When you drive past Ms. Pigette on Route 27 this week, you will notice she is no longer wearing her cute summer tennis outfit.
Despite the heat and humidity, she is dressed in black from head to toe, ‘er hoof to snout. Her mailbox is black, too. If you take a closer look, you might notice a tear coming from her right eye.
“I lost one of my best pals,” she told me when I stopped to check on her. “It was Alice, you know. My longtime dresser, Alice Larrabee died last Wednesday. She lived right over there,” she said, pointing with her left ear. “I knew she was getting up there in age, but she was so active.”
“She was a dear friend and a wonderful, wonderful woman,” said Joan Rittall, who lived across the street from Alice.
“I worried about her. She was getting up there in age, (she was 93) but she kept going to the Y for a swim. I told her I was afraid she would fall, but she always said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got my cane.’”
Alice told the story of her love for Boothbay and Ms. Pigette in a pamphlet she penned in 2011. Here are some of the nuggets she shared about her career as the creative wardrobe mistress for Ms. P.
For those summer people and newcomers from away, about 30 years ago, LaBelle Pig was created by Joan’s late husband, Chetley, a woodworker, boat builder, and well-known man about town, who carved her out of a pine log to hold up the family mailbox.
On a whim, Joan and her daughter started dressing Ms. P in a skirt and blouse or sweater. When Alice moved across the street from the Rittalls in 1998, she asked Joan if she might try her hand at dressing the pig.
Alice thought it might be fun to come up with an outfit. “Be my guest,” answered Joan.
With that answer, Alice became the key player in one of the state’s best long-running gags. For more than 12 years, Mrs. Larrabee, a writer and journalist with a great imagination, served as the brains and chief confidant of Ms. Pigette.
She dressed the iconic mailbox figure to match the season, a local event or sometimes, to match the whims running around in Alice’s very creative mind.
She started with simple outfits, like a summer swimsuit with a cutout in the seat to accommodate her curly tail.
As the months wore on, she got creative. When Halloween came around, a child asked Alice what was she going to be for “Trick or Treat.” She went to work. One year La Piggette was a pirate, other years she was a fairy, a ghost, or a Hula dancer with a grass skirt. One year, she was a ballerina with a cut-down costume that Alice once wore to a Halloween party.
To mark Veterans Day, she wore a sailor suit, complete with a “Dixie Cup” cap that Alice found at the dump, er, transfer station.
Barry Sherman, a neighbor down the street, who is a proud Marine vet, told her he didn’t want to see a Marine uniform on her pig. She took it as a challenge.
Because Barry always marched in the Memorial Day parade wearing his Vietnam era moulage fatigues and jungle boots, she bought a camo shirt and a “Boonie” cover (hat) at an Army-Navy store and set Ms. Pigette out with a blond wig as a glamorous “Jar Head.”
She welcomed a firefighters’ convention by dressing in an old set of turnout gear, and high school graduation was a chance to put on a cap and gown. For Thanksgiving, she became a pilgrim, and for Christmas, she was Mrs. Santa Claus. The dump even furnished a couple of fur coats to keep the winter’s chill away.
A couple of years ago, she gave up her hobby. Deb Yale took over and noted that Ms. Pig had stood in the weather for 30 years and needed a “little work.” So Deb and her husband Tom arranged for Ms. P to visit a spa for some restoration.
Last week, after she heard the news about Alice, Deb drove over to see Ms. P and carefully removed the bright “Pickle Ball” outfit and dressed her for the memorial service in a black skirt and a tasteful dark blouse.
Alice Larrabee was a remarkable woman who led an exciting life. You can read more about her in the obit in the Boothbay Register.
Alice used her creative mind to bring thousands of smiles to the faces of the young, and the not so young.
God Bless, Alice.