Maine’s first lady surprises WWII veteran with hand-carved eagle cane

Posted Sept. 04, 2012, at 3:02 p.m.

WESTBROOK, Maine — Local resident and World War II veteran Milton Gowen, 94, who put his life on the line at the Battle of the Bulge and other conflicts, has carried around a letter for more than six decades that apparently has brought him luck.

“Milton carries a letter in his wallet from a 10-year-old girl he met while he was serving in Normandy,” his wife, Edith, 92, said in a letter to Maine’s first lady Ann LePage. “She told him if he kept it with him, no harm would come to him.”

The nonagenarian asked in her letter if LePage, who presented hand-carved eagle canes to Maine veterans at the Augusta Armory in mid-August, would also honor her husband by presenting him with a cane during a surprise gathering.

“I was honored to hear from Mrs. Gowen, and thrilled at the opportunity to surprise her husband, and honor him with an eagle cane,” LePage said in a statement. “Our World War II veterans represent a great piece of American history, and I am honored to be able to make this happen for Milton. I am grateful for the service and sacrifice he has made on behalf of our great nation.”

A group of Mainers began carving the eagle canes — decorated with the veteran’s name and military affiliation — about four years ago, and on Friday the 1,000th cane was dedicated and put on permanent display at the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

Ann LePage, along with Andy Rice, who hand-carved the eagle cane for Gowen, went to Pennell Street in Westbrook to present the World War II veteran with the personalized walking stick.

The letter sent to the first lady by Gowen’s wife includes a story of a special letter that he keeps with him at all times. “Milton carries a letter in his wallet from a ten year old girl he met while he was serving in Normandy. She told him if he kept it with him, no harm would come to him,” Edith Gowen reflected.

“I am honored to be able to meet both Mr. and Mrs. Gowen and thank him personally for his service during the challenges our nation endured during World War II,” stated LePage.