Wanted: Town's oldest resident, to be honored with famous cane
TOPSHAM — If you happen to be 103 or older, Ruth Lyons wants to talk with you.
The town clerk plans soon to recognize Topsham's oldest resident with the Boston Post Cane; she just wants to be sure she's honoring the right person.
She thought she had found that person, a 102-year-old long-time Topsham resident. But Lyons then learned about a Highlands resident who is 103 and will turn 104 in June. Highlands residents are eligible for the award if they have lived at the facility for at least five years.
"There's two in the running and those two don't know it," Lyons said.
There may still be an older resident out there, though. Just in case, she said, "to be fair and honest about it, I have to do a search."
The oldest resident has not been recognized since 2001, when Gretchen Knight, 101, and a resident of the Highlands at the time, was honored. Lyons said she does not know if Knight, who moved to Florida after receiving the honor, has died – or whether she is closing in on 109. And, Lyons pointed out, she is no longer a Topsham resident.
"So now it's time to move on and pass (the cane) on," Lyons said.
Not too many canes remain in municipal possession, thanks largely to families not returning them after their aged relatives died. Because of this, Topsham has kept the cane at its office since 1991, and the town was good before that time at keeping tabs on who held the cane.
Although the oldest residents no longer get to bring home the cane, they receive a certificate and have their picture displayed at Town Hall with the cane.
The Boston Post distributed the canes in August 1909, according to a 1953 letter from the newspaper's Frank Thyne, which Lyons provided. He explained that each one was made of ebony from the African Congo, coated with shellac, rubbed down with pumice and given a coat of French varnish. The stick is tipped with a 14-carat gold, inscribed head.
All the New England states received canes, except Connecticut, Lyons said (she does not know why). According to several Web sites, though, the snub was the result of The Boston Post not circulating in that state.
Lyons said a grant written by Selectman Sandra Consolini and Ralph Williams, chairman of the town's History Committee, has secured funds for a display cabinet in the new Topsham Municipal Office. The case is currently being assembled, she said.
Lyons said she would like to honor Topsham's oldest resident by the end of this month.