After being awarded the Boston Post Cane, 98-year-old Marjorie Norrell proudly displayed her certificate, signifying her as the oldest resident in Northfield. Joining her in the celebration were daughter Lois Wilson, son Bill Norrell, granddaughters Karen Woodward and Carol Beck, grandsons Michael and Roger Glines, great-grandson Nicholas Beck and great-great granddaughter Bailey Beck. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
April 18, 2012NORTHFIELD — Marjorie Norrell was honored as the oldest resident in Northfield last week, when town officials and family members gathered to present her with the Boston Post Cane, a long standing small town tradition in New England.
On hand for the official ceremony were Selectman Geoffrey Ziminsky, Town Administrator Glenn Smith and Police Chief Steve Adams, while four generations of her family looked on.
"Tradition lives," said Ziminsky as he handed her the 103-year old cane.
Norrell, who is 98, was thrilled to be recognized with the award.
"I never expected I would ever see anything like this, and I've got practically the whole family here, too. This is wonderful," she said.
Adams also presented her with a bouquet of flowers from the town, and when Norrell said she would like to thank whoever was responsible for all the honors, the chief told her, "Well, that would be you!"
Norrell is the mother of two, grandmother to five, has four great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. One great-grandson and his family, who reside in Arizona, were regrettably unable to attend the event, but many others, including two-year-old great-great-granddaughter Bailey Beck, filled her home.
Born in Jamestown, N.Y., she and her husband moved to Northfield in 1947. After residing in a farm on Shaker Road for many decades, they eventually built a home next door in 1995, where she has resided ever since.
"Wonderful" seemed to be the word of the day, as generations of Norrell family members gathered to watch the presentation to their matriarch. Granddaughter Karen Woodward, who lives next door to her grandmother, said she was happy to see her honored in such a wonderful way as Norrell's daughter Lois Wilson and son Bill Norrell beamed with pride.
The tradition of the Boston Post Cane began in August of 1909, when Boston Post newspaper publisher Edwin Grozier sent select boards in 700 New England towns (not cities) an ebony wood cane that bore a gold, inscribed head. He asked for the canes to be presented to the oldest male in each community, compliments of the Boston Post, for their personal use as long as they resided in the town. Upon their death, or a move to another town, the cane was then to be passed on to the next oldest male.
In 1930, after some controversy, women were also included as potential recipients.
Many of the canes were lost or misplaced over the years, and some of the long-standing presentations ceased, but in Northfield, the tradition has been reinstated, and continues long after Grozier's initial request.
"We hadn't done this in a number of years, but we're pleased to be passing the Boston Post Cane along to our residents once again," said Smith.
The tradition in Northfield was revived in December of 2011, when Hazel Corliss was presented with the Northfield Boston Post Cane. Corliss sadly passed away shortly thereafter and at the start of 2012, selectmen began the hunt for the next recipient.
A formal announcement that Norrell was next in line for the Boston Post Cane was made in March at Northfield's Town Meeting, and the board waited to gather the family before they officially bestowed her with the honor.
Kept in perpetuity at Town Hall, the ceremonial cane, a little worn over the years but in nonetheless good shape, was handed over for photo opportunities, and Norrell was then presented with a framed certificate to commemorate her distinction.
Norrell's son, daughter, granddaughters and grandsons cheered, and many called out for her to make it well beyond 100 years of age. Her birthday falls on Sept. 29, when she will turn a spirited and very lively 99-years-old this year.
"I do plan to keep this for a very long time," Norrell said with a sly grin.
Her name will now be engraved on a plaque at Town Hall to signify her distinction as the oldest resident in Northfield in 2012, and hopefully for many years to come.