Constance Tripp loved Christmas, children and Portland.

She grew up in Portland in the 1930s and ’40s and graduated from Cathedral High School in 1950 – one year after Portland’s daily newspaper help launch a new charity to make sure needy children in Portland had gifts to unwrap at Christmas.

Tripp, who was then Constance Kane, went to work at W.T. Grant Department Stores. Grant’s, as it was known, had a department store on Congress Street that sold clothes, books, toys, furniture and other items, and had a lunch counter that served drinks for 10 cents. The building is now occupied by a CVS Pharmacy.

She later got married and moved to Livermore Falls to raise her family. But still, said her daughter Susan Fraser, “she adored Portland.”

And Christmas was always a special time.

“She loved Christmas. She loved making sure that first her children and then her grandchildren had a good assortment of presents. She put a lot of thought into it,” Fraser said.

Meanwhile, the Portland charity founded in 1949 grew into an annual campaign to provide holiday gifts to children through southern and coastal Maine.

It was long known as the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, named after the pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund and wrote daily appeals for donations each holiday season.

The fund is now called the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts and provides gifts to thousands of children in six Maine counties.

Connie Tripp died Nov. 20 after a long struggle with dementia. “She had a few tough years,” her daughter said.

And Susan Fraser said it just made sense to her that her mother would have wanted any donations in her memory to go to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, which combined so many of her favorite things. And so they have. A steady flow of checks have added hundreds of dollars to the fund in the weeks since she died.

“This would make her happy,” Fraser said.

Donations from readers will be used to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

Toy Fund Donations

Davis & Jane Hartwell $100

Sally and Jona Richardson $25

In memory of Irma Andrews $50

In memory of Joey Heggeman $50

John B Corbett $100

In loving memory of Dorothy Legassie & Linda Miller from their family $300

Anonymous  $400

On behalf of the Michael A Cantara Memorial Fund $200

Westbrook Lions Club $100

In memory of Kathy Lowell $25

Anonymous $100

In thanks to God for a bountiful life $100

In loving memory of our parents, Carl and Millie Maksut $50

In loving memory of our parents, Joseph and Jacqueline Gagne $50

William Pond Sr. $150

Darryl Arsenault $20

In loving memory of my wonderful mother, Della Fogg, and our beloved son, Mitchell Kessler. $100

In memory of Edmund & Pearl Conley, and Norman & Alda Roy. Merry Christmas! Dave & JoAnne Roy $50

In loving memory of Wally & Terri Tarbox $50

Peter & Gail Cinelli $50

Anonymous $50

Anonymous $100

Charles, Jr & Suzanne Hedrick $40

Merry Christmas! The Lutes $100

In loving memory of our first grandchild, Will Bedford, from his Maine grandparents $250

For my beloved sister and brother-in-law, Debbie & Gary Higgins. Wish you were in Maine. Love, Pam $200

In loving memory of Mildred, Phil, Kay and Tommy Casasa $200

In memory of Brendan, Love, Nazare and Jerry Conway $100

Merry Christmas to the children! $100

Hugh & Mary Smith $100

Total year to date: $50,054

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