EDITOR’S NOTE: Betty Walker died Thursday, after the following story had been written.

FRYEBURG — If the ages of three of its members are any indication, the Order of the Eastern Star Pythagorean Chapter 169 of Fryeburg may just hold the secret to longevity.

When member Betty Walker was born 107 years ago, Ford was just introducing the Model T, and life as the world knew it was rapidly changing. In her lifetime, Walker has experienced two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Civil Rights Movement, the first rocket to outer space, Vietnam, the first moon walk, the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, the fall of the Berlin Wall and countless other major historically significant events.

Inventions in her lifetime include items most modern households wouldn’t know what to do without, like the pop-up toaster, Band-aids, aerosol cans, cake mix, canned beer, diet soda, credit cards, microwaves, televisions, computers, mobile phones and other things, from crayons to penicillin and even the atomic bomb.

What’s even more impressive is that the Pythagorean Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star boasts two other centenarian members who, like Walker, must have some stories to tell about what has gone on in the world over the past 100 years or so. They are 103-year-old Mary Josephine Cressy and 104-year-old Betty Weston.

“The Order of the Eastern Star is an organization that brings fellowship and friends together,” Pythagorean Chapter Worthy Matron Cathy Wood said. “We make many lasting friendships across our state, the United States and worldwide. We are the largest fraternal organization for men and women in the world.” 

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According to the organization’s paperwork, there are over 2 million members of the Order of the Eastern Star throughout the world. Approximately 7,000 of those members belong to chapters in Maine. When Walker, Cressy and Weston were first active members, Wood said the Pythagorean Chapter was about 150 members strong. That number has since dwindled to 68 members, but Wood said the social and charitable aspects of the organization keep her and many others returning for years and years, if not for the rest of their lives.

“When we gather or go to other meetings within the state, it is to see our friends, support them and support our charities,” Wood said. “It is a social event, one I truly enjoy. If I didn’t have Eastern Star, I wouldn’t have a reason to leave my house. This is how I socialize, how I get out and see my friends — lasting friends that I have made in the many years I have been a member of Eastern Star.”

Of the three centenarians, Weston might have been the most active member. Weston still lives at home on her family’s farm in Fryeburg, and she was the Pythagorean Chapter’s chaplain for more than 25 years until she retired from that position sometime near 2008. She held the chapter’s highest position, worthy matron, in 1952. Prior to that, she held several progressive stations in the chapter, including Adah, Ruth, Martha, warder, marshall, associate conductress, conductress and associate matron.

Wood said records indicate that while Weston was worthy matron, she organized an Easter dance with Eastern Star members and Masons. While the Order of the Eastern Star is not officially part of the Masonic fraternity, membership is based on a Masonic affiliation or relationship. Male members of the Order of the Eastern Star must be Masons who are in good standing and female members must be affiliated with a Mason in good standing. There are specific affiliation requirements outlined in chapter bylaws.

Weston also held suppers before meetings, serving foods such as oyster stew. Under her leadership, the chapter made donations to Shriners Hospitals and Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership. Wood said supporting charities is a large part of what the Eastern Star organization is all about.

“Our charities extend from our local towns to the Masonic Children’s Dyslexia Learning Centers in Portland and Bangor,” Wood said. “These are centers where children with reading difficulties can go, free of charge, for an hour each day, twice a week, for tutoring. The tutors at these centers received specialized training to instruct these students. We support the Shriners Children Hospitals, Heart, Alzheimer’s, Wounded Warriors, purchase wreaths for the veterans’ cemeteries, and these are just a small part of our charities.” 

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Their charitable nature also turns inward, supporting their own members who might have special physical, emotional or financial needs. When Weston was worthy matron, for instance, she sent flowers to older, shut-in members.

Cressy was worthy matron in 1958 after holding five stations over previous years leading up to that honor, including Ruth, Esther, associate conductress, conductress and associate matron. Cressy, who now resides at the Bridgton Health Care Center, especially enjoyed the social aspects of being an Eastern Star member. She liked to decorate the dining hall for Christmas meetings, Wood said.

Cressy owned a five-and-dime in Fryeburg, but worked so much, she rarely had time to socialize outside of the store. She was looking for something engaging that would help her meet and mingle with her peers in the community.

“I guess because it was the thing to do,” Cressy said of why she chose to join Eastern Star.

Cressy, to this day, is active and athletic. She said it’s part of what helped her live such a long life. In her earlier years, she used to enjoy teaching swimming in the Saco River, and she always loved skiing. For her 103rd birthday, she went cross-country skiing at Pineland Farm in New Gloucester, and for her 104th birthday, she said she hopes to spend some time in indoor swimming pool.

Walker resided at the Fryeburg Health Care Center and held one position in Eastern Star: Esther in 1949. After that she lent her time and support as a “sideliner,” or non-officer member, Wood said.

There are 18 officers in the chapter. Fifty-year members receive the honored designation. Once a member reaches the age of 80, if they have not been a member for 50 years, they receive a lifetime member status. Each of the centenarian women holds one of those official ranks.

The Pythagorean Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star meets at the Fryeburg Masonic Hall on the first Thursday of the month, from March to September and November and December; and the second Thursday in October.

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