On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Southport’s oldest resident, Jean Luther Thompson, age 94, was presented with the Boston Post Cane by Town Selectmen, Gerry Gamage and Smith Climo, and her daughter and Selectwoman, Mary Lou Koskela. Jean’s trusty side kick and cousin, Evelyn Sherman, and her family attended the festivities, while her favorite photographer and neighbor, Robert Mitchell, documented the event.
According to The Boston Post Cane Information Center, “On Aug. 2, 1909, Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen in 700 towns (no cities included) in New England a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lives (or moves from the town, and at his death handed down to the next oldest citizen in the town. The cane would belong to the town and not the man who received it.
The canes were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacture, from ebony shipped in seven-foot lengths from Congo in Africa. They were cut into cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and polished. They had a 14-carat gold head two inches long, decorated by hand, and a ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription, ‘Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of (name of town and state). To be Transmitted.’ The board of selectmen were to be the trustees of the cane and keep it always in the hands of the oldest citizen.
The custom of the Boston Post Cane took hold in those towns lucky enough to have canes. As years went by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town and not returned to the Selectmen or destroyed by accident. In 1930, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to women as well.”
Jean Louise Luther was born on July 7, 1924, and moved to Southport Island permanently in 1936. She attended the Southport Central School, Boothbay Harbor High School, and the Gorham Normal School, which was renamed Gorham State Teachers College her senior year. Jean graduated in 1945, with a degree in teaching (certifying her to teach K-3). She was married to Stuart Thompson by Father Martin O’Toole at the Catholic Rectory in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, on June 21, 1947, and they had two daughters, Mary Lou and Anne. Jean has four grandchildren Aili, Carrie, Mike and Sam, and recently welcomed her first great-grandchild, Hawkin Royal Maher, whose middle name is in honor of his great-great-grandfather, Royal Luther.
Jean worked as a teacher at the Boothbay Center Primary School, and as a substitute teacher at the Edgecomb Elementary School and Southport Central School for many years. She taught Sunday school at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Boothbay Harbor for 21years, served for 10 years on the board for the district nurse, and for two years on the Southport Planning Board, and is a member of the Friends of the Southport Historical Society.
Jean’s favorite things to do include cooking, gardening, making special homemade cards for her family, and taking trips around the state of Maine. At age 94, Jean volunteers as a docent at the Hendricks Hill Museum every Tuesday in the summer with her 91-year-old cousin, Evelyn Luther Pratt Sherman, and she never misses voting at Town Meeting in March.
Receiving the Boston Post Cane is a long-standing tradition in the Luther/Froton/Thompson family. Thompson’s Grandfather, Royal Luther, and Mother, Louise Froton Luther, Aunt Lena Froton Dulong (Granby, Massachusetts), Aunt Evelyn Luther Pratt, and Cousin, Evelyn (Dox) Luther Stratton (age 98), all received the Boston Post Cane. Congratulations Jean!
For more information go to The Boston Post Cane Information Center’s Website - http://web.maynard.ma.us/bostonpostcane/origins-of-the-tradition, which offers the history of the canes and a by-state listing of the towns that still carry on the tradition, including Southport, Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, Maine.