicative things: requirements gathering, documentation, interface design, and usability testing.” In addition, she says, “I worked with a great group of people, and learned about the oil and gas industry – where I still do most of my work today.”

She really enjoys the O&G industry finding the combination of technology, economics, and politics “fascinating.” She adds that the industry has provided ample opportunity to travel, including one year working in Norway from 1998 to 1999.

While Donna was away, Bill continued his work in Houston at BMC Software and took care of Bruce, the Peek-A-Poo who “found us on Valentine’s Day, 1996,” Donna says. The three of them had more than eight years together before Bruce became ill at age thirteen. Bill says, “Bruce was legendary and well-known to quite a few ‘STC-ers.’” Bruce’s everlasting gift to his pet-parents was a timely introduction to two Pekingese canines in need of rescue: Sam and Fefe, who were warmly welcomed into the family.

Home beckons
In June of 2006, this dynamic couple felt the lure of living closer to family, where seasons number four. The workday commute in Houston impinged upon their time for outdoor recreation, and they believed in their ability to re-invent themselves in a less populated community. After fifteen years of career advancement and community involvement, they moved to Huntingdon, PA.

Their home is situated on a ridge, facing northwest, overlooking a small town, a broad valley, and distant ridges. Bill says, “We were very lucky to find this place and fit our work lives around a different lifestyle.”

Donna explains that their new local friends consider them “a bit of celebrity [and] curiosity.” She adds that people often want to know, “How did you end up in Huntingdon?” and, “What do you do here [to earn a living]?”

Work in the valley
Donna and Bill are both self-employed. Donna maintains her communication consulting business ( that she started in Houston. She works mostly from home, still supporting Houston-based clients, making several trips a year to Houston. She is also happily connecting with the O&G industry in PA, which is experiencing resurgence with the development of the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas play with a large portion located throughout central and western PA. She’s the secretary and communication coordinator of the Pittsburgh Petroleum Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

Bill works as a consultant with CommTech Services (, consulting mostly from home and teaching technical communication workshops around the country.

After hours
Donna does persue other interests and hobbies, especially painting. She enjoys bringing new color to their home’s walls and furnishings, and painting as an art. Although her art materials are in storage more than they are out, she recently brought them out again when her niece came for a visit specifically to paint with Auntie Donna.

She says she tends to “over volunteer,” so she’s been welcome in her small rural community, which relies heavily on volunteers. She has helped with the local Health and Wellness Association, and the annual Mayfest, and both she and Bill are graduates of the 2007 class of Leadership Huntingdon County, a local leadership outreach and training program run by the County and local chamber of commerce.

When they were still in Houston, and while Donna was in Norway, Bill obtained his U.S. Coast Guard license. Not surprisingly, he takes to the waters of Huntingdon, including Raystown Lake and eleven boat launches – two of which are marinas.

Captain Bill spends part of his summers conducting boat cruises as the captain of  the Proud Mary, a 50-ft-long, mock-paddle-wheel tour boat. According to Donna, he gets a kick out of telling people, “You know, I left a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day . . .” (a la Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary).  

“I’ll pretty much fish for anything, anywhere, any time,” to which Donna adds, “I have a theory that there is a fishing gene and I don’t have it.” She continues, “He never met a fish he didn’t like.”

Their favorite local Huntingdon restaurant is Boxer’s, which serves customers in a 150 yr old building, offering good food and a variety of local beers. Donna says they have “the best hand cut fries” and “did I mention the homemade carrot cake?” She describes the ambience of Boxer’s as comparable to the television series “Cheers” where everybody knows your name.

Life is good
Together, Donna, Bill, along with their loving and faithful canines, Sam and Fefe, begin their days with a morning walk, and coffee time afterward. They still have the coffee cup Bill shared with Donna twenty-one wonderful years ago.

Work fits in between regular dog walks throughout the day. They take time out for lunch during their “peaceful, lovely” days, where there are “no commutes, no traffic, no office politics.” Bill and Donna feel fortunate in many ways, having achieved their dream of fitting work into their lifestyles, rather than the other way around.

Their character, personalities, and experience enabled them to gracefully pass the profile interviewer’s mystery challenges. As Donna said, “This has been really fun.” 

If in the area, …
Huntingdon County has about 45,000 people, and the town of Huntingdon about 8,000, living among the hills and valleys of this small rural county just south of Pennsylvania State University. It is about a three-hour drive to Pittsburgh and the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. The town is also home to Juniata College, a small liberal arts school.

The last Saturday in April, Huntingdon hosts its annual Mayfest, and in the summer, beautiful Lake Raystown awaits. And, of course, a boat tour with Captain Bill is a must-do. Donna and Bill have already had visits from a few Houston STC-er’s and would welcome more.

Raystown Lake (
— a nearly 30-mile-long lake created by an Army Corp of Engineers dam on the Raystown branch of the Juniata River
— Proud Mary Tour Boat, Lake Raystown Resort & Lodge, 814.658.3500

Marla has twenty years as copywriter, marketing consultant, and package design for an independent entertainment corporation.

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