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Historical society hails Arundel’s oldest resident

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Eva Barnfather, 100, seated, is the first recipient of the Arundel Heritage Cane, presented Wednesday, Nov. 16 by Arundel Historical Society President Jake Hawkins and board member and Arundel Select Board member Velma Jones Hayes. Tammy Wells photo

ARUNDEL – On June 18, 1922, Eva Barnfather was born. On Wednesday, Nov. 1 – 100 years and a few months on – she was recognized as Arundel’s eldest citizen – and was presented with the very first Arundel Heritage Cane.

Honoring the oldest citizen in the community was an idea brought forth and executed by Arundel Historical Society and is modeled after the program started in 1909 by the Boston Post.

Arundel Historical Society President Jake Hawkins said the cane, with a walnut finish and gold- toned head is “is our own take on the Boston Post Cane tradition. We want to continue the tradition to honor our oldest resident.”

Barnfather, then 22 years-old,  began a career in 1944 as a flight attendant – called “stewardesses” in those days – for American Airlines on a DC3. Later, she became a teacher and the first female vice principal in the Massachusetts community where she lived.

“I’ve always been a feminist,” said Barnfather, whose colorful Ruth Bader Ginsberg socks peeped out below the hem of her navy pants.

Eva Barnfather, 100, is the inaugural recipient of the Arundel Heritage Cane, a new program instituted by the Arundel Historical Society honoring the town’s oldest resident. Tammy Wells photo

Barnfather moved to Arundel in 2009 following the passing of her husband Sam the previous year. The couple had summered in Kennebunk and moved to that community in 1995 following retirement.

She is known as a community organizer – Barnfather is a founding member of Community Harvest, and oversees the Noel Dinner held each Christmas Day, among several other endeavors.

She sat in the chair of honor at the presentation in the community room of Arundel Municipal Building and smiled and chatted with the those in attendance.

“She’s an unbelievable lady,” said longtime friend Marianne Wilson, recalling the days when the two were part of a local group called Good Cheer.

She was formally presented with the cane, which will be housed in the municipal building, in a case handcrafted by Hawkins. A plaque underneath will list the names of those who will be honored in ensuing years, with Barnfather as the inaugural recipient.

Eva Barnfather is Arundel’s oldest resident and was presented with this certificate by the Arundel Historical Society on Wednesday. She was presented the Arundel Heritage Cane, which will be on display in the municipal building. Her name will be engraved on a plaque accompanying the piece. Tammy Wells photo

According to the nonprofit, on Aug. 2, 1909, Boston Post publisher Edwin A. Grozier sent a gold-headed ebony cane to the board of selectmen in 700 towns in New England – apparently no cities were included – with the request that it be presented “with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town,” Women were first included in 1930.

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