Stories in Time: 100 years of memories

Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald-Star

Hot Springs Centenarians share their stories in Stories in Time series. Pictured left to right: Caroline Curl, 107, Mae Niedermyer, 105, Margaret Lewis, 102, and Margret “Maggie” May, 103.

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A four part series viewing life through the eyes of four of Hot Springs’ own centenarians living at Pine Hills

Part 1: Mae Niedermyer, 105

By Charity Maness

HOT SPRINGS – Pine Hills Retirement Community in Hot Springs, which was founded in 2006, is currently home to four ladies whom are each more than 100 years old.

At 107 years-old, Caroline Curl is the eldest resident but moved into the facility most recently in December of 2020. Maggie May has lived in Pine Hills the longest and was one of the very first to make it her home when the facility was first built in 2006. She is currently 103 years old.

The youngest of the four is Margaret Lewis at age 102. She moved to Pine Hills in 2015, while Mae Niedermyer, who is 105, moved to Pine Hills in 2008.

Having four ladies all over the age of 100 is something for which the ownership and staff of Pine Hills is very proud.

“It’s amazing,” said Executive Director Vickie Nekuda. “They’re all so full of stories and fun to listen to. They are truly an inspiration and great example to the rest of the residents here.”

Beginning this week, the Fall River County Herald-Star will be featuring each of the four ladies through a feature series entitled “Stories In Time: 100 years of memories.”

Please meet Mae Niedermyer…

Mae Niedermyer was born April 15, 1916, the youngest of four children and the daughter of a farmer.

Growing up in the small northeastern Texas town of Mabank, Niedermyer looked forward to her days at school. “I really enjoyed school and especially enjoyed spelling.”

As a child she often dreamed of becoming a nurse and worked hard to attain that goal.

 “I always wanted to be a nurse, even as a child I wanted to be a nurse. I can’t recall just how I managed to go through college, but I did,” said Niedermyer with pride “and I became a nurse. I was good at it. I was even tempered and able to handle a crisis.”

As soon as she was qualified as a nurse she accepted a job at Parkland Hospital in Dallas Texas. 

“My favorite part of nursing was learning; each day I learned something new. And the people; I got to do good things for people and met so many new people.”

Within a few years she accepted a job in Fort Collins, outside of Denver, Colo., a job that not only took her away from her home, it was a job that would change her life forever. 

“I met my husband there,” said Niedermyer. “I worked in the medical ward caring for patients and Harlan was an x-ray technician.” 

X-ray technicians, or radiologists as they were known during that time, were a highly specialized group of people, utilizing cutting edge technology. Harlan swept her off her feet.

“I knew the first time I met him I loved him,” said Niedermyer, “I knew and he knew.”

The couple wed and lived for many years in Denver. “We were never fortunate enough to have children,” said Niedermyer. Yet enjoyed life to its fullest together traveling whenever their schedules would allow for it.

“We loved to dance and play board games and we traveled, that was our big thing. We went to Europe twice, the Holy Land; every chance we had we took a trip.”

Her favorite trip was the couples trip to Israel where she visited the Mount of Olives, the location of the Last Supper, the Wailing Wall, and traversed the city of Jerusalem in wonder. 

“To see all there was to see, the difference in the people and the different way of doing things, and seeing the Wailing Wall, it was all very moving.”

In November 1963, Niedermyer took a trip back to Texas to visit one of her old nursing friends in Dallas.

“I remember when I was visiting, the President was supposed to be there. So we went down to the parade route and waved as the motorcade went by, it was good to see the President, I waved at him,” she said. Later, when she learned the President John F. Kennedy had been shot she “was so shocked and so sad.”

The couple eventually moved to Hot Springs where she continued her nursing career. Though “nursing had been my life” it was soon time to retire.

The couple continued to travel when they could but also simply enjoyed each others’ company sometimes just sitting side by side enjoying their new favorite pastime; reading.

“I loved to read love stories, but Harlan, he would read everything. Everything he could get his hands on,” she laughed. “He read constantly, he read all kinds of books, he really kept the library busy. Sometimes he had as many as ten books checked out.”

Her husband passed away on Feb. 23, 2020, at the age of 101.

While “being married to my best friend for 68 years” is something Niedermyer claims aided her longevity in life, she also firmly believes that “clean living” is the cornerstone. 

Her word of advice to all, “enjoy the moment.”

Fall River County Herald Star

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