'A lifetime affair': A 65-year friendship continues in Scarborough
SCARBOROUGH — Pauline Garner and Eleanor Irving are a long way in miles and years from Kezar Falls, the small village where they met 65 years ago.
But the two have reunited at Scarborough Terrace, the assisted living center that is Garner's permanent home and Irving enjoys for temporary respite care.
"You can pick up just where you left off," Garner said about their visits, but just where they left off covers decades.
Garner, 86, was born north of Kezar Falls in Brownfield in Oxford County. Her father was a physician, who moved his family to the town at the outset of World War II.
Kezar Falls exists on vintage road maps, set in what is now portions of Porter and Parsonsfield on the Ossippee River, about five miles from New Hampshire.
Shortly after World War II, Irving and her late husband, Clifford Irving, moved there when he took a job with the phone company in neighboring Cornish.
"He asked if I wanted to move to the country," Irving, 91, recalled. "When I moved, I didn't know why the heck I moved."
By then, Garner had married her husband John Garner, a part owner of the Kezar Falls Woolen Co. John Garner and Clifford Irving were both U.S. Navy veterans of World War II.
"He would walk down the street and I would look at him, and he would look at me," Pauline Garner recalled about their introduction. John Garner was 30 when he married her in 1942. She was 16.
"They said it would never last," she recalled. 'We were married 69 years."
Irving and Garner met at Keswick Club meetings in Kezar Falls. The community service club still exists. Among its services are scholarships for Sacopee Valley High School students.
Then and now, the area was populated by generations of established families.
"I wasn't related to a soul," Irving said. "You had to be careful about what you would say about anybody."
Shortly after the Irvings arrived in 1947, western York and Oxford counties were consumed by wildfires that destroyed adjacent towns like Brownfield, Waterboro and Newfield.
Clifford Irving was called to Newfield to try and protect phone lines while Eleanor remained in Kezar Falls.
"I still remember sparks hitting the front lawn,' she said.
John Garner helped fight the fires, while Pauline packed the car and prepared to flee town.
Better times ensued, the couples spent vacations traveling and time in Pine Point at a home owned by the Garners. Garner had five children and Irving had three. When they delivered their youngest children, they were together in the hospital.
The mill was sold almost 50 years ago, and the couples eventually moved from Kezar Falls. Garner and Irving joined the Scarborough Garden Club and Scarborough Library Association and volunteered for 20 years at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
"Most anything you can think of, we did it together," Irving said.
Clifford Irving died 24 years ago. The Garners moved to Scarborough Terrace a couple of years ago as they began to have health problems. John Garner, who had dementia, died at age 98 in February 2011.
Irving lives in South Portland when not making temporary stays at Scarborough Terrace. This year, she stayed for a month; last year, it was three months.
The passing years have taken friends and family from their lives, and Garner said she does not necessarily miss country life.
"The area and the people are not the same," she said.
What remains the same is the friendship Garner and Irving share.
"I have someone to tell my travels and woes to," Irving said.
"I guess it's a lifetime affair," Garner said.