Marvin Bissell, who owned and operated Bissell’s Store in Newcomb until July 2013, passed away that November. Before his death, he established the Bissell Fund for Grave Markers at Adirondack Foundation, which will provide support for cemeteries and historic preservation in the Essex County town of Newcomb. The fund recently awarded its first grant to the town: $25,000 for the Newcomb Cemetery project and other revitalization efforts.
The bequest, which includes $1.1 million and six parcels of land, will immediately support the repair of existing grave markers and the purchase of new markers on public and private lands in Newcomb. Going forward, grants from the fund will also be used for collecting and maintaining genealogical records of Newcomb residents for public research. Adirondack Foundation gifted the land directly to the town of Newcomb.
“Mr. Bissell appreciated what makes Newcomb so special,” Cali Brooks, executive director of Adirondack Foundation, said in an announcement sent to the press. “Setting up this fund with Adirondack Foundation ensured that his love of community history will be shared with the general public for generations to come. The land included in this gift will allow the community to get creative in celebrating its history and provide great opportunities for visitors to learn about this unique place. This is an enduring gift for Newcomb, which has benefitted greatly from Mr. Bissell’s foresight.”
“We’re so grateful for this gift from Marvin,” said Newcomb Supervisor George Canon. “He was the millionaire next door who left it all for the place he held dear. You’d never in your wildest dreams imagine he’d be wealthy, or that he would quietly leave such a lasting legacy for Newcomb.”
Bissell graduated from Newcomb Central School in 1952, and went on to serve in the military before taking over ownership of Bissell’s Store from his father in 1962. The store has been located on Bissell Loop near state Route 28N since 1918. The store’s shelves were stocked with a little bit of everything, from cat food and hardware to knives and camera parts. Newcomb’s deputy supervisor, Wes Miga, recalled that Bissell would order anything a customer wanted.
“His store was always cluttered,” Miga said. “He never over-charged, but he was a stickler when it came to his prices. That’s part of the reason he was able to leave this amazing gift to the community: he worked hard and saved, and lived by the motto, ‘It’s not what you make; it’s what you spend.’”
Bissell’s family goes back generations. The minutes from Newcomb’s first town council meeting in 1828 make reference to the Bissell family. That connection to the community was reflected in Bissell’s passion for local history, and his interest in cemeteries and grave markers.
Planned giving with Adirondack Foundation has made an impact on a number of communities across the Adirondack region. The Damoth Fund, established in 2012 with a bequest from Robert Damoth, has awarded $225,000 in grants to community organizations and projects since 2013. Two funds established in 1999 with a bequest from Alberta P. Moody have combined to award over $465,000 in grants and scholarships to organizations and students in Tupper Lake.
Photos: Above, Marvin Bissell; and below, inside Bissell’s Store in Newcomb (courtesy High Peaks Golf).