TURNER — Ruth Leavitt received the Boston Post Cane on her 97th birthday Friday at her home.

The cane is awarded to the oldest resident of a town and carries on a tradition that began in 1909, 10 years before Leavitt was born.

“I never thought I’d make it this long,” she said. 

Town Manager Kurt Schaub, Board of Selectmen Chairman Kurt Youland and Selectmen Denis Richardson, Angelo Terreri and Kevin Nichols presented Leavitt with a bouquet of flowers and a replica of the original 1909 cane.

Asked if there is a secret to her longevity, she said, “Not really. I’ve just taken life as it comes.”

Leavitt is the 37th holder since Turner began awarding the cane. Town records on the award go back to 1925.

Leavitt’s name was added to the plaque at the Town Office where the original cane is on display.

Born in Lewiston and raised in Auburn, Ruth Janet Goss was an only child who married another only child, Merton Leavitt, in 1947. She lost her husband 16 years ago after 53 years of marriage.

Ruth Leavitt graduated from Edward Little High School in 1937, and from Bates College in 1941. 

Known as Ruthie in high school, she was consistently an honor student, a member of the Latin and French clubs, the Camera Club, the Music Appreciation Club and the Senior Drama Club. She also served on the Program Committee, was a member of the Girls Athletic Association and the varsity bowling team, according to the 1937 Oracle, Edward Little’s yearbook.

Leavitt continued to shine at Bates College, starting in the fall of 1937, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in French in 1941. She was a distinguished member of the Lambda Alpha honor society for four years, and the Phi Sigma Iota, a foreign language honor society.

Leavitt participated in the French Club at Bates for three years, at that time called Le Petite Academie. Her name and photo were published under the heading “Our Service Leaders” in the 1941 Bates College Yearbook, for her contribution to the Christian Association, and the Christian Service Club.

After graduation, she taught French at Leavitt Area High School until she and her husband started their family. Once her youngest son was in school, she went back to college to earn a degree in library science and served as librarian at Leavitt high school in Turner for 16 years. Her favorite genre of literature is the biography, because, “you can learn so much from reading a biography,” she said.

Highlights of her life?

“My four children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren,” Leavitt said.

She enjoyed cooking and her daughter, Mary Leavitt, said her mother’s dinner table always had room for one more. “Especially when we in our 20s,” friends gravitated to the Leavitt home.

“I don’t know how she did it, but she would start cooking a meal for six, and end up serving 12,” Mary said, “but it always worked!”

The teaching gene continues in the family with a granddaughter tutoring in Nashville, Tenn., and a grandson teaching in the country of China.

TURNER — Distribution of Boston Post canes began in 1909 to boost circulation of the newspaper.

Owner Edwin Grozier said they were to be given to the oldest living man in select New England towns.

According to Town Manager Kurt Schaub, the canes were made by J.F. Fradley and Co. in New York from ebony shipped in 7-foot lengths from the Congo in Africa. They were cut to cane lengths, seasoned for six months, turned on lathes to the right thickness, coated and polished.

They had 14-carat gold heads 2 inches long and were decorated by hand.

Women were not eligible to receive the cane until 1930.


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