ARUNDEL – On June 18, 1922, Eva Barnfather was born. On Wednesday, Nov. 1 – 100 years and a few months on – she was recognized as Arundel’s oldest citizen – and was presented with the very first Arundel Heritage Cane.
Honoring the oldest citizen in the community was an idea brought forth and executed by Arundel Historical Society and is modeled after the program started in 1909 by the Boston Post.
Arundel Historical Society President Jake Hawkins said the cane, with a walnut finish and gold-toned head is “our own take on the Boston Post Cane tradition. We want to continue the tradition to honor our oldest resident.”
Barnfather, then 22 years old, began a career in 1944 as a flight attendant – called “stewardesses” in those days – for American Airlines on a DC3. Later, she became a teacher and the first female vice principal in the Massachusetts community where she lived.
“I’ve always been a feminist,” said Barnfather, whose colorful Ruth Bader Ginsberg socks peeped out below the hem of her navy pants.
Barnfather moved to Arundel in 2009 following the passing of her husband Sam the previous year. The couple had summered in Kennebunk and moved to that community in 1995 following retirement.
She is known as a community organizer – Barnfather is a founding member of Community Harvest, and oversees the Noel Dinner held each Christmas Day, among several other endeavours.
She sat in the chair of honor at the presentation in the community room of Arundel Municipal Building and smiled and chatted with those in attendance.
“She’s an unbelievable lady,” said longtime friend Marianne Wilson, recalling the days when the two were part of a local group called Good Cheer.
She was formally presented with the cane, which will be housed in the municipal building, in a case handcrafted by Hawkins. A plaque underneath will list the names of those who will be honored in the following years, with Barnfather as the inaugural recipient.
According to the nonprofit bostonpostcane.org, on Aug. 2, 1909, Boston Post publisher Edwin A. Grozier sent a gold-headed ebony cane to the board of selectmen in 700 towns in New England – apparently no cities were included – with the request that it be presented “with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town,” Women were first included in 1930.