Photo by Samantha Moranville

Bel Rodriguez: She’s a fitness buff, fugitive recovery agent and manager of an upscale B&B who copies masterpiece paintings in her spare time

Brooklyn native Marbel Rodriguez – arguably themost beautiful 40-something woman in Ulster County – has a much more diversified and serious life than you might guess if you only saw her at the gym. The oldest of four in a family of Puerto Rican heritage, Bel, as she’s usually known, likes a real challenge in life, and she’s been presented with some serious ones. She was working in the World Trade Center when it was first bombed in ‘93. Her account of the orderly, if terrifying, evacuation leaves you breathless, until she cracks you up with its ending, when she tells you after all that “I just went to a bar and ordered a virgin pina colada.”

She’s been a United States fugitive recovery agent since 1999; for a few years she worked for Peter Brinker, a protégé of Eliot Ness, mostly assisting with matrimonial cases. After 9/11, Bel began looking for a place upstate and eventually bought a big pink house on Ulster Avenue near Price Chopper, which she renovated extensively, bringing it back to life through “blood, sweat and tears,” said Rodriguez.

In 2003, Rodriguez bought a property at 69 Spring Street in the Rondout section of Kingston, now called Bel’s Inn, catering to a global clientele with occupancy limited to two couples at a time.

Her parents divide their time between Puerto Rico and Florida, and Bel loves to dash off to Old San Juan, especially, whenever she has a few days off. Although usually self-employed, Rodriguez worked for Win Morrison Realty out of the Main Street office until the real-estate market tanked in 2008. She’s close friends with Samantha Moranville & Steve Leibowitz, the owners of Revolution Cycles, and even painted the bike shop’s pressed-tin ceiling as a goodwill gesture. Bel copies priceless masterpiece paintings as a hobby.

Since the recent death of her sister-in-law at age 32, Bel’s been taking turns caring for her three-year-old nephew who lives in Queens. Although she loves her life, the conventional path of wife and motherhood just didn’t happen for her. While she’s often asked out on dates, Bel’s extremely picky and jokes that too many men near her age in the area still live with their mothers.

What makes Saugerties unique?

Edmund Andros bought Saugerties from the natives for a piece of cloth, a shirt and a loaf of bread – I’m not kidding! There’s no caviar. And in the summer we now have these fancy ladies with their little poodles walking around town, plus the farmers chewing on straws.

What’s your favorite virtue?

Winning requires getting up off your affirmation.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Architectural design.

What is your favorite color, flower and animal?

Ruby red, the calla lily, and Kato, my alpha male kitty cat.

What do you like most about this community?

I love the commitment to preserving its heritage. It’s a very well-maintained community.

Who is the most interesting person you have met in Saugerties?

Sam and Steve have a lot of good ideas and they work really hard, too, plus they tell me which books I should read. Win Morrison is a sweetheart, he’s an elegant man, he always has something pleasant to say. He started out as a doorman and worked his way up.

What’s your idea of the perfect Saturday?

Bringing my family to Love Bites, walking to the lighthouse to watch the sunset.

Which qualities do you most admire in others?

Straight talk and twisted humor. If you have that mix, I’m your friend.

Do you have any heroes?

Wonder Woman. She’s on my coffee mug at home. She’s wisdom, grace, integrity and pride.

What’s your idea of happiness?

Inner peace and practicing random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

What’s your idea of misery?

Not having love in your world.

What talent do you most wish you had been given?

I wish I had an affinity for numbers.

What’s your main fault?

I always add too much fabric softener.

For which fault do you have the most tolerance?

Stupidity.

What’s your favorite motto?

Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

What characters in history do you most dislike?

Peter Gunn’s “Peter’s Dunn” (television theme-show music) invades my mind every time I get in the car. And Hitler of course.

What is your present state of mind?

Relaxed, like smooth jazz, Lee Ritenour….this is really nice tea.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear Saint Peter say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Take off your shoes and smoke a long cigarette. In Heaven I would smoke. Not here

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