DEDHAM — It must be something in the water.
The Hancock County town has a population of about 1,400, but that number includes four 92-year-olds.
Make that four active, lively 92-year-olds, three of whom gathered recently at the Dedham Town Hall to talk about their lives and life in the town.
On hand that day were Mary Lunt Dresser, David “Enos” Hamilton ,and Hilfred “Hilly” Bailey, along with a handful of their relatives on hand to help draw out their memories. The fourth, Margaret Crosby Lunt, is living with her daughter in Wichita, Kansas, but returns to Dedham in the summer.
Dresser, who actually turned 93 on Dec. 23, is the oldest of the group. She and her late husband Arthur raised five children over 18 years. Arthur was the construction supervisor on the Dedham Elementary School, one of the primary meeting spots in the town. Mary was one of the driving forces behind the chicken-pie suppers that served as fundraisers for the school, and she was similarly involved with fundraising for other civic organizations.
Next oldest in Bailey, whose birthday is in January. Bailey was a longtime bookkeeper at Haines and Chalmers, who also hunted and trapped to help feed his family. But he was best known as a square-dance caller, one of three in the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame. His daughter, Barbara Coombs, recalled how Hilly would call eight dances a week all over the state. One time, he was caller for 900 square dancers at the Bangor Auditorium.
Third oldest is Lunt, who married Dresser’s brother, Edward. For 43 years, she worked at the Hancock County Probate office, eventually retiring as registrar in 2004. She was also active in the community club and the PTA.
The youngest of the quartet is Hamilton. He and his wife of 68 years, Thelma, raised nine children. He’s run a construction business for 64 years. He served as road commissioner and on the fire department for 50 years and on the school board for 34 years. “That’s how I got to know everybody,” he said simply.
The trio interviewed remain busy today. Hamilton still works at his business, except on Friday, when he goes dancing at the Bangor Singles Club (with Thelma’s blessing). Dresser gets together with the “girls” in the Not-A-He Club to gossip and play cards and still shops and cooks. Bailey still cooks and plays the Hawaiian guitar, which he got in high school, at the Bucksport Senior Center “for the older people,” he explained.
What’s the biggest change in Dedham over their lifetimes? Dresser pointed to the school, Hamilton singled out “all the new people who live on the lake,” and Bailey chose “the summer people. They’re running the show.”
The three reckoned that they’d known each other for 60-65 years.
“We’re all one big family,” Dresser said.