“My career has been linear,” Catharine Hanley says, “but it doesn’t always seem that way.” The middle child in a family with five kids, she grew up in a small Ohio town, population 1,000, and earned her undergraduate degree in history (hold that thought) from Miami University of Ohio.
She was at a party, and someone asked, ‘You’re from the Midwest, right? I can just tell by your nature.’ I think he was saying I was unassuming, not loud,” Catharine says. To check my own assumptions, I ask if Midwesterners are unassuming. “Maybe he was thinking of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’,” she responds.
In an epic detour, she spent her Junior year in Europe. “Miami University has a campus in Luxembourg, and I was able to go there,” she explains. “It coincided with my history studies. We focused more on European than American history, naturally, and I lived with a family who spoke no English. That was kinda the idea: to immerse yourself in the culture and language.” Though she picked up a decent amount of French at the time, she remembers none of it.
She returned home and finished her undergraduate studies, knowing what would come next. Though her older sister, a lawyer, wasn’t exactly encouraging, Catharine wanted to follow in her path. “I was a good writer and had a history degree,” which she was told might point toward a law career.
She moved to Tampa, got accepted at University of Florida School of Law and earned her degree there. She quickly found work in the areas of bankruptcy, creditors’ rights and subrogation litigation; eventually she was a VP and Corporate Counsel at Bank of America. Her experience on the corporate side gave her a thorough understanding about how banks operate. She came on board with Hiday & Ricke in 2002.
Fast forward to now; history might be repeating itself. She and her husband have two sons, age 13 and 16. Her older son shows an interest in law. “He has a curiosity about the legal profession, and asks about how the legal system operates,” she says. She remains neutral. “He’s a pitcher on the baseball team at school, has good grades, and wants to attend FSU, UCF or UF,” she says. The family is gearing up to tour campuses.
At some point, maybe back when she was studying history, Catharine also developed an interest in antiques. “My house was built in 1926, a bungalow,” she relates. “We bought it in the 1990s, and It was a mess––with vinyl siding covering original lapboard siding. The inside was horrible, too. We gutted it and redid it.”
The project took on a life of its own. “We tried to keep it period. I did do a lot of research on that time frame—including the types of furniture they had, artwork on the walls, prints from that time frame. I was nerdy.” She and her husband filled the place with period furniture, pottery and other items. Today, surrounded by homes built in the 1950’s, their home is a showplace.
These days, though she’s a little less focused on the restoration, it’s a topic that still brings a warmth to her voice. “I love to go to antique shops and scour for stuff when I can.” When she was in law school, Catharine used to go to Micanopy [just south of Gainesville] and walk around. Even now, she likes to visit antique districts in places where she travels for work.
Though she doesn’t have much time for hobbies, she does do a lot of gardening. “I love to get my fingernails dirty, try new plants,” she says. “My sister and I joke with my mother about it. Maybe it’s in the genes.”
When they’re not working, restoring property or shopping for antiques, the family enjoys being around the water. “We go to the beach often,” Catharine says. “The boys are very interested in fishing. We sometimes kayak into the bay. I’m pretty centered on my boys.”
Author: Richard Salkin