As I meet Al and Marilyn Romano at the door of their stylish home on Oseetah Lake, they are holding onto their exuberant dog Eddie, an 80-pound, wire-haired pointing Griffon who desires to greet this latest visitor.
After successfully entering the house, we settled into a comfortable room overlooking the lake through a stand of mature white pines and birches. Al and Marilyn are seated on the couch with Eddie curled comfortably in between them. With these details settled, we uncover and discover their Adirondack story.
It begins with Al having chest pains while working "way too hard" (Marilyn interjects) as a physician in Poughkeepsie. These pains led to bypass surgery and while recovering Al, at age 54, made some life decisions.
Al and Marilyn Romano
(Photo — Michael Williams)
"The surgery made me slow down and think about our life and where we wanted it to go," Al recalls as Marilyn nods in agreement.
Thus began frequent forays inside the Blue Line to explore and enjoy all the activities it offered, including fishing, hiking, paddling and skiing. It was during these trips that a love for these mountains and those activities was discovered.
"We knew we liked to do these things when we could make the time, but realized after taking these trips that we loved to do them here," Al said.
After 10 more years of working in Poughkeepsie and vacationing in the Adirondacks, Al and Marilyn decided it was time to make a permanent move to the North Country.
"It was time," Al said. "We were ready to wrap up our life downstate while we were physically able to enjoy the activities we love."
Reconnaissance trips into the park, from Blue Mountain Lake, through Long and Tupper Lake, led them to Saranac Lake. Though they had certainly been in town before, it was as visitors. Now with an eye toward looking for a place to settle, they quickly fell in love with the town, its people and the surrounding landscape.
"For us, it is the best place in the Adirondacks to live," Marilyn interjects with obvious enthusiasm.
A local realtor led them to a plot of land overlooking Oseetah Lake, and with a bit of visualization and negotiation, a deal was struck. A comfortable cabin with classic lines was constructed by an Adirondack builder and at the end of the summer of 1995 and the Romanos' "next" life in the High Peaks began in earnest.
They acquired the gear - maps, paddles and skis and snowshoes - and hit the region running.
Al's vivid memory allows him to recall intimate details of trails and trips they have enjoyed over these 15-plus years.
"It's just a skill he has, probably comes from his days as a doctor," recalls Marilyn. "He can remember these trips as if we did them last week."
Although officially retired, Al and Marilyn began life here in the same fashion that helped them become leading citizens in Poughkeepsie. They rekindled their civic duty side and began volunteering in the community.
Al runs down the list, joining the local Lion's Club, helping out at numerous ORDA events, acting as medical assistants for a number of Ironman races, acting as a Mercy Care volunteer, and most recently, a barbecue judge at a local charity event. As he finishes, both Al and Marilyn recount the many great friends and acquaintances they have made since coming here to live.
To top it off, Al ticks off the many attributes of this Tri-Lakes region.
"You've got everything here you need to live a good life: a sense of history, cultural activities, solid citizens and (as he sweeps his arm out and around) the world's best playground," he said.
Our session winds down with Al and Marilyn contemplating what the future may hold for them as they grow older. With health concerns creeping in and children and grandchildren settled in various parts of the east coast, the prospect of leaving the North Country looms on the horizon.
"We realize that we can't do all the things we once did, and we want to see our kids and spend time with the grandkids, but we still love it here and this is our home," Al concedes.
On this all too real note, the doorbell rings. Guests have arrived and Eddie is eager to give them the once over. I thank the Romanos and bid them goodbye and as I move off down the driveway, I wish for them to have many more years here as our friends and neighbors.
Based on an interview with Michael Williams who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.