November 28, 2012NORTHUMBERLAND — Evelyn Shoff, a 97-year-old resident of Groveton who was born on Oct. 31, 1915, in Elizabethtown, Penn., the daughter of veterinarian Dr. Reuben C. Gross and Sara Jane Gross, was recognized as the town's oldest citizen on Monday morning, Nov. 19.
Shoff graduated in 1933 from Elizabethtown High School in central Pennsylvania and attended a business college in 1934. She worked from 1936 to 1939 for the Pennsylvania Securities Commission in Harrisburg. Shoff then worked for the Office of Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., as a civilian employment officer.
She moved to Groveton in 1947 where she married Floyd Lynwood Shoff, made her home, and raised two boys — Carl and Dean.
Starting in 1958, Shoff was employed by Groveton Papers and later Diamond International as secretary to the company's president and retired in 1978 after 20 years of service.
Shoff was very active over the years in the communities in which she lived. She was a member of the Christ Lutheran Church in Elizabethtown, Penn., a member of the Lutheran Church of Reformation, in Washington, D. C., and
a very involved member of the Groveton United Methodist Church and a number of community service organizations.
She became a widow in 1985 when her husband died. Shoff's many friends, made through the church and other community organizations, have kept in touch with her over the years, and the cane presentation ceremony was a fine opportunity for her friends and neighbors to enthusiastically celebrate the good and long life that she has led.
The tradition of a town's oldest citizen being given temporary custody of an impressive gold-headed cane began over 100 years ago. In 1909, a circulation-boosting campaign launched by "Boston Post" newspaper publisher Edwin Grozier started a tradition that is still being followed throughout New England.
Grozier possessed 700 black ivory walking canes, tipped with 24-carat rolled gold heads, which he mailed out to 700 towns in the five New England states in which the Post was circulated. The list did not include Connecticut where the newspaper was not sold.
The selectmen of each town were entrusted with the task of awarding the cane to their town's eldest male citizen, to be passed upon his death to his successor. When canes were presented, the Post would run a story and photograph, hoping that the recipient's friends and fellow townspeople would buy the paper.
In 1930 the rules governing passage of the cane were expanded to include women. Production of the Post ended in 1956. More than half the canes are still being awarded to eldest citizens.