Two hands on Boston Post Cane in Pembroke this year, yet harmony remains in the Suncook Valley

  • Louise Eaton is the oldest resident of Pembroke at 97 but is happy to share the award with the woman who is four months younger than her. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Arlene Fleury was given the Boston Post Cane last summer as the oldest resident in Pembroke but it turnes out she is four months younger than the other 97-year-old resident. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Arlene Fleury was given the Boston Post Cane last summer as the oldest resident in Pembroke but it turnes out she is four months younger than the other 97-year-old resident. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Louise Eaton is the oldest resident of Pembroke at 97 and is happy to share the award with the woman who is four months younger than her who was mistakenly awarded the cane over the summer. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Arlene Fleury was given the Boston Post Cane last summer as the oldest resident in Pembroke but it turns out she is four months younger than another 97-year-old resident.

  • A photo of Arlene Fleury holding her certificate and the Boston Post Cane in the Pembroke Town Hall. COURTESY—Pembroke Town Clerk

  • The Boston Post Cane sits in a specially-made box in the town clerk’s office at the Pembroke Town Hall. Courtesy of the Pembroke Town Clerk

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/30/2022 5:41:00 PM
Modified: 11/30/2022 5:38:36 PM

In 1948, Dewey did not defeat Truman in the race for the White House, as had been prematurely proclaimed in a huge banner headline that night in the Chicago Daily Tribune.

Almost 70 years later, the movie “La La Land” did not beat “Moonlight” in the Oscar for best picture, despite the incorrect announcement to the world by actress Faye Dunaway.

And, closer to home, Arlene Fleury was not the oldest living resident in Pembroke, which last summer earned her the latest Boston Post Cane, a New England tradition that dates back to the early 20th century.

Fleury and Louise Eaton are both 97. It turns out Eaton is 4½ months older than Fleury. Upon reading in the local newspaper last summer that Fleury had been cited as the town’s oldest living resident, Eaton’s son alerted town officials that his mom was older than Fleury.

The Boston Post Cane – a real cane displayed in Town Halls across New England – belonged to Eaton. Not Fleury.

“I’m happy to share it,” Eaton said.

The mistaken announcement certainly didn’t carry the earth-shaking consequences of the two scenarios mentioned above. The Post Cane caper was different, an example of a town’s heartbeat pumping with pride as it worked to keep a unique and quirky custom alive.

Identifying the oldest resident can be tricky. The town’s crude method of tabulating nominations (via Facebook) allowed Eaton to fall through the cracks, only emerging in recent weeks as the newest winner of the Boston Post Cane.

The problem? Eaton doesn’t have a Facebook account.

“I have to get on that,” she said.

“It’s non-scientific,” added Ayn Whytemare, the chair of the Pembroke Historical Society who calls Fleury, a close friend, “a pistol.” “We used Facebook and would ask who the oldest person was that they knew.”

As far as anyone knows, they’re the two oldest residents in town. Fleury’s nickname is “spitfire.” It fits, too. She lives independently and is quick with the joke, utilizing a sarcastic wit to poke fun at life.

“What are they going to do, split the photo in half or what?” she asked, her tongue firmly planted in her cheek, when told that she wasn’t the oldest citizen in town after all. “I don’t care if they do two photos, as long as mine’s bigger.”

As for Eaton, she’d like to meet the woman who owned the title during the second half of summer and on into fall.

“I have not met her and the story of her life is amazing,” Eaton said. “I’m looking forward to meeting her.”

Meanwhile, Fleury believes the two had met somewhere during the decades. Maybe at Pembroke Academy, circa 1940?

No matter. The two are now linked forever in town history, the initial winner of the Boston Post Cane in 2022 giving up her crown – in this case, her cane – after a rudimentary form of polling town residents had omitted Eaton.

The facts say both were born in 1925, Eaton on Feb. 25, Fleury on July 11.

In past years, recipients actually kept the three-foot long, gold-headed ebony cane and had it until passing the torch, causing many canes to disappear into storage, dusty basements, or attics. Some were stolen, others were accidentally destroyed.

Pembroke lost its cane for many years before it was found and the tradition continued, starting in the 1990s. Pembroke stores its cane in the Pembroke Town Hall, along with a photo of the most recent honoree.

Soon, the cane and photo of Fleury will be joined by a photo of Eaton. They’ll essentially share the award this year, and the two women have a few other things in common, beyond Cane-Gate.

They both continue to live on their own, needing no help. They grew up in the Pembroke region and they love the Suncook Valley. They also crackled with enthusiasm on the phone.

Eaton is known as the more reserved of the two. Her husband was once the police chief. She lives in the same house in which she grew up. She raised two kids. She loved the farmlands that covered her old neighborhood, and she was proud of the work she did typesetting and proofing material for Rumford Press.

And she giggled when she felt too much praise had come her way.

“Very self-effacing,” Whytemare called Eaton.

“I was surprised when I was told the news,” Eaton said. “And nervous.”

Fleury has a sense of humor that she never minds sharing. She said she has a gentleman “friend” who buys her dinners and drives a Cadillac. She raised 12 kids. Upon hearing the news that the cane had been awarded to the wrong person, Fleury came out of the chute like a softer version of Don Rickles.

“What kind of a deal is that?” she said. “But I said that I had the glory first and the parade, so whatever happens, happens.”

She led the Old Home Day Parade this summer as the Boston Post Cane’s representative. A formal ceremony adding a photo of Eaton to the display already at the Town Hall was postponed last week.

Eaton asked for extra time to prepare for the holidays. She’s got two adult children, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

She wants to be honored because it means her hometown will be recognized as well.

“There are a lot of interesting people in Pembroke,” Eaton said. “The volunteers have done so much. They improve the village and the village is so special. It’s a little Milltown and they keep doing things to make it nicer.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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