Betty Walker given Boston Post Cane

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

BOSTON POST CANE RECIPIENT — Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Walker was presented the Boston Post Cane by Selectmen Chairman Tom Klinepeter April 7 for being the oldest citizen in the Town of Fryeburg. (Ackley Photo)

FRYEBURG — Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Walker was presented the Town of Fryeburg’s Boston Post Cane last week by the Fryeburg Board of Selectmen for being the oldest resident of this community.

She was also given a beautiful plate noting the special occasion of her being awarded the Boston Post Cane.

A retired teacher, Betty taught school for over 36 years, from 1936 through 1972 at the Village School (now the Office of the Superintendent of Schools). She was teaching principal at the Pine Tree School in Center Conway, New Hampshire, before coming to Fryeburg to teach.

In 2005, Betty was presented the Leadership Award for Oxford County for the Maine Education Association proclaimed by the 122nd Legislature. She has remained active in the Oxford County Retired Teachers’ Association, though she no longer attends its meetings.

Still sharp as a tack with a memory to match, Betty said Thursday afternoon, with a wink and a chuckle, “I’m glad to be 102, too!”

“I enjoy it — I’m not ashamed to tell my age, like some of them are. I have good health,” she said, at the party held in her honor as recipient of the Boston Post Cane. “And, in spite of everything, I’ve had a good life. I had a wonderful husband, and one son, Michael, who graduated from Bowdoin College and the American University and died at 41. And, I have three granddaughters — Kristen, Wendy and Tracy — and three great-granddaughters.”

Betty’s house is regularly filled with visitors who stop by to say hello and chat awhile.

What is Betty’s secret for living so long?

“I enjoy people, every day,” said Betty. “I like people.”

Born on Nov. 29, 1908 and raised in the town of Mexico, Betty fondly recalls her childhood.

Her mother, Christine Ionta, was a very proactive suffragette who lived to be 95 years old. Her twin sisters, Marjorie and Margaret, reached the age of 98. Marjorie passed away recently, but Margaret still resides in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Two of Betty’s aunts lived to be 83 and 85 years old. Betty also had a brother who was two years younger than she was.

“We had to chip in and clean house, while our mother was out distributing placards for women’s rights,” said Betty.

Asked what her fondest memories are, Betty replied, “Growing up —­ we were poor, but we were happy! We didn’t know we were poor, either!”

Betty told of how she and her childhood girlfriend would go fishing and camping at Rangeley Lakes with her friend’s parents.

“Back then, we didn’t have sleeping bags,” said Betty. “Her parents used canvas and newspapers, to keep us warm. We wore our clothes, all night long.”

When she first came to Fryeburg in the 1930s to teach, it was pointed out to her that she best be a Republican and a Protestant, as well.

Independently minded, like her mother, when asked by then Superintendent of Schools Charles A. Snow what her religion was, Betty replied, “None of your business!” She got the teaching job, anyway. Why? “He liked me,” Betty said of Supt. Snow.

“My mother was 95 when she died,” stated Betty. “She was very active — a little bit of a woman.”

What keeps Betty going?

“Because, for my age, I’m in pretty good health,” Betty, who never drank alcohol or smoked tobacco, said.

Still going strong, at 102 years old — Betty Walker is a wonderful example for all!

History of the Boston Post Cane

The year was 1909, and Mr. Edward A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, sent 14-carat gold-headed ebony canes to the boards of selectmen in 700 New England towns (no cities received the canes). Grozier asked that each cane be awarded to the oldest male in each community, with his paper’s compliments. The oldest male citizen was to use the cane until he died, at which time it was supposed to be “handed down to the next oldest citizen of the town, according to the Boston Post Cane web site. The town would own the cane, not the gentleman who received it.

Eligibility for the Boston Post Cane was opened to women in 1930, “after considerable controversy,” the web site states.

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