BERWICK, Maine — Debbie Evans held back tears as her 98-year-old grandfather was bestowed the honor of the town’s oldest resident and 18th recipient of a special Boston Post Cane at a ceremony Wednesday at Town Hall.
Town Manager Patrick Venne presented Gordon N. Maddix with a plaque honoring him as the town’s oldest resident on behalf of the town and the Board of Selectmen.
“This is a tradition that stems back decades,” said Venne.
Town Clerk Jo Anne Lepley provided information on the history of the town’s Boston Post Cane. The cane itself will remain behind a glass display at Town Hall as Berwick is “one of the few towns that still have one,” Lepley said.
Only 431 such canes were distributed to towns across New England by the now defunct Boston Post newspaper in 1909. The cane is made of ebony and crowned with 14-karat gold. It became a regional tradition to present the canes to the oldest resident of a town and the tradition stuck even after the newspaper itself stopped printing.
“You’re old enough to have originated with that Boston Post Cane,” joked Selectman Robert Crichton.
The first Berwick resident on record to have received the cane was John F. Robinson, who lived from 1833 to 1932 when he died at the age of 99.
For many years, recipients of the cane were able to actually use it for getting around, but now that it has become more of a rarity, the town feels it is safer at Town Hall.
“A lot of them got lost. People would store it away somewhere and forget about it,” said Lepley.
Maddix plans to hang his plaque in his living room.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” he said after Venne presented him with the honor. “I appreciate it.”
Debbie, his daughter, Janice, and granddaughter, Nicole, expressed how proud they felt of Maddix as Debbie tried to hold back tears. The group at Town Hall Wednesday represented four generations of Maddix’s family.
“What are we getting all teary-eyed about?” Crichton poked at her.
Maddix said he felt wonderful to be named the town’s oldest resident and that he never would have thought he’d receive the title.
Maddix has lived in Berwick since 1984 when he moved to town to be closer to his daughter. He still lives on his own, although just next-door to Janice.
Before living in Berwick, Maddix operated a dairy farm for many years before he sold it several decades ago. Now, he lives a simpler life.
“He forces himself to walk almost every day to stay active,” said Debbie. “He has a garden in the summer and likes to watch the birds.”
With the newly fallen snow, Janice and Debbie are worried Maddix will slip and fall, but that doesn’t keep him from venturing out to stretch his legs. Janice said her father wishes he could still shovel his driveway himself and doesn’t like needing the help.
“He’s an awfully nice fellah,” said Crichton, who is also Maddix’s neighbor. “He’s a great neighbor, a real salt of the earth Southern fellah.”
Crichton said some people “fall by the wayside” once they get as old as Maddix, but he is still sharp.
Selectman Eleanor Murphy said she has seen residents presented with the cane in the past, but there usually isn’t a big ceremony.
“It was really nice,” she said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services