PLATTSBURGH - Marion Biesemeyer has witnessed a lot of history in her 100 years of life and she plans to witness a lot more.
Biesemeyer - who spent most of her adult life in Keene and today resides at Meadowbrook Healthcare in Plattsburgh - was born Marion Hempel Feb. 22, 1911 in Germany, where she grew up and completed medical school. Though she grew up in Germany during a time of political turmoil and persecution, Biesemeyer likes to look back at the fond memories of her earlier years.
"I had a very happy youth," said Biesemeyer, who recalled the simpler times of growing up before inventions like televisions and washing machines became common household fixtures.
"We didn't have any," Biesemeyer said of many of the modern conveniences seen today.
Even the automobile - then still very new to the world - was considered more a luxury than a given for families. However, that was of no importance to Biesemeyer.
"I always liked to walk," she said. "I could outwalk the cars with the many stops they made."
Biesemeyer said she doesn't remember her family owning a car when she was growing up, let alone going through the rite of passage many teenagers go through today - driving the family car to practice for a driver license test.
"It cost money," Biesemeyer said of owning a car.
"And, I think fuel was too expensive to waste on a little girl who didn't know what she was doing," said added, laughing.
It wasn't until she moved to the United States several years later with her now late husband, Walter, that she owned her first automobile.
However, that wasn't the only major change in Biesemeyer's life. During the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Germany in 1939, Biesemeyer and her husband, a Swiss architect, fled to France, and eventually to the United States. It was a time in her life that Biesemeyer doesn't like to talk about but one that also saw the denial of her German medical degree because her mother was Jewish - something that wasn't rectified until she was 90 years old.
Biesemeyer does like to reflect on her voyage to America, however, crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a huge oceanliner.
"It was like living in another house and looking out at nothing but water," said Biesemeyer, laughing again.
The country that seemed like another world away held much promise for Biesemeyer and her husband, who eventually settled in Keene and purchased an old house and two guest cottages on East Hill which they established as "The Mountain House."
"I never tired of the old mountain house," said Biesemeyer. "It stood at the end of a great meadow ... I always liked the meadow, with lots of flowers in it."
The house doubled as both the Biesemeyer family home and as a lodging business which still exists today, run by Biesemeyer's son, Robert. After the unexpected death of her husband from a brain tumor in 1953, the family matriarch found herself solely operating the lodging business for a number of years. Though, it was something that didn't feel like a business to her, said Biesemeyer's daughter, Anne Bailey of Plattsburgh.
"She really liked living upstairs, because there was a balcony where she had a great view," said Bailey. "When the guests would come over from the other cottages, she would know she needed to go to the kitchen and get their meals or just come down to say hello."
"It was an easy way to earn a little extra money and keep the house in top shape," Biesemeyer said of running the business.
Having the mountains all around her also led her to discover a passion for skiing and mountain climbing, both of which she did well into her eighties and credits toward her longevity. And, just as she enveloped herself in the natural beauty of the Adirondacks, Biesemeyer also immersed herself in the local community, teaching French and Latin for the Keene Central School District, serving on the district's board of education and being on the boards of directors for the local library and hospital.
"I just enjoyed it," Biesemeyer said humbly of her service.
"She always tried to help wherever she could," said Bailey.
Though she felt much reward from serving her community, Biesemeyer credited the love and support of her children - which also include her eldest son, Peter, who lives in Malone - for the happiness in her long life.
"I have a great family around who has watched me to make sure I don't get into mischief. And, I could easily get into mischief," said Biesemeyer, smiling.