CGP Community Stories

Marjorie Landers, November 21, 2011


Marjorie Landers, November 21, 2011


Hospice care
Cooperstown (N.Y.)
Bed and breakfast accommodations
Cake decorating


Marjorie Landers is an important member of the Cooperstown community. She was born in New Jersey in 1940. Striving to achieve at a high level in many areas, she has raised a family, attended nursing school, and run two successful businesses.
Her decision to attend nursing school in her thirties took her life in a new direction. During this period, Marjorie Landers balanced raising a family with the demands of school. She graduated from nursing school, and moved her family to Cherry Valley, just outside of Cooperstown, New York. She started work in radiation/oncology floor at Imogene Bassett Hospital, bringing cheer and hope to the patients on her floor. A few years later, Marjorie Landers left Bassett Hospital and began working with hospice care. She considers her work with hospice to be the most important and meaningful work of her life. Caring for many patients in the area, Marjorie Landers brought peace to many families who had sick loved ones. After a few years working with hospice, Marjorie Landers decided to return to Basset Hospital and began work in Agricultural Health. She was in charge of farming families in fifteen counties, and she made sure they received the same medical attention and treatments as everyone else. Today, Marjorie owns the White House Inn with her husband, Ed, and runs her own cake decorating business. She hopes in the future to enhance her art skills, and spend as much time as she can with her family. Marjorie Landers truly exemplifies what it means to live life to its fullest. Because the interview takes place at the White House Inn, there is a lot of background noise going on throughout the interview.


Tori Eckler


Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta




New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY


28.7 MB
27.5 MB
16.9 MB
8.15 in x 6.11 in








Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission



Tori Eckler


Marjorie Landers


White House Inn
46 Chestnut Street
Cooperstown, NY


Cooperstown Graduate Program
Research and Fieldwork Course (HMUS 520)
Oral History Project
Fall 2011

Interview with Mrs. Marjorie Landers by Tori E. Eckler

Interviewer: Eckler, Tori E.
Interviewee: Landers, Marjorie
Date: November 21, 2011
Location of interview: Cooperstown, New York

Archive or Library Repository: New York State Historical Association Library,
Cooperstown, NY

Marjorie Landers is an important member of the Cooperstown community. She was born in New Jersey in 1940. Striving to achieve at a high level in many areas, she has raised a family, attended nursing school, and run two successful businesses.
Her decision to attend nursing school in her thirties took her life in a new direction. During this period, Marjorie Landers balanced raising a family with the demands of school. She graduated from nursing school, and moved her family to Cherry Valley, just outside of Cooperstown, New York. She started work in the radiation/oncology floor at Imogene Bassett Hospital, bringing cheer and hope to the patients on her floor.
A few years later, Marjorie Landers left Bassett Hospital and began working with hospice care. She considers her work with hospice to be the most important and meaningful work of her life. Caring for many patients in the area, Marjorie Landers brought peace to many families who had sick loved ones.
After a few years working with Hospice, Marjorie Landers decided to return to Bassett Hospital and began work in Agricultural Health. She was in charge of farming families in fifteen counties, and she made sure they received the same medical attention and treatments as everyone else.
Today, Marjorie owns the White House Inn with her husband, Ed, and runs her own cake decorating business. She hopes in the future to enhance her art skills, and spending as much time as she can with her family. Marjorie Landers truly exemplifies what it means to live life to its fullest.
Because the interview takes place at the White House Inn, there is a lot of background noise going on throughout the interview.

Key Terms
New Jersey
Nursing School
Cherry Valley, New York
Bassett Hospital
Agricultural Health
Cooperstown, New York
White House Inn
Cake Decorating

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2011

ML = Marjorie Landers
TE = Tori E. Eckler

[START OF TRACK 7, 0:00]

This is the November 21, 2011 interview of Mrs. Marjorie Landers by Tori Eckler for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded at the White House Inn. So, I was thinking maybe you could start by telling me a little bit about where you grew up?

I was born in New Jersey, just over the George Washington Bridge, in Bergen County. My dad was from Brooklyn, and my mom was from Staten Island. I was the first child of four. I grew up in Maywood, New Jersey, and lived there until I was around forty. At that time I moved to New York State. I am seventy-one now, so I lived my life from age forty to seventy-one in the Cooperstown area. My early life was happy. I had wonderful family. I was accomplished as a child. I got good grades in school. I had a lot of self-confidence. At least people tell me that, and I think I did. I did feel as though I could accomplish what I wanted to. I could set my mind to it, and get things done as I wished. As a child, I lived in a typical post-World War II development area in New Jersey. Lots of small homes that looked almost identical to one another, and lots of kids growing up. A fun, fun place, it was mostly family oriented, and very safe feeling. I got married very young, right after I graduated from high school in 1958, much to my parent’s dismay at the time [laughter]. I threw it at them that they got married young too, so they really couldn’t battle me too much on it. I started a family very young too. I was only nineteen when my first child was born, my son, Mark. He was born in 1959. My husband was a house painter. Each of us had only high school education. I had my second child in 1961, also a boy his name is Scott. Basically raised my family. In 1964 I had a daughter, her name is Tracy, and after that I had my fourth child, my final child, in 1970, and her name is Amy. So I had two boys and two girls, an ideal family in a way. Things were pretty much, what shall I say, normal in many ways. I don’t know, what's normal [laughter]? So I concentrated on raising my family, and taking care of the children at home. I actually did work part time, during those years. We had two children when we wanted to buy our first home; we lived in an apartment before that. We needed to raise a down payment, which at the time, in the early 1960s, was only about a thousand dollars for a down payment. I worked as a waitress in the evening. I continued to work off and on as a waitress, in between my children [door opening] until I had my fourth child, Amy. Amy was born when I was thirty, and, two years later, when I was thirty-two I started nursing school at Bergen Community College. I did this at the encouragement of a very good high school friend of mine, who also married young and raised her family, and started to go to school. She would stop buy my house every once in a while and say, “Margie, I think you should do this. You should go to school, and get an education.” At the time, I was nervous about it because I hadn’t had any schooling since high school, and I was nervous about whether or not I could do it. But, I started out taking one course, English I think, was the first course I took, and I did very well in it. I quickly learned I could do as well as the eighteen year olds that were just starting college. That was very encouraging to me. For the next four or, five years, I actually went to school part time, and continued to take care of my family, with the four kids at home. I graduated with a two-year degree in nursing, and I started working as a nurse. At that time, my oldest child, Mark, had graduated from high school in June of 1977, and then I graduated from nursing school in January 1978.

How did your family feel about you deciding to go to nursing school?

The children. —Let’s see when I started, I was thirty-two, I’m trying to think how old they were, Mark might have been about fourteen years old, early teenage. —I think they were happy that I was going to school. They had no objection to it certainly, but I think it was hard on the kids, and hard on the entire family because I was so busy, and I had to study. I remember times when I would tell them, “Look I’m going in this room, and I’m going to study, I don’t want to be bothered, I don’t want to be interrupted.” They were very good that way. They allowed me the time to study. But talking about life being hectic, my life was really hectic then, because the kids were very busy too, they had their activities. I tried to still attend all of their baseball games, and their soccer games, and all those activities that they valued. When my daughters were in scouts, I was also a Girl Scout leader, so I tried to keep busy with that, and not to certainly make them feel neglected. I definitely had my hands full. I remember after I finally finished the two-year program in a period of between four and five years, some of my friends in school who were single mothers at the time encouraged me to go on with my schooling, saying “you should go on now, because if you don’t do it, you may never do it.” I remember thinking I just can’t put my family through any more school right now. I really needed to step back and give more attention to my family because it was hard for them, with a mother going to school. I don’t know if it’s any different than a mother going to work, but certainly they did make their sacrifices. I remember once we decided, in order to help with dinner meals, that everybody in the family, every night of the week, someone will make the decision about what to have for supper [beeping]. We started doing that, and then we could all pitch in, and make the meal. That didn’t last too long because one night it was hotdogs, and the next night it was pizza, and the next night it was maybe McDonald’s, and the next night it was [laughter]… And we went on with those meals for a while until I said, “Oh no! This is not a very healthy way to do this.” It just didn’t work out. We got through my nursing education, and I think the kids were generally happy. I would say if my children were here having this conversation they would probably say they had a fairly normal upbringing, which is great [beeping].

How was your husband able to help pick up the slack when you were away at school?

This is interesting, he was there for the kids, I’ll say he was there most of the time. I always felt that he could help a little more. He did have his own business. I would say about that time, the relationship was tough. I did know that I needed a better education. The marriage was shaky, and I did foresee in the future that I might have to support myself. So that was something in the back of my mind, knew that I might have to work. Sure enough, that actually did happen eventually. We moved upstate from New Jersey [beeping] in 1981. It was after my third child, Tracy, graduated from high school. We moved that summer so that my youngest child, Amy, could start school in September of 1981 [door opening]. Amy was eleven years old and attended school in Cherry Valley, and made friends quickly. The other children were all off doing their own things. That was a very nice move, we actually had bought a summer home here two years earlier, a weekend home I’ll call it, previous to our permanent move. We got to know people here, and that was when I was convinced that we actually could be happy in upstate New York; I was hoping that we could be happy here. My husband started a painting business locally, and Amy started school, and we quickly became acclimated to the area. I did too, and I started working at Bassett Hospital as a nurse, and I loved working at Bassett. I thought it was a great place to work, and we continued on. When Amy graduated from high school in 1988, that’s when my first marriage really started to fall apart [voices in the background], when there were no children at home to keep us together. That was a tough time for all of us. I’d always felt over the years that I possibly had made a mistake marrying my first husband, but I stuck with it [door opening]. I was raised with a strong sense of responsibility in marriage, knowing that when you get married, you get married for life, and you raise your family. I always felt that after you get married your first responsibility is to your children, and their happiness and their well being, and not your own. I stuck with it for a number of years, with that sense of a responsibility, until my last child was out of the house, and then I knew that [tea kettle] in many ways I felt as though I wasn’t really living a truthful life, an honest life. So I did separate from my husband, and that was very difficult. Who knows when the right time is for a family, when there is a breakup of a marriage. Even though the children were grown, I think it was a struggle for them, particularly my oldest child, who was already thirty years old. That was a hard time for them, and for me, and also for my entire extended family because this was a long relationship [door opening]. We were married over thirty years when I ended that marriage. But as all things hopefully go, we all adjusted. My children thankfully understood my reasoning for ending the marriage, even though they were sad about it, they understood, and told me they understood. That made me feel a little bit better about things. The year was when that my first husband and I separated, and we actually didn’t divorce for two years. He met someone, and he decided that he wanted to remarry, and that’s when we got our divorce, in 1991.

That must have been really hard on you.

By then we had been separated for two years. Both my former husband and I had adjusted to the fact that this was the way it was going to be. He was ready to go on with his life, and I was ready to go on with mine as well. I was still working as a nurse at Bassett and by the time I was separated and divorced from my husband, my first child Mark was already married, and he had a child. I had one grandchild. It is interesting that, bringing up the grandchild, I began to realize, at the time, there would be more grandchildren, and another generation of children, and if I waited longer to make this change then it would be another generation of people that I would have to explain it to, and make it more difficult for. That’s one of the things that convinced me that I needed to end the marriage when I did it. To go on, I was working as a nurse. I had a good job. I could tell you a little bit about my nursing career if you’d like to know.

Can you tell me what kinds of areas of nursing you worked in?

When I first graduated from nursing school I worked in a county hospital on a medical surgery floor. It was a very good experience, but I really felt, when I was in nursing school, that I was going to work in maternity. That would be my goal. I mean I had four children myself [coughing] and I always loved being pregnant. I enjoyed my children, and I thought that would be an ideal place to work. I loved the maternity training, and the early childhood training, that was wonderful. Also, there were areas of practice in nursing school that I didn’t like, and that I knew I didn’t want to work in after I graduated. One was Psych. Psych to me was very discouraging when I was in nursing school because I felt that people struggled with the illness, but they often never really got better. Believe it or not I did not like pediatric nursing either because it was heart wrenching for me to see small children who were ill, and in the hospital, being poked and prodded all the time; missing their homes and missing their mommies. Those were two areas I knew I never wanted to work in. Interestingly enough throughout my whole nursing career, I actually never worked in maternity. I didn’t actively seek it out, and it just never happened. I worked in med serg for the first couple of years, and then I worked for a brief period of time in dialysis, hemodialysis. Nowadays most people who have dialysis get peritoneal dialysis, [voices in the background] that’s where they can do their own treatments at home, but still some people have to have hemodialysis, where they come to the hospital, and they actually have their blood changed every other day. I realized then what a tough way to live with a disease like that is, kidney disease. I really had a lot of empathy for patients and families who have to deal with that disease [door closing]. I liked that job, and I realized then that I liked specialty nursing. It was not too long after that that my first husband and I decided to move upstate. I left the dialysis job, and I started working at Bassett Hospital. There happened to be an opening at that time in radiation/oncology. I never knew that I would—I hate to use the word “enjoy”—I found that I really liked giving emotional support to cancer patients, so I did take the job in radiation/oncology, and I worked there for five years. I used to occasionally give chemotherapy to patients, but most of the time supported the patients that were getting radiation therapy for cancer diseases. I left radiation/oncology in 1987 and started working in hospice care. Actually as I look back at my experience with hospice I realize that it was probably the most meaningful work that I have ever done in my whole life. Somehow people often react when I tell them that I worked in hospice care—that it must have been really tough—and there were times when it was tough, but when a hospice nurse goes to visit a patient even for the first time, and a family, she knows what the outcome will be. The object or your goal in your nursing care is to give the patient support, to hopefully make them comfortable, and pain free, help them to come to acceptance of their illness and their pending death, and also to help the family come to that too; have their own comfort about it, and to be comfortable and caring for their loved one. Hospice care is ideally done in the home, where personally I think, most people who are dying really want to be. If you could help the family do that care at home, and help them to understand what the stages of the physical part of dying were, so that they wouldn’t be in a panic when their loved one came to the point of death. You taught people, you taught families about what would be normal, for instance to become accepting of the fact that their loved one might not be hungry, and might not want to eat, and that that was okay. I had so many, particularly the wives, who were used to caring for their husbands, make their husband’s favorite meals thinking that this would encourage them to eat, and the patient would be all enthused about having this meal be made for them, and when the food was set in front of them, they really didn’t want to eat it. The spouses would be so disappointed, and felt like they failed because the patient was not able to eat it, or didn’t want to eat it, or had no appetite. Trying to help them to understand that when the body is breaking down and when the body is preparing for death, it doesn’t always want nourishment, and it was okay. It was very rewarding for me to be able to help people to go through that process in a peaceful, calm way.

Yeah, I’m sure that the families that you were helping, they must greatly appreciated what you were doing for them.

Oh they did. They appreciated it so much. When I started with hospice, hospice was just becoming certified in this area, and I was one of the first nurses hired. It was a very small staff, and now it’s huge! The hospice in this area has grown tremendously over the years. I don’t know if the nurses can do this now, if they have the time to do this now because of the patient load, but when I worked for hospice I attended all of my patient’s funerals. After the funeral was over, I also visited the family afterward for a few visits. I would stop by and see how everybody was doing because I’ve always felt for people who lose a loved one, they’re busy while the patient is sick, and then they’re dealing with the funeral and all the relatives and friends who come, but then at some point following the funeral everyone else goes back to what you call a “normal life” and the person who has lost the loved one has a life that is totally different. I think that’s something that people who deal with families like this need to remember; that life is very different for them, and it takes a while to adjust to life without your loved one. I had a consciousness for that, and I loved my people, and they never forgot me. I still see people once in a while whose loved ones I took care of (and this was a good many years ago now), and if I still meet someone somewhere they know me and I know them, and there are hugs, fond memories of that time. I think that people are always very appreciative, especially if things go well. Since I no longer work for hospice, one thing I do encourage families to do when they have a situation like this is to engage hospice earlier on than they might typically want to, because if hospice has a chance to develop a relationship with the caregivers, it makes such a difference in the end. As opposed to a last minute relationship where you don’t have that trust, and things can be challenging when it gets down to the last part of a person’s life. Anyway, that’s my hospice experience and it was really wonderful. I left hospice interestingly enough, and came back to Bassett Hospital to work in Agricultural Health. It’s funny because I think that I’ve said to people over my nursing career that I do get a little bit of a five year itch [laughter]. Things change as life does even in your job, and I still have a very fond feeling in my heart for hospice care, but I did leave. Hospice was changing and they were starting to take patients with much more longer term illnesses, and I really did not want to do long term care, and this opportunity came to come back to Bassett, and work in Agricultural Health, so I took the job there. This was in 1991, around the time that I got my divorce, and I changed, so I went with this Agricultural Health program at Bassett, and I must admit...[END OF TRACK 7, 29:59]
[START OF TRACK 8, 0:00]
…it took me a long time to recognize the value of the work I was doing in Agricultural Health because after you work in hospice care and you work with dying people, there isn’t much else more important than life and death [laughter], shall I say. It might have been a little bit like delivering babies if I’d ever done that. It was life and death, and especially the death, is such a significant part of life. When I started working in Agricultural Health I had to keep telling myself, “this work you’re doing in Agricultural Health is also important.” It took me a while to adjust to that.

Can you explain to me a little bit about what Agricultural Health actually is?

At the time, Bassett Hospital and their Agricultural Health Department, which was called the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, worked with farmers and farm families…
[END OF TRACK 8, 1:19]
[START OF TRACK 9, 0:00]
…I worked under a program that was federally funded to place nurses in the agricultural community to do several things. One, to track farm injuries and illnesses which was not previously well tracked because, the farming community in some ways are very—what shall I say—closed among themselves. Farm families tend not to seek medical treatment as readily as other populations of people. Farm families live very frugally sometimes and don’t take advantage of community services the way they could [telephone ringing]. Sometimes accidents happen on farms and unless it’s a really serious accident, or illness, or a death, you don’t always hear about it. The federal government was very interested in learning about these illnesses and accidents that happened on farms. Our first purpose was to take a certain area, in all there were nurses in fourteen states, assigned to work with farm families. There were four nurses in the state of New York, one in the southern part of the state, Long Island area, and believe it or not there were farm areas out there. I learned a lot about farming when I took this job. Then there was one area in the eastern part, the Adirondack area, and the very eastern part of the state. I was in central New York, and there was a nurse also in the western part of the state. I learned that New York is a very diversified state agriculturally. Even though we have big cities in the state of New York, we also have a lot of farming, and we also grow a lot of crops here. We have dairy farming, crop farming, and grain farming. It’s amazing how much of the state produces a variety of farming products. I had fifteen counties in Upstate New York, including the county I live in [Otsego County], and several counties out toward the west, up to the area where the western nurse took over. We subscribed to a news gathering organization that would actually send me things that were in area papers that I might not necessarily hear about. They would send me reports of farm accidents, and then I would go out to visit. A social worker and a nurse worked together, and it was actually wonderful. We got to go on the road and drive in the country almost every day of our work, and it was really great. I established a very close relationship with the social worker as well, who is still a very good friend of mine. We would visit these families unannounced because we didn’t want them to worry, or have fear that we were just being nosy. We would visit a family and express our concern about how the family was, particularly if it was a serious accident, or a serious illness. A lot of people don’t know this, but there are a lot of deadly gases that are involved in farming. I know several people who have lost family members because of these gases that occur in farming. Of course the equipment they work with can be the reason for accidents and they can be very maiming accidents or even deaths when they have these accidents. We tracked those and made sure the family got the services that they needed, and encouraged them to take advantage of those services available in their communities. Mental health is another thing that they deal with too, and they needed to take advantage of those services they can get from their communities. In addition to collecting information, we also did a lot of farm safety teaching. The whole staff at NYCAMH, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, worked together at farm fairs, the state fair and local county fairs. We would go to those fairs and hand out safety information about farming. About having rollover protection on your tractors, and about wearing sun block for skin cancer because skin cancer is a big issue with farming. We would do skin checks on people for free, and offer whatever services we could to help farmers and farm families. We also had a children’s program for child safety because a lot of farm families ride children on tractors—(you’ve probably seen it yourself), or have children do farm chores [laughter]. That can be very unsafe, and so we discouraged having children ride on machinery unless they actually had a proper, safe seat. Just like we have safe seats in cars now. We did a lot of teaching, and a lot of health checking. We did lung evaluations for farmers too. If they needed help we had doctors right here at Bassett who knew a lot about farming, and knew a lot about the conditions that farmers have, and the things that could help them.

Was there something specific you had to do in order to get certified for this Agricultural nursing?

We did have certification, as occupational health nurses. It was kind of a new thing when I started working in this, and there was also a certification in work-place safety. Not just farming, I mean in industrial work places, and places like factories that nurses get involved with now. Nursing is an amazing occupation because you can go in lots of different directions with it. I’ve told my kids it’s a great career to think about because there’s so many opportunities in nursing. Anyway, so that’s my story with NYCAMH, wonderful people worked in that field. I met wonderful people, farmers and farm families. I learned a lot about living in the country, the families who live here, and families who live on the land. That was another wonderful experience. Anyway while I was working at NYCAMH I was introduced to my present husband, Ed, by a couple that I’ve known most of my life; the wife had gone to high school with me. Ed, who was living in New Jersey in the same area where I had grown up, had raised his family there, and his first wife at the age of forty had developed Lou Gehrig’s disease. My understanding is that that disease gradually gets worse and there is no cure. She died when she was forty-five years old [coughing]. Ed and I met in 1993. I was fifty-three years old, and he was fifty-one, and the following year we got married. There are interesting stories about when we met and when we got married, but not enough time ofr those now. He had three children, I had four, and they were of similar ages and all grown up. Everyone was out of college, everyone was on their own. Ed and I developed this kind of long distance relationship where one weekend he would come here, and another weekend I would go there, to New Jersey; we did that for almost a year. We got married on April 30, 1994, here, in Cooperstown.

How did the rest of your [coughing] families seem about when you guys were dating, and then married?

It’s interesting—to step ahead a little bit, I mean everyone, all the children get along well, now they all have their own families. At the time I only had one grandchild, and now we fifteen. We do call all the kids our own. My former husband died a few years ago, and he was included in the family group too. We were all very friendly, which was very nice for all the kids. Ed’s kids knew my first husband, and whenever we had a family gathering we always included him in the family gatherings. It was very nice, in fact my kids thanked me, and thanked Ed, for that friendly relationship because it made it easier for everybody. It was good, I liked it that way too. When we first met, Ed’s wife had been deceased for four years, and I had been divorced for a few years. My kids, I would say, were very enthused that I had met someone. Ed’s kids, his youngest child, Peter, was the same age as my youngest child, Amy. He was just out of college, and still living at home. Peter was very enthused for his father, that his father met someone that he could be happy with. His oldest son, Eddie, was living in Arizona, so I didn’t get to meet him at first. He came home to be with his dad at Christmas time and I met him then. I only really was in his company a few times before we got married, so I think it was a little harder for Eddie to get used to the idea that his father was moving on with his life. Ed’s daughter Michelle was studying for her doctorate in Hungary at the time, so I didn’t meet her until Easter time, which was in April, and we were getting married on April 30th. I think for his kids it was a little harder—at least this is my interpretation, I don’t know what they would tell you—but I was very conscious of the fact that this was definitely a transition for Ed and his family. That had to be a little struggle. I know that they loved their mom very much, and I understand that she was a wonderful person, and Ed told me that when he asked me to marry him. He said “my first marriage was very happy, and I would like to be happy again.” Mary Jo is buried in New Jersey—and we’ve talked over the years about having her body moved here because Ed and I intend to be buried here when we die, and I think that she should be here too. Hopefully we’ll all be buried together—Ed will be in the middle, his first wife on the left, and I’m on the right—I don’t know one way or the other. I think that loved ones who are deceased need to be honored, she’s down there in New Jersey, and no one’s there anymore. Guess I’m getting off the subject. Over the years, Ed and I, both, I think, have developed wonderful relationships with each other’s children, and it’s good, all good I would say. In the meantime, we’ve had all these other grandchildren born into the family, and they know Ed as “Grandpa,” and his grandchildren know me as “Grandma.” Both of us have tried to keep it that way. I know all his grandchildren know they have a grandmother who died before they were born, and that’s fine, that’s good. There is a grandchild also named after Ed’s first wife, which I think is wonderful because people need to keep loved ones in their memories.

So Ed moved to Cooperstown right after you guys got married, or did it take a little while?

No, I actually moved back to New Jersey where I grew up to be with him because he was still working in a Wall Street business. He was actually working from home. He was—in 1993, right before I met him—in the World Trade Center when the bomb went off. You may not remember that, I don’t know if you were born then, but I guess you were born then, 1993?

Yeah, I would have been four.

That was the first time there was an attack on the World Trade Center. We were supposed to have met in January 1993, backtracking to when we met. Our mutual friends were going to introduce us, and he was supposed to come here for a visit, and we had a big Nor’easter snow storm, and he cancelled; perfectly understandable that he cancelled. We didn’t get to meet until June, but in the meantime, that incident at the World Trade Center had happened, and Ed was in the building at the time. There were a few people killed in that I think, the bomb was in the basement, and he was on the sixty-first, or sixty-second floor. He escaped, but it was frightening, very frightening, so he told me. In 1994, in April, we got married, and he started working at home in his own financial business. I think at the time he thought that we would always live in the suburbs of New York City, but always have a second home here. I still had a home here [near Cooperstown]. We talked about it once, and he said, “This is where my business is, but we’ll always have a presence in Cooperstown.” I did love living in Cooperstown, and I think in my heart I hoped that we would come back someday. As the year 1994 went by and into 1995, the whole financial market started to change. The business was not what Ed hoped it would be, so he started to think about the possibility of moving here [Cooperstown], and doing something entirely different. I had actually had a little experience with B&B when I was in nursing. I started a little B&B business when I lived in Cherry Valley, New York, which is right near here. I still worked as a nurse, but did a little B&B business on the side, on weekends and summers, in a small way. When we talked about what other business we might do, if we came to Cooperstown, I naturally suggested that we do the B&B business. I knew that Ed had the kind of personality that it took to be in that type of business. He’s a people person, and he’s very hospitable, and very charming, likes people. That’s when we decided to look for a place here in Cooperstown, where we could do a B&B business. We started to look for real estate, and of course, I lived in Cherry Valley, which is a little further out in the country. I had all my favorite places all picked out, out in the country, and Ed, being the business minded person he is, knew that we needed to be somewhere into the center of the tourist activity to make a business out of it. So that’s what we did [whispering]. We started looking for real estate…[cat interrupts]…this is my cat, Bootsy [laughter]…We started looking around for real estate, and we looked at some houses out in the country, and some in town. We decided on this house, here at 46 Chestnut St. and it belonged to the local dentist, who everyone in town knew, and came to the dentist here. The dentist had retired about five years earlier, and had been renting the house, as it was for sale. It’s funny because when I worked in Cooperstown as a nurse, I used to come through here all the time and saw this house; thought it was a nice house, but never actually dreamed I’d ever live here [laughter]. We put Ed’s house on the market in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and ended up renting that for several months before it actually sold, and the renter actually ended up buying the house. We sold the house that I had previously owned here, and put all of our finances into this house, and started to make some changes in here to accommodate guests. We opened on Mother’s Day weekend in 1996. I remember, we only had two rooms ready the first weekend that we opened, and we had two couples who came to watch their sons—they actually were from New Jersey—and they came to watch their sons play baseball on Doubleday Field. We, surprisingly to us, had snow on Mother’s Day weekend, and the games were cancelled, and that was our first experience with B&B. I stayed up almost the whole night before they arrived, getting ready for them. I was a nervous wreck, but it all worked out well, and we grew from there. We added more rooms, and worked very hard those first few years, and Ed did too, doing the hospitality business. We learned a lot as we went I think [laughter].

How many people do you usually accommodate in a given summer?

Oh my goodness, the total number would be very hard for me to come up with, but on a daily basis, at the peak of our season, we can have anywhere from sixteen to twenty people every day for breakfast. In this business, you’re busy all the time. One thing that I learned in the B&B business is that you work from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed. It’s a pleasant business, and I always liked the idea of working at home. There’s a part of my personality that really loves to be home. I’ve always loved my home, and home has always been important to me. I know I’ve always said this about the B&B business, that if your business is also your home, you have an opportunity to have a lovely home—because it has to be lovely if you’re going to have guests here—and you can work at home, which is nice, and have some tax write offs, and make a living out of your own home [telephone ringing]. It’s a nice home business, it really is. It was 1996 when we opened, and we’ve continued to grow over the years. We added the two rooms in the carriage house, we do have a pool in the backyard which was here when we bought the house. We were very fortunate to have that because, believe it or not, people are attracted to this property because we have a pool. Although, when they come here they don’t use it that much; they think they’re going to, but they don’t, except if there are kids with them, then the kids will draw them into the pool. We knew right from the beginning that the B&B business, as it is today, had grown and matured to the point where people were very happy to stay in a B&B, but they don’t want to share bathrooms. They want all of the amenities that you get in a hotel, but the ambiance of a home. We concentrated on making sure that every one of our guest rooms had a private bath, so we added lots of bathrooms. When we bought the house there were already four or five bathrooms in the house; now we have eleven [laughter]. We added all these bathrooms, including a separate powder room because what we realized the first year that we were in business is that people would come on a given day, especially in the busy season, and they’ve been traveling a long way, and the first thing they want to use is a bathroom. If their room wasn’t ready for them to go in, if they showed up early, they still want to use a bathroom [laughter]. We quickly realized that we had to have a public restroom that people could use as soon as they arrived, even if it wasn’t the one they would have with their room, so we added a powder room early on. We concentrated on making a great breakfast every day. We have always served a full breakfast with fresh fruit, homemade muffins, a main dish, coffee, and juice. The other thing that we do that I think that’s special here is that we use fine china on the table, and we set the table as beautifully as we can, and always use cloth napkins and napkin rings. We make it as pretty as we can, and we always serve a different breakfast to the guests every day. They never get the same breakfast twice. They often never get the same dishes twice. We have lots of sets of china and we try to do it differently every day, and when the guests come out to breakfast they say, “Oh wow! That’s really pretty!” In fact, guests come in and they’ll see the table set for breakfast, and they’ll say “Oh! Do you serve dinner? [laughter]” “No, that’s for breakfast,” we’ll say. When we first opened for business, I was very particular about the table setting. I’d be setting the table at midnight or one o’clock in the morning, and my husband would say to me, “Why don’t you let our employees set the table?” I said, “Because I’m fussy, and I want it to be perfect.” I learned, finally, that I could allow the employees to set the table with the one reserve that I could change anything I didn’t like. Over the years, I’ve gotten very used to the fact that that’s actually a really fun thing for the employees to do, as the last thing they do before they leave their jobs for the day. They enjoy being...
[END OF TRACK 9, 29:59]
[START OF TRACK 10, 0:00]
…creative with the table settings [whispering]. I like them to be a little eclectic. It’s one thing to set a table with dishes that all match, but when you can mix and match them, and still make it pretty, it’s fun. Now they do it, and I’m fine with it.

How many employees do you have here at the inn?

We have—as we’ve grown, and as Ed has added other buildings and businesses to what we do—we have a full time handy man. I have in recent years backed off working at the B&B because I’ve developed another business that I’ll tell you about in a minute. I was getting tired of working from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, as I’m growing older, so my sister and her husband moved into the inn. They now live here, and Ed and I have moved out and have another home outside of the B&B. That happened about three to four years ago. My sister is the innkeeper now, so she is also an employee of ours. We have a full time, year round, housekeeper. In the summertime we add two more housekeepers to our staff, and everybody works as a team to get done what we need to get done here. Even Mary, who is our wonderful, young housekeeper will someday go on to another career of her own, but for now she’s doing this, and she does a great job, but she also helps make muffins, serves breakfast, helps us clean up the kitchen afterward, and does laundry. It’s a team effort to keep the place going.

I know you have cake decorating business as well. How did you get started with that?

Well, when Ed and I got married I made our wedding cake. When some of our children were starting to get married, I’ve made all the family wedding cakes. I’ve always done cake decorating, even when my children were little, I enjoyed making interesting, special cakes for their birthdays, usually theme oriented. I remember when my oldest son was five years old I made him a train cake. It had the engine, the caboose, and all the ones in between. My mother also was extremely talented artistically, and I think that I, my sister, and all of my siblings, have an artistic ability. It was really the art part of it that I liked, and I do do art too. I’m an amateur artist. What I like about the cake decorating is the art part of it. I made cakes when I lived in New Jersey as well. I used to give wedding cakes as gifts to friends. If I was invited to a wedding and they asked me to make the wedding cake, it would be my gift to them. I did that even though I was working as a nurse. Then when I moved here, I knew I had the capability of making cakes, but there were other people around here who made cakes too. I think you have to be careful when you move to a community like this, a small community like this, not to step on other people’s toes. I just kind of kept that cake thing to myself. When we opened the B&B—and I had my hands full working at the B&B too—I still occasionally gave cakes to friends. I delivered several of them, including my own wedding cake and my children’s wedding cakes to the Otesaga. The Otesaga finally called me one day, and this was about fifteen years ago, and said, “Would you mind if we recommend you because we like your cakes a lot.” I thought, “Well, I guess so, sure, it’s alright.” That’s really how my business got started. When I first started making cakes I strictly did it for the Otesaga, and then little by little word gets around in a small town [telephone ringing], and some of the caterers knew that I made cakes and started to recommend me to people. I’ve continued to do that and my cake business has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. I’m pretty busy with cake. I actually have been busy every single week this year, and it’s now Thanksgiving, and I thought I would be done with cakes for the year, and I’m still making cakes every week. That’s how my cake business started, just by inches I guess you could say. I’m flattered that people like my cake, and keep coming to me. I am getting a little tired though. I make my cakes here at the inn, and they’re busy in the morning with breakfast, so I can’t really get in here until at least noon to start my baking, and my cake decorating. In my busy season I end up working quite late at night, and I think I’m just getting a little bit too old now to keep the hours that I sometimes keep. I am thinking seriously about cutting back. I’d actually like to find someone who has an interest in the cake business [telephone ringing], to start to work with that person and help them to develop a business, so that I can start to back off a little.

How do you manage to keep up with everything that you do?

Well a few years ago, as my cake business was growing, I did say to Ed that I was getting a little tired of the B&B business. I think that when you get tired in the B&B business it’s good to recognize that, and it’s good to think about whether you should continue in the business because attitude counts a lot when you’re in this business. You have to always be on for your guests, and you have to be cheerful and energetic. When you see a guest come in the house and you start hiding in the kitchen, that’s when you know [laughter/coughing] you shouldn’t be doing this. I said to Ed, “I think it’s a great business, I still think it’s a great business, and I would recommend it to anybody who likes hospitality.” But, I knew I was getting tired. Ed is still happy in this business and doesn’t really want to end this business, or sell the business, so he’s not ready. He told me, “If you’re tired it’s perfectly alright to back off.” That’s when we had my sister come in and do the everyday work for the B&B. When needed I might greet a guest, or I might answer the phone if there’s no one else to answer it, but basically I don’t have a full time responsibility here anymore, and that’s good for me. Now I have a full time responsibility with my cake business [laughter]. In my life, I eliminate some things, and then very quickly something else takes its place. I’ll always be a busy person.

Is there anything else you’d like to do after the cake decorating winds down?

I think at this point in my life I would like more free time. I do like to do art, I have always done art, I’ve actually even taught art a little bit. I’m a self-taught artist, but I do love it and I’d like to share it with other people. I do a little bit of folk art, and a little bit of landscape. I’ve taken lots of art lessons, even up to now, I still will join a class once in a while and do it. I would like to have more time to do art at my leisure. Now that we have all these grandchildren, I would like flexibility of being able to visit when I want. I guess I have to say that at my age now, seventy-one, that I am ready to be at least semi-retired. Be able to have the flexibility of my time, and do more enjoyable things. Not that I don’t enjoy what I do, I do actually, and I always have.

Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about that we haven’t covered?

Well let’s see, I’ve told you my whole life story [laughter]. I’ve told you about my businesses, the things that I’ve been involved with all my life. I had the fortunate opportunity to have my parents live long lives, and have them with me until I was well into the age I am now. My dad passed away a year ago, last July, and I was already seventy years old. How many people can say that? Being a nurse I always wanted to have the opportunity to take care of my own parents when that time came. Over the years, I have taken care of other relatives who have needed my help as a nurse. When I was still married to my first husband I took care of his mother until she died. Right after Ed and I were married, his dad, who was widowed at the time, became unable to live by himself, and so in the first year of our marriage we took his dad in to live with us. He actually was still with us when we opened the B&B and lived with us the first year that we were in business, until he died. Then, a few years later, my mother’s sister, who never had any children of her own, she was in her nineties and she was unable to live alone in Staten Island. I was contacted when she became ill and Ed and I decided to take her in to live with us, and so Aunt Edna lived with us until she died. She died in 2006, and then, in 2008 my mom died in Florida, and my dad was left alone. Within that year he also became ill, and we took him here. By that time my sister was here with us too, and so my sister and I went to Florida, packed him up, and brought him here. He lived with us for two years until he died [telephone ringing]. I opened myself up to taking care of my spouses’ parents. Then, my Aunt Edna too, because I didn’t want anyone to object when I wanted to take care of my own parents, and I was able to take care of my father. That made me very happy, and he died here with us too. I guess if I had to analyze my life or my personality I would say that I like the role of a caregiver. I did it in nursing, and I also did it in this business because in the hospitality business you’re still doing care-giving in a different way from nursing. That’s what I like. I went to a baby shower for my niece over the weekend and if you’ve ever been to a shower of any kind, they like to play games at the shower. When we all first came in to my sister-in-law’s home, my niece, whose sister is having the baby, pasted a sticky note on the back of every guest who walked in the house. It was all about this game about famous mothers, so we had sticky notes on our backs, and it was up to us to ask other guests questions about the mother who was on our back, to find out who we were. We were all asking each other questions about who was the mother whose name was on our back. I turned out to be Queen Elizabeth [laughter]. I wanted to be Mother Theresa, but my sister-in-law, who is also a nurse, was Mother Theresa. I had to keep asking these questions—well was she alive or was she dead? Was she old or was she young? Was she an American? Was she a movie star? You ask all these questions until you finally figure it out. I asked “Was she a politician?” “Well, not exactly,” was the answer. They said, “But she is in charge,” and I’m thinking, “Okay.” Now, my siblings would always call me Marge-in-Charge, and I didn’t particularly like that label [laughter] but I finally guessed that it was Queen Elizabeth on my back. So anyway, that was kind of fun. I think being the oldest child in my family, my siblings and my in-law family and grandchildren are all looking at me in some ways as the family matriarch, and my cousins too. I have a big family [clearing throat]. I guess that’s who I am. I’m not sure I want that title, but my mother would say if she were here, that I did always like running the show [laughter].

I guess that’ll be the next job that you have afterwards.

We’ll see [laughter]. I don’t know. I don’t know if I want a lot of responsibility anymore. I just want to enjoy my life, and I do expect—you never know, every day I tell myself, “one never knows how long life will be.” My next youngest sibling, my brother George, died at the age of fifty-seven of pancreatic cancer, and yet my parents lived—my mom into her late eighties, and my dad into his nineties—so I fully expect that I will live that long, but you never know, do you? You have to live your life like this could be the last day of your life, as they say.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me. [END OF TRACK 10, 18:25]



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Tori Eckler, “Marjorie Landers, November 21, 2011,” CGP Community Stories, accessed March 21, 2019,