Peter A. Deysenroth, November 13, 2021

Title

Peter A. Deysenroth, November 13, 2021

Subject

Bloomville, New York
Cooperstown, New York
First Presbyterian Church
Freemason
Funeral Director
Glimmerglass Festival
Henry Janeway Hardenbergh
Ingalls, Connell, & Dow, Inc.
Lion's Club
Mohican Club
Mortuary Science
Music
Norwalk, Connecticut
Weston, Connecticut
Organist

Description

Peter A. Deysenroth was born in Norwalk, Connecticut on September 28th, 1966. He was raised in Weston, Connecticut and showed an early interest in mortuary science. Today, he is the funeral director for Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Inc., a funeral home located on 82 Chestnut St. in Cooperstown, NY. After working for a funeral home in Norwalk, Connecticut for many years he moved to Cooperstown in October 1994 and began working at the then Ingalls, Connell, & Dow, Inc. funeral home and became the sole owner in 2005.

Deysenroth is involved with a variety of different groups around Cooperstown including the Masonic Fraternity, the Lion’s Club, the Mohican Club and First Presbyterian Church. He has been the organist for First Presbyterian for about 25 years.

Mr. Deysenroth spoke about the many differing facets of his community engagement around Cooperstown as well as his experience raising a family. He was interviewed at his funeral home parlor on November 13th, 2021.

Creator

Morgan Pigott

Publisher

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

Date

2021-11-13

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

Audio/mpeg Track 1
27.4 mB
Audio/mpeg Track 2
25.0 mB
Image/jpeg
3.33 mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

21-012

Coverage

Norwalk, Connecticut
September 28th, 1966

Interviewer

Morgan Pigott

Interviewee

Peter Deysenroth

Location

82 Chestnut St.
Cooperstown, NY 13326

Transcription

PD = Peter Deysenroth
MP = Morgan Pigott

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

MP:
This is the November 12, 2021, interview of Peter Deysenroth by Morgan Pigott at the Cooperstown Graduate Program Research and Field Work course recorded at his funeral home in Cooperstown. Ok, to start out with, can you please state your date of birth?

PD:
September 28, 1966.

MP:
Can you tell me a little more about your childhood?

PD:
Sure, I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut at Norwalk Hospital but that was the closest hospital to where we lived which was Weston, which is in Fairfield County. Born and brought up in Weston and my parents were Paul and Elaine Deysenroth, and I joined my brother who was four older than I, and his name is Paul. So, there is Paul Deysenroth Jr., Paul Deysenroth III, and there is a fourth as well. My middle name is Albin which is my mother’s maiden name, and we grew up at our house in Weston, which was out in the woods. It was two-acre zoning in that municipality, and so we were kind of secluded. It's old family property that been there for many years. We had a good time playing out in the woods, riding our bikes on old paths out in the woods, you know it was a good time.

MP:
How did you first become interested in mortuary science?

PD:
I don’t know, that’s the easiest answer. The best way I can figure is when I was nine my grandfather died, my mother’s father, and my family believed in having the kids be a part of the process. Which was visitation, open casket, service at church, and burial. And I remember being fascinated by how it all worked. You know, how does a person get to a cemetery, whose car do you use, they have a special car for this, finding out all about that. A year later my great-grandfather died and a little bit later on another grandfather passed away so I was kind of exposed to it in a short space of time and I just remember being fascinated in a good way. I just thought it was interesting, and I have always had an interest in cemeteries. They have always fascinated me; the history, the stone, the monument work, things like that. You could ask my poor wife, we drive by a cemetery and I have to pull in and see what is there. But that’s how I think I got interested. I went through high school, my poor guidance counselor didn’t know what to do with me. He had never had anybody go into this field and my brother sort of did the same to his guidance counselor four years earlier because he wanted to be a dairy farmer and nobody where we lived had anything to do with farms, so we took interesting paths in our lives. I went to Herkimer County Community College first for one year, and then Simmons School of Mortuary Science in Syracuse, and wound up getting an associate's degree from Herkimer because the other school didn’t have it and I needed that to practice in Connecticut. So that’s kind of the outline of the beginning of my career.

MP:
Can you tell me about what drew you to Cooperstown, why did you first come here?

PD:
It’s a little complicated, so bear with me on this one. So, my brother and I grew up in Weston. He went off to Delhi Ag[riculture] &Tech[nology] to study dairy farming and that was in 1980, graduated in ’82 and started working on a dairy farm outside of Delhi. He met his wife there and they were married shortly thereafter and they are still married, live down in Bloomville. I started to visit them and met his wife’s sister and then over time we started dating and then we wanted to get married, and I was living in Connecticut at the time and she was living up here in this area. So, I started looking for funeral homes in this area that needed somebody and after some false starts I wound up at this funeral home here at 82 Chestnut. They were looking for somebody, I was looking for a funeral home to work at, so that’s how I came to Cooperstown. And then a year later my wife and I were married, been here ever since.

MP:
Can you tell a little bit more about how running a small business operates in Cooperstown?

PD:
It’s kind of nice operating a small business in Cooperstown, especially when you know everybody, everybody helps everybody out for the most part. As far as, I'm not sure I understand what your question is.

MP:
Was it any different working in this environment versus back in Connecticut?

PD:
Ah ok, this is a much more rural, small-town feel. Where I was working in Connecticut for eight years after I got out of mortuary science school was a bigger city, it was Norwalk. There were five funeral homes there, very distinguished as to what funeral home handles what families and what churches and things. Here you serve everybody. I like that, but it gave me a lot of experience down there for when I came up here, if that answers the question.

MP:
Yeah, thank you. So, how has your professional career as a whole influenced your personal life?

DP:
When you are in the funeral business, the funeral industry, funeral service it becomes part of your entire life, especially when you run a small funeral home like mine. You’re on call 24/7, 365 days a year, so it’s just a constant part of your life. You get used to that. It can be frustrating at times because it is very unpredictable, you never know when the phone is going to ring or someone is going to come by, but you are serving people and helping people through a very difficult time so that’s why I do what I do.

MP:
What do you think are the most enriching parts of your job, I know you said you enjoy helping people?

PD:
It’s being faced sometimes with tragic situations, sometimes not so tragic situations, but meeting each family where they are and finding out what they need, what they want, and helping them get through the process of getting things done. There is an author, I can’t remember his name right now, but he [said] "We put the dead where they need to be and we put the living where they need to be," and so that’s what I do. Not every day, it’s a small town.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about what you are involved with in the community?

PD:
Sure. My family has always had a strong connection with the Masons, the Freemasons, Masonic Lodges, so [when] I became 21 the owners of the funeral home where I was working got me involved with the Masonic Lodge down there that my family had always been involved with, and I got very involved there. Served in all the chairs, went through the state. And when I moved up here, I got active with this lodge, and I enjoy it. I enjoy the fellowship and just the whole philosophy of Masonry. I also got involved with the Lions Club here, which is something I had never been involved with in Connecticut, but when I came here to this funeral home, the two owners were very active in Lions and so it was just given that I would join the Lions. It has been fun; it’s a true service organization, it's not like the Masons, it’s a totally different thing, and it's serving the community, helping our fellow community members. And this year, I served for 22 years as secretary, and then they made me president, which I am serving as right now.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about the events and community service you guys do?

PD:
For Lions Club?
[MP nods head]

PD:
Well, let’s see we sell Christmas trees at Christmas time. That has been the standard of our club for many years and then we use that money to help people who need help and sometimes those requests come through an email: "I need help getting Christmas gifts for my kids I don’t know where to turn," so we very quietly give people some money and so that’s how we raise the money and that’s how we give the money out. Some things we give to automatically like little league; if people need glasses and have no funds, we provide eyeglass exams and eyeglasses. So that’s just a thumbnail sketch of what we do.

MP:
Is there any areas that you wish to expand that further into?

PD:
Not sure what you mean.

MP:
Sorry, is there any other pathways you want to take for those charitable endeavors? Is there anything else you [Lions Club] wish you could do?

PD:
I guess I’m not clear.

MP:
Sorry. Just working just working with all of your charitable events are there any future goals you wish to do as the president?

PD:
Well, right now I don’t know. We are sort of working on everything that we put in place. We just dedicated a new pavilion at Badger Park, and we had a cornhole tournament as part of it to raise money for a new fund we are creating at Basset through Friends of Basset for families with children with cancer, so we are just starting to finish that up. We are looking at a couple other options, I can’t really say what they are right now because they are in the formative stages, and we may or may not do them. But we continue to look; just last night I had a board meeting here with our nine board members, right at this table, and kind of tossed some ideas around. It’s a very young club; I’m the old guy [chuckles]. But it’s a good group of people; they are really dedicated.

MP:
Can you tell me more about some of the relationships you have built through organizations such as these?

PD:
Sure, when I joined the Masons especially that’s a fraternal organization and when I was in Connecticut the people that I met in that lodge became my best friends. They were in my wedding. After I moved up here, we sort of drifted apart, but I formed new relationships with people here and they are my best friends not only at the lodge but in everything else we do socially. I know I can always depend on them. Does that help?

MP:
Yeah, thank you. I know you mentioned you were very active in your church can you tell me a little bit more about that?

PD:
So, growing up we lived in Weston but went to church at the First United Methodist Church in South Norwalk, Connecticut, which was a half hour away, which was kind of an anomaly. Most of my friends, all of my friends either went to temple in Westport or went to the Catholic church in Weston or the Episcopal church, and they couldn’t figure out why my family and I were driving a half hour every Sunday for church. Reason being my mother’s side had been with that church for many generations. When I joined, I was the sixth generation to join that church, so we were very connected there. I grew up with church being a part of my life. We went to two services every Sunday. I grew to love the music in the church, and I was already taking piano lessons and then allowed to try out the pipe organ, so it’s part of my life and something I have always enjoyed. When I came up here, they had a need for a substitute organist so the organist could take a Sunday off, so I started doing that for bit. Then, the position opened up at First Presbyterian. The organist left, and they needed somebody, so I applied, and they took me and I have been there ever since; it's almost 25 years now.

MP:
So, was there anything about First Presbyterian versus another church that really drew you in?

PD:
Just because of the fact they needed an organist. Maybe if the Episcopal church at that time needed an organist, I might have gone there. I’m Methodist and I am a member of the Fly Creek United Methodist Church, but that’s where a need was so that’s where I went and I’m happy there. It’s a good group of people.

MP:
Can you elaborate a little more on your musical endeavors and experiences?

PD:
My brother first started taking piano lessons, to go way back, and I would sit on the bench next to him, and I wanted to take lessons myself and my mother said you are not patient enough, you can’t take piano lessons. This is not going to work out, and I just badgered her until she let me do it and I had a great time with it. So, I took lessons from a couple of different people, never took organ lessons per se, but I had some wonderful people that I mentored under, I guess you would say. I would watch them play, hear them play. Joe McFarlin was one down in Norwalk that I thought the world of. A lot of his style, a lot of his music, I now have and use. And so it was basically through that and a lot of trial and error that I figured out how to play the organ.

MP:
Can you tell me a little more about the people you interact with at First Methodist?

PD:
First Presbyterian?

MP:
Yes, sorry. I apologize.

PD:
So, I work with the director of music there, Katie Boardman, who you probably know, and she and I have worked together. She has been there almost 40 years. We work together on a daily basis, emails, phone calls, rehearsals, so, and then it’s just the parishioners I work with on a daily basis. We went through a lot with COVID, we had to change everything that we did. Everything changed for a lot of other reasons and then I became what’s known as the Parish Director, which was another job administration-wise that they put me into because it was needed, and I’m still doing that. And we now have a new pastor, so now I will hopefully be phasing out of that to let him just do everything. Does that answer that question?

MP:
It does. So what are you currently doing in that role?

PD:
It’s the Parish Coordinator; basically what I was asked to do was to oversee the day-to-day goings-on of the church, which I was actually already kind of doing. We had kind of an upheaval in the church and things were starting to calm down, but I was just keeping a finger on everything going on all the time, and they said, you know, let’s give you a title and a little more money, and I still continue to do that. It is making sure the bulletin is printed every Sunday, that everything in there is correct, making sure this group is meeting at the right time and they have their agenda together, creating the agenda for the Session, the group that runs the church. A lot of administrative things; it’s not something I really want to do, but I knew it needed to be done, and as I say with a new minister coming in, hopefully it will phase me out of that position.

MP:
What position do you eventually see yourself in?

PD:
At the church, just continuing to play the organ and assisting Katie with the music program. Going back to what I used to do.

MP:
How did raising a family fall into your plan here in Cooperstown?

PD:
So, my wife and I were married in 1995 and then our son Erik came along in 2001. We lived right here in the funeral home, and this was our living room, right in the room where we are, and it became a little too much like living in a fishbowl. The soon-to-be former owner lived upstairs with his wife. The other former owner lived upstairs in another apartment and we were living here, which was kind of central with the funeral home comings and goings, so we decided to buy a house outside of town and that was the best thing we could have ever done. That was 20 years ago, and so we raised our son here. I can't think of a better place. I know we are jaundiced when it comes to that.
[laughter]
But really, he loves it, so much so that he graduated from college this past May and he came back to Cooperstown. He found a job here doing somewhat related to what he went to college for, but he loves Cooperstown. Some nights he’ll just leave the house and go walk around Main St., really it just pulls you in for some reason. So, yeah, it’s a great place to raise a family.

MP:
What do you think are the potential attractions for someone looking to potentially raise a family in Cooperstown?

PD:
The variety, number one the variety of people. I’ve found that in owning and operating a funeral home. I work with many different types of people, all different, I don’t mean this in the wrong way, social classes, all different types of backgrounds, and that’s interesting, that’s helpful. But Cooperstown provides so much, and you can take it or leave it. There is the [Glimmerglass] Opera, The Farmers' Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum; there are just so many different things in a very small area that we are exposed to. The lake, we love being out on the lake in the summer on our boat. Almost every night we will, if things are quiet, go out on the lake about five o’clock and come back in about nine. It’s like having a house on the lake without having the house.

MP:
Can you explain what you guys like to do and what activities…

PD:
Boating!

MP:
you like to do?

PD:
We love to boat, my wife and I and son. He started working down at Sam Smith’s Boatyard when he was 14 or 13 [years old], I think before he actually could work, and he worked in the rental area and helping gas boats, things like that. Even up until last year he went down and helped a little bit; it has become a part of our family life being down at Sam Smith’s Boatyard and the Blue Mingo Grill. But we love being there in the summer and being out on the boat.

MP:
How did you first get into boating?

PD:
Well, I grew up on Long Island Sound, down in Connecticut. I knew my grandfather had a boat. I can vaguely, vaguely remember it, but I was always kind of around boats, never went out on one, we didn’t have one. But was definitely near them, especially in South Norwalk which is right on Long Island Sound. So, when I came up here and saw the lake, I said to Maria "I’ve got to get a boat, I’ve always wanted a boat," and she said we have to get a house first.
[Laughter]
I said OK, fair enough. But I think the boat came first. We have had the boat since 2000, yeah it did. We kind of fell into it and didn’t really know what we were doing. Met a fellow, Dave Reece down at Goodyear Lake, and he sold us the boat we currently own. Didn’t know anything about boating, bought a couple of books, that didn’t help, and just kind of learned through trial and error. Now, we pretty much know what we are doing and what not to do. It’s just a lot of fun and it’s a whole other community too in Cooperstown. You say you have a boat and oh, boy!

MP:
Are there any other activities you were involved with when Erik was really young?

PD:
Of course, we were involved with the school and he actually started out at Brookwood School and we got very involved with the Brookwood School helping out. I served on their board for ten years and it was a great place. He went there through kindergarten and then started first grade at Cooperstown Elementary and been at Cooperstown ever since. We were active when he would have the typical school things going on we would help out, and then he got really involved with Boy Scouts and we got involved with that. He ended up earning his Eagle Scout, which we were very proud of, it’s a lot of work. Then, his sports he was very active. First with basketball, then with baseball his team went to the state final the first time ever. [We were] supporters of that.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about what it was like being involved in these activities?

PD:
You meet everybody, you meet all the parents. And now that he graduated you lose that connection with the school and like if we go to the school play, we walk through the school and we might know a few people but it changes so fast. But it was fun knowing all those people; we still communicate with some of them. But it’s like that part of our life is not finished but changed a little bit now and we move into something different. What that is I don’t know yet.

MP:
How has your life changed how your life changed now that your son is older and graduated college?

PD:
Yeah so, he still lives with us, which is perfectly fine with us and perfectly fine with him. We love it! So really things haven’t changed a whole lot in a way. I mean he was away at college, so he wasn’t with us, but he was only out in Syracuse, so it wasn’t too far away. I would say as far as our life changing, our parents are getting older and we are dealing more with that. My wife’s mother is now in hospice care and that’s something we didn’t see a year ago. My father had a stroke down in Connecticut, and we are dealing with that now. So that part of our life is shifting to thinking about our parents a lot more, when we never did; they were self-sufficient and could take care of themselves. So, our lives are moving towards taking care of them.

MP:
Going forward into the future is there anything you guys want to accomplish in this second phase of your life?

PD:
Just keep going, just maintaining, enduring. I don’t mean that in the wrong way. I think eventually I would like to sell the funeral home. Hopefully, somebody will come along who wants to work in a small town like I did and purchase a funeral home and put in the hours. Then that would give us a lot more free time; what we would do with that free time I don’t know, hopefully do a lot more traveling. Give us a little more freedom that way. There are some places we would like to go to, we have gone in the past that we would like to spend some more time at, but it is hard to do when you are running a business 24/7. My wife is a schoolteacher, and she has another several years to go before she can retire.

MP:
So, you did originally say that you bought the funeral home from two other people?

PD:
When I came to this funeral home it was Ingalls, Connell & Dow, and it was owned at the time by Jim Dow. The Ingles were long gone. George Connell had already retired. So, a year after I started working for Jim Dow, I started into a buy-sell relationship for 10 years and bought the business and at the end of buying the business I bought the property and then he went on.

MP:
Can you tell me a little more about what that relationship was like between you guys?

PD:
It was good, I remember reaching the five-year mark in our buy-sell agreement and my attorney said, "you’ve got a lot farther than most people," he said, "hang in there." Different personalities, different a lot of things but I hung in there because I could see the end and wanted to reach that goal and you know it worked.

MP:
If someone were to buy your practice, what would you generally look for?

PD:
I’d want somebody who can fit in well with this community. I have had a few people come and go. Some I could tell weren’t meant for a small town; they wanted hours off, they wanted days and weekends off and it's hard in a business like this. But I'd want somebody who could adapt to the Cooperstown community and have a varied life.

MP:
What are some of the most important aspects that fit a person into this community the best?

PD:
You kind of have to stand back and watch people and know when to say something and when not to say something; what groups to get involved with and what groups to stay on the fringe of. It can be a little difficult navigating. I have been here 30 years almost and I’m still the new guy and I always will be. I’ll be down at Cooperstown Center and be the new guy, you know. It just takes a lot of watching, listening, not going into something full bore until you know that you can. If that makes any sense, it’s kind of hard to put into words. It's a feeling you get.

MP:
What are some of the differences living here versus where you lived originally?

PD:
It’s a lot slower pace of life. When I go back down, I forget what it is like until I drive back down to Connecticut, and I get on 84 and then on to Route 7 heading down into towards Weston and Norwalk and the hands grip the steering wheel a lot tighter and doing a lot more of this.
[Mimics apprehensive driving]
It’s definitely a slower place of life. Interestingly enough the place where I lived was only by train 45 minutes from New York City. Did we ever go to New York City, hardly ever? I came up here and I’ve gone to the city a lot more than I ever went when I was in Connecticut, to museums, restaurants, shows, things like that. It’s somewhat similar, especially in the summer months when you have certain people who come here for the summer. A lot of them are from that area so I can somewhat relate to them. There’s a certain group of people that I can feel I know where they are from and I know where I was from, but this is definitely a lot more rural up here than down there.

MP:
So how do you think the overall tourist summer season affects your perception of the town?

PD:
I know that last year, I guess it would have been last year, when we didn’t have any tourists, it seemed really odd. Almost frightening at times, not from any financial standpoint, I’m not affected by the tourist industry, but it feels good when you see that first group of kids come in for [the Cooperstown] Dreams Park. There is just something about having them back in town again, yeah, they can be a pain sometimes and the cars with certain license plates on them you go "here we are again" but for the most part I like it. It's fun and my wife likes it too and my son does. And they are not here all year, so it's not like we are constantly barraged like some communities that have tourist attractions that are yearlong. This isn’t, so it kind of gives us a break. But I like it when they start coming into town.

MP:
Can you tell me some more about some of your connections or experiences with some of
the other cultural institutions in the area?

PD:
When I came up here, the next summer I attended an opera at Glimmerglass. I had never been to an opera before, and I saw Lizzie Borden which isn’t an introduction to opera that you want to go to. I fell in love with it. Oh, I have to go to more shows here, oh there’s only four, it's only in the summer, okay.
[Laughter]
So, the next summer and the next summer and the next, I went to all the productions and I really fell in love with that. Then when Francesca [Zambello] came, and now we are good friends with Francesca and Faith [E. Gay], and just took on a whole new level of appreciation for what they do in their craft. So being up here has really exposed me to that craft. Here I was in Connecticut only 45 minutes to the city and it took me coming all the way up here to be exposed to opera.

MP:
Can you tell me more about what initially drew you to it?

PD:
Glimmerglass? Just curiosity. The funeral home always placed an ad in their program book, and I got the program book that they had advertised in. The people here didn’t care much about it, they just did it as a community service. That's what got me to go. I was just curious and went and bought a ticket and saw Lizzie Borden and was like wow! This is neat. And I love music; it is a big part of my life and so I was just exposed to something brand new. It was exciting.

MP:
Do you guys plan to continue going in the future?

PD:
To Glimmerglass, definitely! We tried going several different times this year in the altered state that was a wonderful way to try to do it. Got rained out twice but definitely.

MP:
Have you ever taken your son Erik?

PD:
He has been to a couple. I know his first one was the Music Man which is really not an opera it’s a Broadway musical but this year we were invited by the president of the board to sit in their little box and the opera didn’t go on because of thunder and lightning. That was going to be the Magic Flute and he was kind of looking forward to it. Music really isn’t his thing, sports and firefighting is his thing, that’s what he is trained for. He almost saw that.

MP:
Are there any other museums or activities that you partake in?

PD:
We go to The Farmers' Museum occasionally, maybe once or twice a year.

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

We go up to the Fenimore Art Museum, but that’s about it for this area. But we have gone down to the city several times; a couple of years ago we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time, which was amazing! Went to the Guggenheim, I liked it, my wife didn’t. It’s an acquired taste. When I was growing up, it's interesting, my birthday parties were always really small, and we always went to historical sites. I don’t know why, but I was a history nut. So mom and dad would say where do you want to go? And I'd say Keeler Tavern in Redding. Ok, let's go there and take the museum tour. So, we did a lot of that. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was very instrumental in fostering my love of history. We would be driving someplace, and she would say, "oh let’s go in that cemetery, I think somebody…" that I think was the start of it.

MP:
Do you think this interplayed with your desire to be a funeral director?

PD:
I think so, yeah. There is a historical element to what we do; we are in historic buildings, churches and cemeteries. It's just fascinating to me. Monday [11/15/2021] we are traveling down to Arlington, Virginia for a burial in Arlington National Cemetery. It's like the grandfather of all cemeteries when it comes right down to it. I think my history has helped especially in writing people's obituaries. That’s another factor of living here is you know most everybody, the families of the person that died that you serve. I will start writing an obituary and send that to the family, but I get a lot of information that I put in there that I know about them just through historical recollections and things. Of course, this area is so full of history; that doesn’t even need to be said.

MP:
Can you tell me some more about any research or experiences in the deep history you have here?

PD:
Just listening to people talk. One person who knew so much about especially the Springfield area and Otsego Lake, who you did one of these interviews with, Noel Dries. It was interesting to hear him talk about the area, and other people that I know in the area just all of a sudden will start talking and they'll mention something that we never knew about. Like up at the boatyard, the owners will tell us "So and so used to do this." "Oh, really." It's fascinating to hear these little quirky stories about the area.

MP:
Are there any other places you would like to travel relating to your history interest?

PD:
Not per se, my wife and I, and this has nothing to do with history, we have been to St. John in the Virgin Islands twice. We love it there. There is some pull to that island for both of us. It’s very remote, it's not so touristy, very natural. We definitely want to go back there, and Key West is another. There is a warm factor here [laughter]. We both love winter; we deal with it, but we find as you get older, you know I’m an old man now, it gets harder. March and April, you just want to get where it's warm. Now I see why people retire in warm communities, I really do.

MP:
Can you tell me what experiences you guys have had going to these different communities?

PD:
Like going to St. John, just going to such a remote place, somewhere that’s unconnected, not being with the locals but getting into the local history and flavors is just fascinating.

MP:
Are there any future plans to go back to New York City?

PD:
Yes, we will definitely go back to New York when things clear up a little bit more. We had gone down in December 2019, which was just before everything happened, went to a church service and went to some nice restaurants, so we will definitely go back there. Also, the Masons have their annual meeting in New York City down in the Chelsea District at their big building. Me and some guys like to go down to that for a couple of days. The meeting is interesting, but it is also just fun to go out and have fun and be in the city.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about the meeting?

PD:
Yeah, this is what they call the Annual Communication where all the Grand Officers and all the Masons from the entire state come into one building and talk about what is going on in the state Mason-wise. And New York is very interesting to attend their meetings because for some reason we get a lot of visitors from foreign countries. It’s fascinating to watch them all come in in their regalia from Finland and England and India and Norway and all over the world come to New York for their Grand Lodge session. When I was in Connecticut, we didn’t have that, it was just us. It’s a fascinating time.

MP:
Are there any other differences that you noticed switching to the Masonic Fraternity here versus back in Connecticut?

PD:
Yeah, not to get technical, but in Connecticut Lodges are Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Here they are Free and Accepted Masons. That has a lot to do with the ritual we do; I didn’t realize there was a difference until I moved up here and I went to this lodge for the first time. They put me in one of the officers’ chairs. It was empty that evening, and they said, you have experience—"Sure." We started doing the ritual of opening the lodge, and I spouted out what I knew to be the ritual, and everything came to a stop. They were as shocked as I was. So, there are differences, but a lot the same when it comes right down to the basics.

MP:
Why did you decide to join up here?

PD:
Because I wanted to still be part of the Masonic Fraternity. It was a big part of my life in Connecticut and when I got here the Lodge was not very active and it was a lot of older guys, 70s, 80s. I was a little disenchanted and then all of a sudden, a bunch of younger guys started joining for whatever reason and now I’m getting to be one of the older guys. Yeah, it had to be a part of my life up here, and the Lodge is a special place to me. If I need a place to go; I don’t like to use the simile between church and Lodge because that doesn’t exist. It's two separate things, but to me that’s my haven, my place to go when I need to contemplate things.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about what you guys typically do?

PD:
We have a lot of ritual it goes back centuries and that’s a big part of when we open the lodge, open the meeting, and close the meeting. Then, there are degrees that we put on that have symbolic meaning for very historical reasons. We also do a lot of charitable work in Cooperstown but it's very quiet. We will just write a check for whatever needs to be done and be quiet about it. We are not a service organization, we are not the American Legion, it’s a separate type of organization. We are trying to get a little more into the community and do some things.

MP:
What role do you think your organization plays in the community?

PD:
Not enough of one right now. In fact, we were just talking about this at our last meeting and we were saying that when Santa comes to town right after Thanksgiving, our lodge is right across from Pioneer Park where Santa’s cottage is. We said we should provide hot cocoa and stuff like that for the kids, so we are going to do that next year, not this year. But we want to be more a part of the community and not be this hidden element that nobody knows what it is. Often times, people will ask about it and I will offer to show people the building and say "oh, we can see it." Then they walk in, and they can’t believe this jewel is sitting on Main St. that no one knows about. We are trying to get a little more into the community, but it is not a social group per se.

MP:
So why do you think the reason is that people view it as a more secret?

PD:
Because it has just been generated for years this stereotype, and it had to be at certain points in its life so to speak and some people wanted it that way. When I first got here, there was no emblem whatsoever on the door. It had the dentist’s name that had the office upstairs and when a bunch of us newer guys got involved, we said we are going to let people know this is where the lodge is. So, we are trying to get more and more into the community, but not in a way like the Lions or the Rotary or that type of thing.

MP:
Did anything else change when the newer generation came in?

PD:
We got a little more informal as far as our social activities. The older guard when I first went there, you would get there at 7:15, had a meeting at 7:30 lasting an hour, hour and a half, and then everybody left. When this newer group, that I’m now very good friends with, said we would like to hang out and talk, watch TV, have a couple of beers, and that was a big factor. They said absolutely no alcohol in the building, but there was nothing that was not permitting us to do that and I’m not saying it’s a bar or anything like that, it's just a way to cool down at the end of the evening. So that changed, the social end of things changed a bit; we hung out together, we did things together. There's now people that have moved away who will come back and we'll just go out for dinner; they don’t even go to lodge.

MP:
Do you foresee it changing further in the future?

PD:
I think it will, how it will change we don’t know. We were just talking about that at the meeting. We should create a mission statement, a vision [statement], which we've never had before. But we need to protect this for the future so that people that come along after us have this. We are thinking ahead to that. The generation before really didn’t think about that. They just kind of kept doing the same thing all the time.

MP:
Was there any way they preserved and passed down the history of the organization?

PD:
They did. This lodge is over 200 years old. There's a lot of history in that building. Sadly, a lot of it was just put away in closets and boxes, and a good friend of mine Richard Vang came here to Cooperstown. We had actually a mutual friend who joined a lodge out in New Mexico that Richard joined, who I worked with in Connecticut. He decided to take everything out of the boxes, and we now have the things in display cases in some of our rooms, so we are trying to preserve it. Yeah, it’s just for us—we're really the only ones that see it—but when the public does come up there for certain things, they can see it too.

MP:
Do you guys plan on expanding that further? To more showcase your history to the public?

PD:
If that is something that is desired yes. We did do a program and I think it was with CGP at the Smithy many years ago and we brought out a lot of our collection over there. We still have a lot of the boards that we made up for that, and it just depends on if something presents itself then we will go for it.

MP:
So how often do people ask to see inside the lodge and look around?

PD:
Not often. Interestingly, this summer I had a person approach me through another person saying they had never seen the inside of the building and were really interested to see it and I spent a couple of hours with this person, and they were just flabbergasted by what they were seeing here on Main St. It was interesting that this particular person would want to do that, and it was a lot of fun.

MP:
I know you guys said you were looking to do more community engagement; do you have anything planned?

PD:
Not right now, just next year being a part of Santa Comes to Cooperstown. Right now, we don’t have anything in particular planned.

MP:
Where you guys hoping to develop your mission statement to align with those goals?

PD:
A lot of that mission statement, vision statement has to do with our endowment. We have had some very generous brothers in the past and we want to preserve that. Number one, we have a three-story building that we need to protect that is old, that is historical. The architect of that building was also the architect for Kingfisher Tower and the Inn at Cooperstown, [Henry Janeway] Hardenbergh. He actually built the Dakota for the Clark family. We want to preserve that. We also want to preserve just the lodge itself and all the bodies that meet there. That’s what we are trying to determine how we are going to invest that money with a good conscience too in things that are environmentally sound and socially sound.

MP:
Can you tell me more about the grant you guys received?

PD:
It wasn’t a grant, it was just donations made by brothers when they passed away. A couple of them were very large. They wanted leave money to the lodge. There was no specific use, no clauses, but it has helped us preserve the building and do what we do.

MP:
What do you guys typically use that type of donation for?

PD:
It depends. We have several different types of accounts, it gets technical, bookkeeping and all that. Sometimes we give money at certain times of the year to certain organizations that need it or to people that might need it depending on the situation. Also, a lot of it is maintenance, we have to pay taxes and maintain that building and heat it. It's 150 years old.

MP:
I know you've said you have a lot of relationships with other organizations, can you tell me a little more about those?

PD:
Well, I have the relationship with the church and pretty much know a lot of the other people in the various churches just by virtue of what I do here. I know the Rotarians, even though I’m not a Rotarian. We actually did a project together, the Lions Club and Rotary to clean up the Susquehanna [River], so trying to foster that relationship. But they are their own group, and we are own group. I’m a member of the Masonic Lodge, I’m a member of a lot of organizations that are Masonic-related. The list is long, I won’t bore you with that. I’m a member of the Mohican Club, which is kind of the great unknown on Main Street. Next to Cooperstown Dinner, it's just a social club. We get together for different holidays and it’s a men’s only thing. It's an offshoot from what I understand of an organization that began with the fire department.

MP:
Can you tell me a little bit more about how many people are involved with that and the activities you do?

PD:
At the Mohican Club? I think there's a hundred members. There is a cap, and they only allow so many members. They have like a horseshoe tournament, they have a golf tournament, we have a Christmas gathering. Some people only go to that; some go to everything, so it's whatever you want to put into it. It's strictly a social organization, no charitable arm of that group. But it’s kind of cool belonging to this group that has a neat building on Main Street.

MP:
Is there any overlap between any of the groups that you are in?

PD:
Just a few members. Only one that is a member of the church, Lions, and the Lodge. Pretty much, it's a lot of different people, so I’m interacting with a lot of different people.

MP:
Can you tell me about the different experiences and values you have gotten from these different groups of people?

PD:
Masons like to say Masonry is a way of life, which it is. The philosophies, the history that we read about, that we do at our ritual becomes a part of your daily life and how you interact with people and a lot of it is the golden rule: I want to be treated the way that you would want to be treated and that falls into this business definitely. As you get older you really start thinking about that a lot more; when you are younger you are a little more naive and haven’t had the experience. And that has helped me, on a sidebar, with this business. When you're young in the business you haven't had deaths that have been a part of [your life]; the older you get, the more deaths occur in your own family and you start to get a little more sympathetic, empathetic with people you're working with. You see where they are. You don’t say it, but I hear you. I understand where you are and this is how we can help you through this. I’m sorry, I kind of drifted there. What was your original question?

MP:
Sorry, what are your different interconnections between these groups?

PD:
I don’t know. I’m a member of the Masons. I play at the Presbyterian church. I’m a member of the Lions Club. I know a lot of people at the opera, and I know a lot of people at the museum. It’s just kind of one of those things.

MP:
Have there ever been any really different experiences you haven’t had before that you heard about from these individuals?

PD:
I’m not sure what you mean.

MP:
Like different values from people from different religions and backgrounds and them sharing their ideals with you.

PD:
It was interesting when I worked in Connecticut, there were five funeral homes in town. This is related to your question. My funeral home was basically a Protestant funeral home, but we served the Haitian community, so we did a lot of Haitian funerals which are very interesting. They are Catholic usually, but the masses are done in French creole. I had no idea what they were saying. I have seen voodoo ceremonies take place at burials. I dealt with some Portuguese families and Korean families. I don’t see that up here, but it has influenced my broader scope of things. I don’t know whether that [answered your question]?

MP:
It did thank you. So, what do you think are some of the most important values when a person is trying to get into your field?

PD:
Honesty with yourself that you can handle this; it's not for everybody. I went to school with 20 people, 15 graduated and only about five of us are still doing this. Granted that was 1984, but you have to be honest with yourself. Sorry, what was the question again?

MP:
What you think an emerging professional in your field needs?

PD:
It depends what you want to do; some people are not suited for a small funeral home like this. Some people are. I think you can find that out through working for various types of funeral homes. I am working with a funeral home in Arlington right now where they work 8 to 4, and that’s it. They have people that do removals from various institutions at night; they don’t do that type of thing. It’s a totally different mindset. It's more involved with what your salary is and what your 401(k) will be, and things like that. Here it's more; it just becomes a part of you.

MP:
What originally drove you to choose a smaller setting like this?

PD:
Well, a lot of it had to do with my wife, Maria. She was from this area, Delaware County, about an hour away. But I liked it up here. I liked this area when I would come up to visit my brother and Maria and the whole family. I just liked the lifestyle that I saw up here. Granted, Cooperstown is definitely not Bloomville; it’s a totally different atmosphere but close by. I’m sorry.

MP:
I was just wondering what made you choose a smaller practice like this?

PD:
Right, yes. Well, it had to do a lot with Maria. I wanted to be up here. I knew we eventually wanted to get married so I wanted to find a funeral home in Otsego, Schoharie, or Delaware County, and interestingly enough I put out resumes to all these funeral homes and got nowhere. They were all funeral homes like me that don't need or can’t afford another licensed director with experience. So, it wasn’t until this firm had an apprentice who was working here who was going to move on to more here and all of a sudden he left. The owner's wife literally took my resume out of the garbage that the owner had put it into and called me up at 9 o’clock one night and said, Are you still interested? I said, I will be there tomorrow. I had already quit my job in Connecticut; I was disillusioned with that funeral home for a lot of reasons, and so that’s what drew me up here. I didn’t think I'd land in Cooperstown. Interestingly enough, when I first started going with Maria we took a day to come up here to Cooperstown to see the Hall of Fame, never dreaming that I would live here. I have an old hearse out in the garage; it's a ’61 Buick, and they obviously had it here. It was under the portico, and I remember driving by this funeral home going we've got to go look at that. That's neat. I remember coming up on the front steps looking in and never dreaming that I would be here, because at that point I was still working in Connecticut, not really knowing what we were going to do, are we going to get married or just keep doing what we are doing. So, it’s funny how life changes and all of a sudden here you are.

MP:
What were your guys' overall first impressions of moving here?

PD:
Well, interestingly enough, my wife is from Delaware County, Bloomville; Cooperstown has somewhat of an upper crust atmosphere or view by other people and so I think when some people from her family thought "oh, you are going to live in Cooperstown." There was a little bit of "Really?" and now she wouldn’t trade this for the world. She loves it here, just like I do. She will literally say I am so glad we live here.

MP:
That’s great! Is there anything she does that’s involved with the community or that she likes to do?

PD:
She is a schoolteacher. She teaches Phys[ical] Ed[ucation] over at Morris Central School; she has been there her entire career. She graduated college in the early [19]90s. She attends the Fly Creek United Methodist Church and is active there. She is also the treasurer of the Fly Creek Fire Department Commissioners, so she does that. When Erik was growing up, she was really, really active with everything he was doing, really supportive. A lot more than I was sometimes because I was tied down here. But she went on camping trips with him when he was a Cub Scout.
So, all of those things, she has been supportive that way of organizations.


MP:
How has your guys' relationship with your community evolved over time?

PD:
I think for me, people have just accepted that I’m here, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just part of the community, some people think I was born here. "Really, you weren’t?" They just think because, "well, you fit in so well." I’m not saying that to be proud or anything, and then other people just think of me as the new guy, who’s not from here, not local and there is that mindset with some people. Maria has just adapted very well to living up here and loves it.

MP:
Are there any other aspects of Cooperstown you guys want to be involved in, in the future?

PD:
Maybe, it’s hard to say. Right now, we are just trying to keep going with what we are doing. Maybe I have always loved libraries, I love books, maybe in retirement or as I slow down here, I will get involved with the library. I don’t know. Maybe get more active with things in the opera. I don’t know, that’s a good question. Sometimes things just happen.

MP:
You said you really like libraries…

PD:
Yes, always have. I was a geek!

[laughing]

MP:
was there anything in particular you like about them?

PD:
I just love books, when I was a little kid, I would go into the library in the elementary school in Weston. My mother said you already read all the books and started bringing them down from the middle school. It was a lot of history books I would read. Just always have loved reading, just love books themselves. I don’t have any here but at home I do. They are fascinating to me.

MP:
So, I think we are just about at our time.

PD:
Okay.

MP:
Thank you so much for doing this.

PD:
You are very welcome.

Duration

29:59- Track 1
27:20- Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 0:00 - Community Involvement
Track 2, 0:00 - Family Life
Track 2, 6:00 - Freemasons

Files

Deysenroth_Pigott_Nov13 2021_Photograph.JPG

Citation

Morgan Pigott, “Peter A. Deysenroth, November 13, 2021 ,” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 14, 2022, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/511.