Richard Parks, 99, of Harpswell Neck, holds Harpswell’s Boston Post Cane during a ceremony at the Town Office on Thursday, Jan. 25. The cane, along with a pin and plaque, honors Parks as the town’s eldest resident. J.W. Oliver / Harpswell Anchor

Richard Bradford Parks, a 99-year-old veteran of World War II and former lobsterman, woodcarver, game biologist, and state conservation official, is officially Harpswell’s eldest resident.

Harpswell Select Board Chairperson Kevin Johnson presented Parks with the town’s Boston Post Cane during a ceremony at the Town Office on Thursday, Jan. 25.

Parks’ son and daughter-in-law attended the ceremony, along with several town officials. Parks, who also received a pin and plaque, thanked town officials for the honor and entertained the room with stories of his life.

Parks is originally from Plymouth, Massachusetts, and said he can trace his ancestry to at least five of the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower and founded Plymouth Colony in 1620.  His is named for two of the colonists, Richard Warren and William Bradford.

Harpswell Select Board Chairperson Kevin Johnson presents Richard Parks with the town’s Boston Post Cane and a plaque during a ceremony at the Town Office on Thursday, Jan. 25. The presentation of the cane officially recognizes Parks, 99, as the eldest resident of Harpswell. J.W. Oliver / Harpswell Anchor

Parks was in the Navy from 1943-1946, serving in the Pacific in 1945, near the end of World War II. He was a quartermaster on a ship designated LST 1103. The letters stand for “landing ship, tank,” but sailors came up with another meaning.

“We used to call it a large, slow target,” Parks said, eliciting laughs from the room.


After his military service, Parks graduated from the University of Massachusetts and heard that he could find a job as a game biologist in Maine. He moved to the state in 1950 and never left.

Parks advanced to chief of the real estate division in the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. As part of his work to acquire land for wildlife management, he helped to protect the Scarborough Marsh, the state’s largest salt marsh at more than 3,000 acres.

In addition to his 30 years with the state, Parks hauled about 60 traps as a part-time lobsterman. He also carved decoys of ducks and shorebirds.

He built a camp in Harpswell around 1965, after an acquaintance sold him a small lot on Harpswell Neck. “I think I paid him 500 bucks for it,” he said. He put up a house in 1974.

Life at 99 can feel lonely, Parks said. His wife of 71 years, Ann, died last September. He has outlived his daughter, Barbara, and many relatives and friends. But he has a son, Thomas, and two grandsons. He likes to take walks and listen to audiobooks, preferring Westerns and tales of both the Civil War and World War II.

The Boston Post distributed gold-headed ebony canes to 700 New England towns in 1909 with instructions to present the cane to their eldest male resident, according to the Boston Post Cane Information Center. Women became eligible in 1930. The newspaper folded in 1957, but the tradition carries on.


Like many of the 700, Harpswell’s original cane has disappeared. The replica is kept at the Town Office.

Harpswell’s cane policy says nominees must have lived in the town for at least 25 years, including the last 10 years. They must be at least 90 years old.

Previous honorees include the Rev. James Herrick, of Bailey Island, and Dr. Currier McEwen, of Harpswell Neck, according to town officials.

Parks’ predecessor was Edward Reed, of Orr’s Island, who was also 99 when he accepted the cane in September 2015. Reed held the title of eldest resident for more than five years, living to the age of 105.

Harpswell’s Boston Post Cane honoree, Richard Parks, tells a story as, from left, daughter-in-law Wendy Parks, son Thomas Parks, and Harpswell Select Board Chair Kevin Johnson look on during a ceremony at the Town Office on Thursday, Jan. 25. J.W. Oliver / Harpswell Anchor

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