Windham honors oldest resident with Boston Post Cane

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WINDHAM — Hazel Gilman, the oldest resident in Windham at 100, was honored this week with the Boston Post Cane.

Gilman called the award “an honor,” although, she explained, “It’s nothing I’ve done. It just happened.”

The tradition was begun in 1909 by The Boston Post, a former daily newspaper. The Post rewarded canes to the oldest residents of 431 towns in New England. After the death of the town’s oldest citizen, the cane was handed down to the town’s next oldest resident.

Windham is one of the only towns that still has its original cane, although it is now too fragile for distribution. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell visited Gilman at her home to present her with a replica of the cane and a certificate.

Born on July 20, 1918, Gilman has always lived in Windham. She has resided in her current home for 98 years and beforehand lived only a mile down the road. 

She graduated from Windham High School in 1935 when the school was first housed in the Windham Town Hall. She married Kenneth Gilman in 1941 and they enjoyed traveling and taking day trips around the state and New England. Kenneth passed away 20 years ago. 

Gilman worked at Watkins Cleaners before transitioning to a job at National Medical Care in Portland. She retired when it closed its doors in 1980.

Gilman reported that so much has changed throughout her life, she “couldn’t begin to tell you the changes.”

She lamented the advances in electronics and technology, saying, “I find all the new gadgets confusing.”

Even beyond electronics, however, she explained that basic household tasks have been revolutionized.

“My mother didn’t even have a washing machine when we were kids. It used to take two days to boil clothes on the stove,” she explained.

Gilman said that life gets a bit lonelier as you get older. “It gets to where you don’t have any friends left,” she said. 

But she remains close to her large family and enjoys spending time with them. Her half brother Rick Plummer and her nephews John and Peter Forbes attended the presentation of her Post Cane.

For her recent 100th birthday, she celebrated with family at a party that featured a birthday cake with 100 candles.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com.

Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell awards Hazel Gilman the Boston Post Cane Oct. 2 as Windham’s oldest resident.