Special to the Express
NORTH CREEK - Not many living people can claim to have a grandfather who fought in the Spanish-American War, a childhood in the Roaring Twenties, or 96 years of residence in Hamilton County. At 103, Florence Savarie can.
Born Florence Belle in North Platte, Neb., "Flossy" moved to Indian Lake with her parents in 1917. She was 7 years old.
Florence's father worked in the lumber industry, cutting logs and, in spring, floating them down the Hudson River all the way to Glens Falls. "Those men had to be careful," she said.
As a child, she enjoyed skating below the Indian Lake Dam, at Pimy Pond.
During a recent interview she also reminisced about her school days. "Indian Lake Central School was a fine building, with many students," she said.
However, Florence dropped out after 11th grade, perhaps because the children made fun of her, although her memory is hazy.
One thing she remembers clearly, though. "I regret [dropping out]."
At 17, she got married in a double wedding, which she vividly recalls. "Father Hatch came up from Olmstedville on Sundays to perform marriages, and the wood stove better be heated or you would be hearing from him!"
As Savarie's teens wound into her twenties she had two children.
Her daughter Peggy became a registered nurse, but died at 47 from cancer. One of Peggy's sons, Rick Wilt, is supervisor of the Town of Arietta. He and his brother Dan own and operate Wilt Industries in Lake Pleasant.
At 76, Florence's son Peter J. Savarie resides in Colorado. He is a research pharmacologist and toxicologist at the USDA/Wildlife Services' National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo.
Florence says her greatest personal accomplishment was sending her two children to college.
"I worked hard," she said, getting a full-time job as a guide at The Adirondack Museum. Her favorite part of the museum is the old steam engine, memorialized in place on a section of track and open to the public to explore its interior.
After 25 years at the museum, Florence became Indian Lake's town clerk, but missed her old job so much that she went back for another 10 years. "Everyone was so kind [there]," she remembered.
Florence retired at age 90. "Getting old is tough," she observed. "Lots of deaths, and I have to be careful with myself.
"You just have to keep going."
With nearly a century of Indian Lake life behind her, Florence looks back with regret on the town's depopulation. "I miss the grocery store. That was such a shame when it closed."
But she's an optimist at heart. "I know that Indian Lake will thrive."
In May Savarie's legs failed, and she moved to the nursing home in North Creek. She is nearly deaf and legally blind with glaucoma.
Her voice and spirit are strong, but it was difficult for Florence to recall, at least verbally, the changes and happenings of her time. Much of her life will remain locked to the world.
Editor's Note: Max Weinstein is a freelance reporter for the Express, and several other papers in his home state of New Jersey. He spends his summers in Indian Lake, hiking, boating, and relishing being off the grid. Email him with comments at email@example.com.