New Gloucester resident receives Boston Post Cane honor

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Barbara Merriman Brookings’ birthday on Dec. 10 heralds her longevity: She’ll be 96.

Adding to this year’s celebration, she officially became New Gloucester’s eldest citizen on Sunday, named as the recipient of the Boston Post Cane Memorial Certificate — the town’s 16th since the honor began in 1908.

Surrounded by her six children on Sunday, Brookings said she was amazed and happy to receive the honor. During the ceremony, she talked about her years in New Gloucester, which began in 1944 when her late husband, Lowell Brookings,  purchased a large dairy farm on Route 231. Together they raised vegetables and brought them to market in Portland.

Daughter Barbara Seaver remembers how the children jumped into the truck and went to market.

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The family farm was rustic: no flushing toilet, just an outhouse, Seaver said. She said her father grew up in Cape Elizabeth and her mother in South Portland, and the move to New Gloucester was a drastic change in lifestyle for them.

Married in 1942, the Brookings raised five daughters and one son while running the farm, which grew to include a dairy and cattle breeding operation for many years.

Barbara Brookings went to work off the farm when her youngest, now 62, was 4 years old. She taught grades one and two at Charles P. Wight School in Auburn for several years. Then she took a position in Cumberland until her retirement.

Known for her involvement in the community, she never missed a town meeting. At one time she was a ballot clerk and joined the volunteer recycling committee.

Brookings lives alone in her large farmhouse near her two daughters, Seaver and Marcia Davison.

The Boston Post Cane tradition started in 1909 when Boston Post newspaper publisher Edwin A. Grozier, in an effort to get positive publicity for his newspaper, distributed hundreds of gold-headed ebony canes to selectmen in the larger towns in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

The selectmen were entrusted to bestow the cane on the oldest male citizen and, on his death, hand the cane down to the town’s next oldest male. In 1930, women were allowed to become part of the ceremony.

In New Gloucester, recipients now receive a Boston Post Cane memorial certificate. The cane itself is on public display at the Town Hall.

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