Born: December 4, 1895

Died: June 17, 1997

Bessie Hanmer was a private duty nurse, and a lifelong resident of Saranac Lake.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 19, 1997

Bessie L. Hanmer

LAKE PLACID - Bessie L. Hanmer, 101, of Saranac Lake died Tuesday, June 17, 1997 at Uihlein Mercy Center in Lake Placid where she had been a resident since Jan 4, 1993.

Born Dec. 4, 1895 in Saranac Lake. She was the daughter of Theodore and Emma (Habare) Hanmer.

Ms. Hanmer was a lifelong resident of Saranac Lake. Her father was Theodore Hanmer, who had a small boat shop on Lake Street where he raised a family of nine children. The boys learned the boatbuilding and woodworking trade early, and her brother, Willard, became famous as a guideboat builder. Some of Willard's boats are on exhibit at the New York state Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, and one hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum in Washington, D.C.

At the age of 19, Ms. Hanmer became a private duty nurse. The register assigned her to take care of a woman at the Lake Placid Club who was the wife of the president of the Club, Dr. Melvil Dewey. When the Deweys traveled, she traveled with them like a member of the family. Among the luxury boarding houses in which Ms. Hanmer nursed were the Alta Vista and the Santanoni.

Survivors include one niece, Mrs. Charles (Mary) Baldwin of Saranac Lake. She was predeceased by two brothers, Truman and Willard, and five sisters, Blanche, Kate, Bell, Addie, and Jane.

Arrangements are in care of the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake. There will be no calling hours. A committal service will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 20, 1997 at Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake with the Rev. Charles Monts officiating.

Memorial contributions may be made to a favorite charity in care of the funeral home.


Bessie Hanmer: T.B. Nurse. (Notes from an interview with Bessie Hanmer on January 16, 1992, by Mary Hotaling.)

Bessie grew up in Saranac Lake in the atmosphere of climatic treatment. She was Theodore Hanmer's daughter; Willard Hanmer was her brother.

There were two classes of T.B. nurses: those who worked in the big sanatoria and those who catered to wealthy patients as private duty nurses and companions. Patients were directed to regulate their patterns of life according to their temperature; above 100 degrees they took bed rest, and above 102 degrees they were not even allowed to hold a book or reach for anything. 

Bessie worked for Mrs. Annie Dewey (wife of Melvil Dewey of the Lake Placid Club) as a private nurse. Bessie said that Mrs. Dewey did not have T.B. Apparently she was a heart patient.

Patients were lonely and yearned for attention.

Regarding the railroad: "North of Utica all persons were unmarried. The conductor would come through and announce that all wedding rings could come off."

Her test for friendship was: would this person be one with whom I would like to cure?

Bessie worked at Alta Vista, where there was a good view (as also at the DeChantal Apartments). She was also taking care of her father (Theodore Hanmer) at that time.

At the Santanoni Apartments, patients could go to the dining room for dinner if their temperature was below 99 degrees.

The Keough and Fortune funeral homes handled several bodies a week, as opposed to about one per week in a town of comparable size.

There were supposedly seven stills and many bootleggers in Saranac Lake. If you sent a jacket to the cleaners and wrote "W" after "clean and press," it came back with a pint of alcohol in the pocket.

At the time of this interview, Bessie was still living at the DeChantal Apartments, age 97.



2013-02-14 20:00:09   I believe the photo is of Annie Dewey, not Bessie Hanmer. —MaryHotaling