Geraldine “Gerry” Edgerly, 97, was awarded Woolwich’s Boston Post Cane on Monday to honor her as the town’s oldest resident. 

WOOLWICH — Woolwich Selectmen presented the town’s Boston Post Cane to Geraldine “Gerry” Edgerly, 97, on Monday, an honor she never dreamed she’d receive.

“I had two sisters that died of breast cancer and my mother died of ovarian cancer and they all died young, so I just figured I would too,” she said. “I guess God decided to keep me around for a while.”

While the cane is new to Edgerly, many people in her family have had the same honor. Edgerly’s husband held the Woolwich cane for two years until he died at 98 in 2015. Edgerly’s mother-in-law, father-in-law and sister-in-law all claimed Whitefield’s Boston Post Cane.

The Boston Post Cane is a 111-year-old tradition that began when Edwin Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, sent ebony canes topped with 14-carat gold handles to more than 700 town selectmen throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a means of drumming up publicity and support for the paper. The decorative canes were to be presented to each town’s oldest resident, who would keep it until their death.

Initially, the cane only went to the oldest male resident, but that changed in 1930 when women also became eligible to hold it. The daily newspaper folded in 1956, but the Boston Post Cane tradition lives on in several towns across Maine and New England.

Edgerly was born on Nov. 11, 1922 in Pittsfield, her family moved to Woolwich when she was in high school. She attended Morse High School where she met her husband, Loring “Larry” Edgerly. They got married in 1944 while he on leave from the U.S. Army.

They had two children, Dana Edgerly and Sylvia Wallace, and built a house that Edgerly still lives in today with her cat, Milo.

She worked in the Lincoln County Courthouse in Wiscasset for 17 years, but said she’s proudest of the time she spent volunteering in her children’s schools and her role as a charter member of the Woolwich Historical Society.

“[Edgerly] has been a huge asset to the Woolwich Historical Society — donating a lot of items when the museum first opened, as a tour guide to individuals & class groups, baking for Woolwich Day, and whenever and wherever needed,” Debbie Locke, board president of the Woolwich Historic Society wrote in an email.

Edgerly said she credits her good health to her active lifestyle.

“When we were growing up there wasn’t much to do so we went walking, hiking, swimming … and we didn’t have a car or anything so we walked everywhere,” said Edgerly. “I think I’m doing pretty good. I went to the doctor a while ago and she said, ‘People your age usually come in a wheelchair.’”

She also grew fond of skiing in her 40s because her children wanted to learn, but said she “usually fell halfway down Sugarloaf Mountain.”

While her days of skiing may be behind her, she enjoys exploring her family’s genealogy, creative writing and poetry. She wrote a poem for the occasion, in which she looks back on her life and recalls a time when Ford’s Model T car was selling fast and a movie ticket cost 15 cents on Saturday.

She also wrote about living during World War II while her husband was in the Army, which “lasted four long years … but left many a lifetime of tears.”

“When time has come to leave this world / And start my life in heaven anew / Meet loved ones and old friends there / Of which there are quite a few,” she wrote to conclude her poem.

She was surprised, but pleased, that her family and friends gathered to celebrate her. It was the first time she has seen many of them since the coronavirus pandemic hit Maine in March.

“If I’m alive next year, can I have another celebration?” she asked. “This is so much fun, I think I’d like to do it again.”

Edgerly’s one disappointment in the day was discovering the cane she was presented with is a replica with a silver handle whereas the original cane, on display at the town office, is topped with a gold handle.

“Maybe I’ll paint it gold,” she said

Allison Hepler, Woolwich selectwoman, said presenting the cane is one of her favorite duties as a town official. She said the cane is sometimes awarded at the annual town meeting, but it was nice to celebrate Edgerly with her family.

“I love it because it’s a celebration of someone’s life while they’re still here,” said Hepler. “[Edgerly] has been living in Woolwich since 1945 so she has seen so much of this town’s history.”

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