Winona Davenport, seated at left, fondly known as Phillips’ “Queen of Volunteers,” claps Sunday during the 86th birthday party she threw for herself at the Phillips Area Community Center. She gathered hundreds of her old photos, newspaper clippings and useful items she no longer used or needed. She and her helpers put everything on tables and told visitors they were expected to take something home with them. Celebrating with her are, left to right in background, former Senator Tom Saviello, library director Hedy Langdon Stinchfield and library volunteer Anna Plog and her sons Eli and Emerson. Valerie Tucker photo

PHILLIPS — If you’re going to throw yourself a birthday party, you might as well make it big.

At age 86, Winona Davenport decided this was the year for it.

Dozens of well-wishers, spanning four generations of friends and family, drifted in and out of the Phillips Area Community Center on Sunday, sharing lots of laughter and years of memories and stories about the birthday girl.

Although some attendees were too young to know the cheerful lady wearing a mask with a pretty button on it, their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents were happy to talk about the dozens of ways Davenport has made their town a better place to live.

They agreed unanimously she was nearly always able to convince everyone to part with a few dollars for a worthy cause.

“When you see Winona coming your way, just give up immediately and ask her how much you need to give her,” joked a fan who didn’t want to give their name. “She’s a legend in this town because she’s done so much good over the years.”

Library director Hedy Langdon Stinchfield called Davenport the Queen of Volunteers.

“When Winona retired from fundraising, we calculated that she raised almost $69,000 for the library,” she said. “She organized an annual Golf Scramble and a Penny Auction, among her many volunteer hours making the library a wonderful place in our community.”

Davenport raised over $20,000 for a clock on the Congregational Church and launched the annual Scarecrow Reunion that draws hundreds of sightseers each fall.

Davenport is also a former correspondent for the Sun Journal.

When she and her late husband, Gordon, both passionate golfers, owned a hardware store on Main Street, they turned an unused section of the building into an indoor community putting and driving range. After Gordon died, she ran the store for several more years until she retired. She continued to pursue her passion for golf, transforming a local field on U.S. Route 4, across from Edmunds Market, into a golf course. For a small fee, anyone could learn to play at any age, and men and women compete in friendly four-person teams. Even the youngsters participated, and she has been generous with her time, teaching local children to love the sport.

Since Davenport and her volunteers needed money to maintain the field, she continued to put her powers of persuasion to work. Each August, area residents and summer visitors look forward to the Extreme Golf Challenge, Big Break Style. Davenport spent hours in previous weeks selling hundreds of numbered golf balls with a matching ticket for each one. During the annual Old Home Days celebration, she put all of the numbered balls in a bag and gave them to her friend, Doug Lisherness, who dropped them from his small ultralight aircraft onto a target on the field. Each year, eager spectators line U.S. Route 4, hoping their ticket number matches one of the balls rolling closest to the center.

On Sunday, Lisherness laughed as he shared one of the memories of the many airborne adventures he’s had as Davenport’s partner in the project.

“One year, the string holding the bag of balls broke, and we dropped all of them in the swamp at the edge of the field,” he said. “So Winona went home and numbered a whole set of golf balls that night, and we dropped them the next morning.”

That’s typical of Winona, her friends and neighbors agreed.


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